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Dr. Diana Hill joins us from a writing retreat in Costa Rica, where we had the privilege of diving deep into the fascinating topic of self-compassion. Throughout our discussion, Diana shares invaluable insights into the challenges of writing and self-criticism, drawing from her extensive expertise in psychology and personal experiences.

Diana Hill, PhD, is a clinical psychologist, international trainer, and sought-after speaker on Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) and compassion. Host of the podcast Your Life in Process, author of The Self-Compassion Daily Journal, and the upcoming book Wise Effort.

What is Self-Compassion?

Before we began investigating how we can develop tools for self-compassion, Diana shares her true definition, which differentiates the experience from compassion:

Self compassion is acknowledging the suffering that exists within you – pain, discomfort, embarrassment, physical sensations that are uncomfortable – and then turning towards that suffering, that discomfort, that pain and offering help…the courage to be kind to yourself, but also help yourself out when you’re having a hard time. That is self compassion.

Together, we explore the profound impact of cultural influences on self-esteem and individualism, shedding light on the societal pressures that can make practicing self-compassion a daunting task for many of us. Diana uses these practices to guide her work with organizations and individuals to develop psychological flexibility so that they can grow fulfilling and impactful lives.

But it’s not all about the struggles – we also delve into the research-backed benefits of self-compassion, discovering how this powerful practice can improve performance and motivation by allowing us to recognize and honor our non-aligned commitments.

Self-Compassion in Practice

One of the highlights of our conversation is the exploration of embodiment practices, where Diana introduces us to the transformative power of adopting compassionate postures and approaching difficult emotions with kindness through the body.

This conversation felt personal for me. During my time in MAPP, I’ve been cultivating the academic and coaching side of my identity and working at the most respected institution in the world for Positive Psychology. At times; I am grappling with self-doubt while writing an academic paper or working to improve my performance as a high achiever, balancing my day-to-day routine. Throughout, it is a goal of mine to cultivate more compassion in my life.

I invite you to join me in this enlightening conversation with Diana Hill. Let’s embark on this journey of self-discovery and compassion together – are you ready?

Here are a few key takeaways:

  • Self-compassion involves acknowledging suffering within oneself and offering help/kindness, while compassion also includes offering this to others.
  • Cultural and societal pressures like individualism and needing to “be special” can make self-compassion difficult.
  • Why self-compassion improves performance and motivation by allowing one to recognize non-aligned commitments.
  • Learn how embodiment practices like adopting compassionate postures can aid self-compassion over cognitive techniques alone.
  • How to approach difficult emotions with compassion through the body.

Listen to Diana’s episode

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Episode Chapters

  • Self-compassion and Diana’s experience writing her new book. (0:00)
  • Self-compassion and its relationship to compassion and psychology. (4:28)
  • The impact of individualism, and cultural influences. (9:49)
  • Self-compassion and its impact on motivation and performance. (13:52)
  • Self-compassion, emotional intelligence, and personal growth. (20:06)
  • Emotional processing and therapy approaches. (28:10)
  • Fear of receiving kindness, and overcoming vulnerability. (39:12)
  • Compassion meditation and its applications. (44:32)

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Transcript

Sonya Looney 0:00
Hi, Diana.

Diana Hill 0:05
Hi, Sonya, good to see you.

Sonya Looney 0:07
I love this. We’ve had, I don’t even know how many, maybe a year or two now of our friendship, but we have built our friendship through the podcast and then offline. So it’s so much fun now to come together to record these podcasts.

Diana Hill 0:21
I know it’s, well, it’s an excuse to get to see you and spend an hour with you because we’re both busy in our lives. And oftentimes, we’re catching each other on a run or driving to pick up our kids. And now we’d get a whole big chunk of time to talk about things that we’re interested in research wise, but also, you know, with what’s happening for us in our lives and how we’re applying the research. Maybe well, or not so well, sometimes.

Sonya Looney 0:43
Yeah, so first, tell us where you are.

Diana Hill 0:47
I am in Costa Rica, I’m in Nosara, blue spirit, Costa Rica metta retreat center, and I was supposed to be home by now. But I decided to stay longer. Because I’m on a writing retreat, I’m working on a book. And it was really an act of self compassion to remove myself, from my children and my clients to come to a place where I can feel really nourished to do the hard work of writing, I don’t enjoy writing, I’m not one of those people that love to wake up and write my morning pages, it’s a struggle for me. And it brings up every single inch of self doubt that I have in my body to write. And then at the same time, I have this deep inner drive to talk about and share about ideas around psychological flexibility and compassion and wise effort. And so this is a space where I can do that with the most kindness possible. So you’ll see like jungle behind me, and we might get a few monkeys and all sorts of things happening here. There’s lots of large bugs on the ground that I’m sitting on.

Sonya Looney 1:47
Well, Dr. Jones was on the podcast yesterday, and there was a cat tail going under his nose, or part of it. So if you see monkeys today, on cats yesterday work, we’re in good shape. Yeah, I can relate a lot with what you said about writing. Whenever I sit down to write, I don’t have a lot of highly self critical voices anymore. It’s something I’ve worked on, and I want to talk about that with you. But when I sit down to write, it’s so loud, and it makes it so hard to actually write. And I think it’s interesting that you also have that experience.

Diana Hill 2:21
Yeah, you know, a lot, a lot of times those voices aren’t even ours, right? They go back to maybe our experiences as a kid when we were writing and the first thing they start to do in like, first grade is get out the red pen and start correcting you right or, and, and then also, there’s a vulnerability to it, there’s, at least for me, there’s not only me reading it, but I have this, you know, this imposed audience of what will people think and that am I going to be exposed in some way that I don’t know what I’m talking about, which is one of my big thing, you know, and, and so it just becomes this barrier to actually do what you need to do, which is just post up on a page. And you know, any musician, any artist, any Creator knows that this is the first draft, my uncle was a painter is a painter, and he, you know, an oil painter, and he just would sketch out the scene before it would take layers and layers and layers to get to the final painting. But for us, or at least for me, that first sketch it, it feels really scary to put on the page. Yeah.

Sonya Looney 3:25
I think that’s a great segue into talking about self compassion. Because, I mean, how many books have you written because there’s been a few now,

Diana Hill 3:35
the first book I wrote was on act act, daily journal. And then the book that is out right now is the self compassion daily journal. And then I’m working to more. So I’m working on a book with Katie Bowman, movement specialist about psychological barriers to moving our bodies, which is fascinating. And then I’m working on a book, which sounds true on wise effort. So I’m working on four.

Sonya Looney 3:56
That’s amazing. So before we started talking, you know, you and I were talking about self compassion and how some people don’t really agree with self compassion. Some people kind of roll their eyes when they hear that some people have a lot of ideas of what it is and what it isn’t. So can you can you start it off? Start us off here and just kind of set the record straight on where we’re at with self compassion?

Diana Hill 4:21
Yeah, well, I think I’m one of those people and maybe I didn’t outwardly roll my eyes, you know, outwardly, I say that’s, that’s a great thing. We should all shouldn’t be kind to ourselves, right? But inwardly did a little mini eye roll and in didn’t drink the Kool Aid. Straight up, you know, because I had beliefs about and these are common beliefs. There’s actually researched fears of self compassion. You can go online and look up fears of self compassion and get the fears of self compassion self assessment that you can take to see. What are you afraid of? What are you afraid of? And being kind to yourself? What are you afraid of and being kind to others? And other one, what are you afraid of in receiving kindness from others? and some of the fears that I had. were things like, I’m gonna lose my edge. It’s selfish. If I’m if I’m being self compassionate, especially as a mom, I would say that really gets going for me. And then it’s hokey. It’s cheesy. You know, this Stewart smiley, good enough, smart enough, Gosh, darn it, people like me, that didn’t fit for me. It didn’t fit for who I am. And actually, what the research is showing us most psychology research shows is it’s actually quite nuanced. This this idea around self compassion that it’s some of those actually are half truths. And I could go through each one, where’s the the half truth, and then what is the debunking of each of those fears, which may help especially for listeners have similar theaters before we even talk about some of the applications of self compassion. But before, it’s actually it is helpful to give the definition that self compassion is acknowledging the suffering that exists within you. pain, discomfort, embarrassment, physical sensations that are uncomfortable, and then turning towards that suffering, that discomfort, that pain and offering help, the courage to be kind to yourself, but also help yourself out when you’re having a hard time. That is self compassion.

Sonya Looney 6:24
And how is that different from compassion?

Diana Hill 6:27
Well, compassion is a is a larger idea that in company sort of accompanies this, this flow of offering that to others, as well as offering that to yourself, and then being able to receive that. So Paul Gilbert, who’s a researcher at the compassionate mind Foundation, in the UK, talks about this flow of compassion is three ways. And if you really look back to the roots of compassion, which have a lot of its roots in Buddhism and contemplative practice, self compassion was never described as separate from compassion, it was always described as something that is part of this greater flow because you yourself, is your inner self is seen as part of a larger cell, right. And we know this in terms of like, within our family, when I’m struggling, I’m stressed out, I had a hard day at work, I’m at my limit. If I don’t care for some of those feelings of stress, or having a hard day, and I walk in the door, my kids are gonna get a version of me, that isn’t the funnest to be around, you know, I may be irritable, the first thing I’m gonna notice is that everything’s a mess, I might shout orders at everybody, I may not connect. So that inability to have self compassion can impact our relationships can impact how we interact with others. And it is slow. So compassion is the capacity to just contact suffering, whether it’s your own suffering, or another person’s suffering or planet suffering. And then be able to offer help, encouragement, wisdom, strength, motivation, and a sense that you are there to be of the deepest support.

Sonya Looney 8:15
I’m guessing why people separate the two is because it’s easier to be kind or to offer compassion when someone’s you know, suffering to somebody else. But doing it to ourselves is really hard. We are often our own worst critics, we say the worst things to ourselves that we would never say to somebody else. Why is it so hard for us to have self compassion?

Diana Hill 8:38
Well, I take sort of a contextual, bio psychosocial perspective on that. I, you look at it from a biological perspective, there, you know, evolutionarily, we have that negativity bias, we have that self corrector nature to us, because we want to belong, we want to be part of the tribe, it’s very dangerous for you to be excluded. Right? And so part of what that sort of mistake finding in the state correcting part of our mind is, is to help keep us safe, like that fear that’s in me if I’m writing and what will people think, dates way back to my ancestors that were like, What will people think and because they thought that way, they survived because they were able to stay part of the group, right. So evolutionarily our brains designed were designed to fit into groups to stay safe to avoid danger. And so we’re just primed to have that little bit of a negativity bias towards ourselves. But then that’s the biological part. The the, the sort of psychological part of it is also our learning history. What were our caregivers had that how they speak to us, what was modeled to us. I mean, I have so many memories of my mom getting dressed in the morning when you your kid, you kind of like you kind of hang out in your mom’s. I don’t know if you do this I hung out my mom’s room while she would, you know, put her earrings on on and get dressed like little little, you know, like 234 years old. And I have so many memories of her looking at her body, and being judgmental. You know, looking at her stomach and saying little things about herself, right? So even if she never said that to me, my mom never said anything to me, I’m adopting that. So we see it as model to us. And then we also live, the larger social context that we live in, is not a one that promotes you’re okay as you are. It certainly is, you know, there’s a lot of money that is made on us feeling bad about ourselves, right? So it’s in the water, it’s in the air, it’s it’s in the media that we are consuming all the time. So bio psychosocial, it’s all of the above.

Sonya Looney 10:55
I think about other cultures that aren’t maybe as capitalistic where it’s like you have to you have to keep buying stuff so that you can finally be enough or have enough. I wonder what it’s like more collective cultures have you come across anything about that?

Diana Hill 11:10
Well, what I have come across as a in, in some more collective cultures, there’s, there’s less of a separation of self. And other, when it comes to compassion, there’s a there’s a greater understanding that, that when we’re compassionate for others, we’re also being compassionate for ourselves, and vice versa. When I was in Plum Village, I remember I was talking with a man who was from Vietnam. And he we were, we were talking about birthdays. And he was saying that, in Vietnam, they don’t really celebrate birthdays. Like, because it’s such an individualistic idea that this is your day that you were born that you’re supposed to celebrate the individual person, but that, you know, it wasn’t it’s not part of that culture to celebrate an individual on their birthday, because it’s more of a celebrations that have to do more with the collective whole. So it certainly is, you know, the Dalai Lama has been sort of well known for saying for kind of being shocked when people told him that, you know, in, especially in the US, people have a lot of self hatred. And he did not he didn’t that just didn’t register, like, how could you have that for yourself? So, yeah,

Sonya Looney 12:21
it also makes me think of specialness, like in Arthur Brooks book, from strength to strength, I distinctly remember one of the anecdotes in the book, and it was this woman, and she was really high achiever. And she was giving up everything in her life, to be an achiever to be at the top. And in the interview, it was something like Well, would you would you rather be happy and like, make time for your relationships and have more, you know, other things in your life, or, you know, you’re just trying, you’re trying to be special, you’re trying to prove something by continuing to achieve. And she said, I would rather be special, and that makes me think of this, like individualistic culture that we live in, which isn’t a bad thing. But we have to be careful, you know, with what we’re trading to feel special and having these contingencies of self worth. And it sounds like paying attention to compassion, and self compassion is a really key part of that.

Diana Hill 13:12
So part of that whole specialness movement was I’m a child of the 80s. And in the 80s, there was a big push for self esteem. It was like, it was like, part of like, we’ve got to get these kids feeling good about themselves and tell them that they’re special. And you’re, you know, you’re unique, and, and we’re all individuals, and we’re all not so different, right? Both can coexist. That’s the nature of linkage and the nature of differentiation. We’re differentiated. But we’re also linked. But so as part of this, this 80s movement, and there was a fascinating series of studies on self compassion that came out from Brian’s and Chen. And they were looking at self compassionate, different there. They were at Berkeley, and they had a bunch of Berkeley students, basically take this test that made them fail at it, right. So if you’re, if you’re at Berkeley, and you fail, you’re, oh, my gosh, I’m at Berkeley, I’m special, right? I’m smart. I got here. And after failing the test, half of them received a self esteem intervention, which was for them to write about all their strengths, all the ways, they are great. All that, you know, sort of like if you came home and you failed your test what your mom would tell you to boost you back up, make you feel strong self esteem. And then the other half of the group, were given a self compassion intervention, which they were told things like, that was a really hard test. A lot of people didn’t do well at it here. It’s understandable that you didn’t do well. Not everybody does, well, everything. Right. And this sort of a common humanity aspect of self compassion, and then they were given it the opportunity to take the test again. So those that were given the self compassion intervention, studied longer, and harder for that next time. asked than those that were given the self esteem intervention. So we think that being special or boosting ourselves up or making ourselves different in some way, is going to going back to that myth of sort of the edge, we’ll lose our edge. But actually, the reality is, is that we gain an edge when we practice self compassion. And this has been replicated in so many different ways. There’s, it’s been replicated with them, competitive swimmers, competitive swimmers who have a compassionate intervention assault, you know, who score higher on self compassion, and to enter more of a flow state and have decreased performance anxiety. There’s been a lot of stuff done with like binge eating, if you make binge eaters kind of feel bad. They evoke like a negative mood negative effects by again, often making them fail a test, and then they offer a ton of food. binge eaters are less likely to eat as much food if they’re given a self compassion intervention. So it actually helps you with your edge, to be kind to yourself, but it feels really counterintuitive. For a lot of us, especially those of us that that think that we should be special or better than.

Sonya Looney 16:12
Yeah, and that sounds like it’s one of those half truths that you’re that you’re mentioning like, well, if I am self compassionate, then I’m going to lose my edge. And you just demonstrated how you won’t lose your edge. But then you said it’s a half truth. So where’s the part where you might actually lose your edge,

Diana Hill 16:29
you might lose your edge in areas that you are holding yourself and pushing yourself to such a degree that maybe it would be a good thing, you’ll lose your edge a little. Because when you practice, self compassion, you start to realize and you start to differentiate, am I doing this, to get people to like me, or am I doing this because this is really what is aligned with my values and what I care about. And, you know, maybe this is an area where I want to lose my edge, I want to, I want to hold back a little bit on how hard I’m pushing myself. And that’s something that for me is, you know, recovery from an eating disorder, anorexia and bulimia, a continuous struggle with striving and pushing myself academically to the point where I have too many plates spinning, that at some point in my life, it’s really good to let some of those plates just fall and crash when they’re the plates that aren’t aligned with my values. And that can be really hard for people. But with self compassion, you feel more motivated to do it. Because you can see that if I let this plate go, then I can put my energy into the ones that are fulfilling to me, or the ones that can be most beneficial to others.

Sonya Looney 17:55
Yeah, and it also kind of sounds like that self esteem piece is is not it’s not getting his emphasize because, well, if my self esteem is tied to all of these plates, and doing really well at all these plates, Now I have to keep them all in the air. And if I let one go, that doesn’t mean that I’m not worthy, or good, or whatever the words are that you want to use to describe yourself.

Diana Hill 18:15
Right, exactly. That’s hard to know. Like, how

Sonya Looney 18:19
do you actually execute that?

Diana Hill 18:22
Well, I’m in Costa Rica right now. The only plates are dropping right now, while I’m here. It’s ridiculous. It’s hard. And it’s a practice and, and there. And that’s why the book that I wrote isn’t just about self compassion. It’s also about act and psychological flexibility. Because as you practice self compassion, you make a decision to let some of these plates fall there’s going to be discomfort that shows up. And knowing what your values are and knowing, knowing the why behind it, or the intrinsic, like deeper reason why you’re letting that go, will help fortify you and help you be more flexible. And the you know, is linked to that other half truth. So that so the half truth of all these my edge, but the other half truth, that self compassion makes me selfish. Because what actually starts to happen is that when you have those values on board, you actually become less selfish. What selfish is, is for me to spin all those plates, because what ends up happening as I’m spinning them off, is that the important ones don’t get the best of me. Like my husband, he will often say like Danna, when you’re doing all of this, I get the leftovers. Your clients get a great version of you and nine o’clock in the morning. Your podcast with Sonya Looney is fantastic at 12 o’clock in the afternoon, but by the time you come home at five o’clock at night, you got nothing left. And and that’s where it’s like okay, well wait a minute here the important parts of your life that you It actually becomes somewhat selfish, not to be self compassionate.

Sonya Looney 20:06
Now, that makes me squirm a little bit because I can I can relate to that like, ooh, she’s, she’s getting right

Diana Hill 20:12
now, but whether you’re squirming or squirm, just just

Sonya Looney 20:16
around like where you put your energy, because we all have a limited amount of energy. And we have to be intentional and choose where we put that energy. And sometimes you’re right, by the end of the day, you’re just like, I just want everyone to leave me alone. And that’s the time when you need to be there and be present for your family. So being able to do things that aren’t going to be draining your energy or doing less things, I’ll tell you, the pandemic and having a baby in the pandemic was hard. But it was probably one of the best things that’s happened to me because I wasn’t able to achieve at the same rate anymore. Because I, I couldn’t race anymore. There were no races. And after that, when people went back to racing, I couldn’t race because the border was closed, I couldn’t leave. And I just everything I was doing had to stop. And then since then I haven’t been able to, quote achieve at the same rate, because I don’t work 12 hours a day anymore, I have six hours a day where I have to jam everything in. So because of that I can’t have as many plates in the air, I have to be okay with that. And so I’ve been forced into it. But it’s taught me that I don’t need to have all these things going on for me to feel good. That was just the story that I was telling myself. But it’s something that I always have to be fighting against. Because I always feel that it’s you drive to put one more up there.

Diana Hill 21:31
Yeah, well, what I find is that when I allow just more margins in my life, you know, sort of like the like if you’re writing a paper, and your professor says the margins have to be two inches or whatever, there’s a reason why those margins are there, right, they create a space, there’s a reason why things are double spaced, you can read it better, there’s more space for your mind to pause before you get to the next line. But there’s also more space for some new ideas to come in. And maybe to write a little bit in the margins. And for me, as I’m here. So for example, here in Costa Rica, I wake up, I go for a run, I go for a swim, I have a coffee. But there’s there’s just people here to have conversations with. And because I haven’t packed my days, I can I can talk to someone while I’m waiting in line. And it’s not like this sense of I need to rush through this to get to the next thing because there’s not enough time to talk to you. And in those conversations, there’s some beautiful little mystery, wonderful things that are happening. There’s also really cool people that are here to talk to you. But you know, it’s in those margins. And part of self compassion is finding and listening to your rhythm. Rather than just automatically getting into the rhythm of the busyness that that is speeding up as we go as our culture speeds up. actually listening to your biological rhythm, listening to that your ultradian rhythm, we have these we have circadian rhythms but also ultradian rhythms which are the the ups and downs of energy throughout our day. Two o’clock in the afternoon, I’ve tracked my ultradian rhythm for a while I know it now like two o’clock is not the time for me to see, like my most difficult clients are try and work on my most difficult part of my paper, right? Because that’s my law. That’s actually that if you are my two o’clock client, I love you. And you know that I love you because I put you in my two o’clock spot. I put my I put my tough folks at 10am. You know, and so not all of them. But but but getting to know yourself that is an act of, of self compassion. And I do want to go back to the half truth part of selfishness. Oh, because there’s some interesting, newest research that’s come out more recently. So Josiah Roachie, who’s this fantastic Australian researcher, he wrote the foreword to the self compassion daily journal. And he’s phenomenal. But he’s always trying to like cut away at stuff and find the edge and not just like, there’s one pill for everything, right. So he looked at self compassion and found that, you know, for folks that see self compassion as only benefiting them, and as separate from benefiting others. They don’t get the same well being. And in another study, men who scored lower on conscientiousness, and practice self compassion, they actually acted more selfishly towards their parts. So self compassion, when when you are using it in a way to only benefit you, and you’re not conscious of other people around you. It’s not going to be as effective and it actually may make you more selfish. So we do have to be aware of that and that’s where seeing it as a flow seeing that I as I am taking care, it’s not just self care. I’m actually like tending to the parts of me that hurt or struggle. When I do that it’s going to benefit Sonya. And then when she does that, it’s going to benefit. Dr. Jed. And then when Dr. Jed just that is going to benefit his cat. I admit that.

Sonya Looney 25:24
Yeah, I wanted to say that, like part of Act is going towards this discomfort, like letting in the the emotions that are the hard emotions that a lot of us try to think about, you know, think about something else to make it go away or go do something to make it go away the avoidance piece. And it seems like a true act of self compassion is actually going through that like allowing yourself to go through those emotions that are difficult, because on the other side is, there’s something there for you instead of running away from it completely. And that’s something that I I work on a lot is that I don’t like to cry, like I do not want to cry, I don’t want to be just stuff from my past. So for me, allowing myself to cry is an act of self compassion to allow those feelings to come through me. And I was just thinking about that, as you’re mentioning some of those things.

Diana Hill 26:14
Yeah, we all have, we all have emotions, we don’t like to feel. And they’re usually different. They’re sort of idiosyncratic, right? Who which options are the ones that i I’m willing to, for me, I’m willing to I love crying, the client starts crying in my session, I feel like we’re getting somewhere all cry with that, yay, I love feeling that. I do not like to feel angry. And, and so I’ll do anything to avoid that feeling. I’m scared of it. I feel like it’s oh my gosh, if I feel angry, it’s going to blow up, I’m going to look like a mess. I’m going to say things that are hurtful, right. And so just block it out, stuck it down. And other people may may really hate anxiety, that’s the emotion that they don’t want to feel. Some people actually are uncomfortable with feeling happiness or joy. Because if I allow myself to feel happiness and joy, then then what if it goes away, right. And so with self compassion that the practice and I have a whole chapter on, actually have a day for for each of these emotions, self compassion, For shame, self compassion, for anger, self compassion, for sadness, and, and the practice is, the first practice that I use around that comes from my training. My my route teacher is tick, not Han. And so in my 20s, I went to Plum Village and had a whole, just miraculous wonderful experience of learning about a different way of interacting with myself, and have been learning his teachings for 20 years. 20 plus years. But the practice that I do around that is actually making contact with the feeling in your body. So like for you, Sonya, when you feel like you’re gonna cry, and maybe you’re shutting it down, like where do you feel that in your body? Do you do have a sense of that, like the edge of tears?

Sonya Looney 28:10
I would say, like my face, but also my chest. And then there’s a heaviness and it’s like trying to jam it down into the chest, like out of the face and into the chest. Like just push it down.

Diana Hill 28:22
When was the last time that happened for you?

Sonya Looney 28:23
Right before we started talking? When I was saying telling you like, Oh, I’ve been having a hard time lately. And I felt it. I’m like, No, you’re not doing it. Yeah, yeah.

Diana Hill 28:36
So it comes, it can come to you as like, I’ve been having a hard time and then it’s on the edge and you and you shove it down. You feel it in your face. You feel you feel it in your chest and your your responses to tighten up around it down.

Sonya Looney 28:49
Yeah, and I think the story around it is like, it’s not okay to have a hard time like you have to be strong all the time. And then to say like, then in the self compassion is it’s okay to have a hard time everybody has a hard time.

Diana Hill 29:02
How well does it for you when you tell yourself that?

Sonya Looney 29:05
It has to be in the right context. Like I need to be alone. And there’s all these like rules that I have around how to how to process those things, but I’m working on not doing it alone anymore. There’s like shame that comes up around that of like, oh, well, if I show this well, now I’m ashamed because now I look weak, or now I look like I can’t I can’t handle things. And it’s actually really sad to do that by yourself. Because being able to have somebody else support you whenever you’re having a hard time and then try not to feel shame around that is like it’s tricky. Right?

Diana Hill 29:37
And if we think about the function of tears, the only reason why we would have tears is to communicate that to another person. We know that we feel sad. How do we communicate to another person that we feel sad? Or face to our tears? And why would we do that? Why would the human have evolved tears and a sad face because when you see someone crying, you want to go in and help. Right? So what So what’s happening, when you’re when your sadness shows up, and you feel it in your body and you feel it on the edge, and then you feel the shame coming in, is you’re actually blocking yourself from the natural human condition, which is to feel overwhelmed, to cry. And for someone to see that you’re crying and come in and say, Can I help? What can I do to help you, you know, and to give someone that gift because it actually feels really good to comfort someone that’s crying. So So you said that one of the things that you do is you do like a self statement of everyone feels, you know, this sometimes, which is very much a self compassionate thing. But it’s also a cognitive thing. And, and for me, I can go to a cognitive place, sometimes, but I can’t go to a cognitive place when I’m in a really, really big emotion. Or in the emotions that are most difficult for me like anger. Like if someone told me, everybody gets angry, and I’m feeling this anger in my body, I don’t know what would help me. What, what helps me is, Oh, where am I feeling that in my body? Just where? And can I? Can I be with it? And could I sort of like if I’m, you know, you were holding tight to or gripping sand in your hand, like, oh, my gosh, I can’t let it go. Because if I let it go, it’s gonna fall out. And maybe if your hands upside down like this, you grip grip grip grip grip, could you just turn your hand over with that sadness and hold it and look at it? And that’s the first step of compassion is to approach and be with that which is uncomfortable? For some of us. That’s a lot. And then and then the next thing would be I don’t know. How do you uh, couscous comfortable for you? When they when they’re sad? Like, who? Who can you be around when they’re sad that you feel cared towards?

Sonya Looney 32:09
Almost anybody, actually. Anyone

Diana Hill 32:12
in particular? Like, if you think about their sad face, you’re like, oh, my gosh,

Sonya Looney 32:15
I just like my kids. Yeah, see, I see lots of sad faces. I know.

Diana Hill 32:20
Which one, which one really, not that you love one more than it. But it’s one of your children really? Get you when they’re sad more than the others?

Sonya Looney 32:27
Yeah, my son, your son?

Diana Hill 32:32
What does he look like when he said,

Sonya Looney 32:35
you can see it starting to come on before it’s even fully come on the sad face. And he’s so he’s such a sensitive, kind, like, sweet person. That to think of him, you know, being sad is like, it’s so hard. And I just want I just want to get in there and just be like, Oh, but you can’t fix it for them. But you just want to like be there for them.

Diana Hill 32:57
So what if I were to watch like, if I if there was like a camera in your house, and your son was having that moment of sadness, and then I was watching Sonya show up as like her very best version of her mother, loving mother compassionate self, what would you do?

Sonya Looney 33:13
Just go hang him up and hold him and just say it’s okay. And then just go sit and say I’m here.

Diana Hill 33:21
Right. So you have exactly what you need. And this, this is for all of us. We have compassionate minds and hearts. And we know how to be compassionate, it’s hard to do it for ourselves. But notice how you did two things, you picked them up and you held them. And then for you the words that came to you or it’s okay, I’m here. And what I would recommend is that, if sadness shows up for you, you feel it just you notice it, like you notice it, like your son. And then you go to that part of your body and you almost like imagine picking, picking that part up. Like you could almost like put your arms around that part, like mentally. And then your mantra is, it’s okay, I’m here. And it’s, it’s different than, you know, the cognitive thing. It’s more of just that’s what came naturally to you as a compassionate person. For someone else, they may there’s other words that would fit for them. The danger of self compassion is that we get everything so protocol that we think we’re supposed to say some, like, may I be one with my suffering, may I be at peace? May I be happy? May I be whole? And for me, that just sounds like someone else’s lines. But your lines where it’s okay, I’m here. Pretty good lines.

Sonya Looney 34:38
Yeah, it’s interesting how you would look to that part of your body where you feel it because like, it’s okay. I’ve noticed over the years as I’ve practice self compassion, those two words are very powerful for me. Like in mountain biking, there’s some very technical trails and if you’re trying to push your skill level, I used to be so hard on myself if I didn’t do it if I if I wasn’t ready. or if I just chickened out or like whatever, if I just didn’t do it, I would be so hard on myself and my husband would be like, like, why are you doing this? Like, it’s like, why are you being so hard on yourself? So I’ve worked overtime. That was one example. And I would just say it’s okay. And now I say it’s okay. And I’ve actually applied that to lots of other areas. And it’s been very helpful, but I haven’t thought about trying to say it to the part of my body that is that where I’m where I’m embodying the emotion, and I think a lot of us are disembodied from our emotions, it is very much cognitive, and we try to think it away instead of actually going through the feeling. Yeah, the problem

Diana Hill 35:35
with our thoughts, when we’re feeling a strong emotion, is they’re not so helpful. You know, like, like our, our frontal lobe in some ways going offline, when our threat system is activated. We all know this, because if you were to write down what you were thinking at 2am, last night, when you couldn’t sleep we just had, we had a lot of floods in California and Santa Barbara where I live, and I’m, I mean, I’m in this little so I’m not there, my family’s there and I’m in this little Casita, like, I’m in the jungle, like, deep in the heart of the jungle. And I’m about a 10 to 15 minute walk along a dirt road to the main building that has no light at all to it. And I’m also kind of close to it anyways, I’m in the jungle, so I couldn’t sleep. And there was this flooding happening. And I did with the sort of worst sleep hygiene move that I told my clients never do, which is open the New York Times at 2am when you can’t sleep. And I got into this whole like story, right? So if you were to listen to my mind at 2am, when my throat system was activated, it was saying the most ridiculous things about the animals that are going to break into my Casita, the people that are going to, like hold me at knifepoint to steal my computer, and my family being swept away to see. And so oftentimes, we then turn to that same mind to try and get the solution to our suffering. And that is not the mind you want to consult. But what you can consult is the the compassionate heart, the Compassionate self, the wise courageous version of you, that knows how to respond to a child or an animal, or to somebody else, that’s the most helpful thing and to do it to you within your body to get your body into a more like a place of more, you know, settled safe groundedness then you can start to work with your mind a little bit more.

Sonya Looney 37:42
So let’s get into the last half truth before so I just wanna make sure we do it that the Hokey piece because I think a lot of people here like, put your hand and this definitely got me like, put your hand on your heart. And just say to yourself, like, oh, like, whatever. Like that part just makes me cringe.

Diana Hill 38:00
Yeah, yeah. Yeah, there’s a lot of cringe worthy stuff. Well, there’s just the field of therapy has a lot of cringe worthy stuff in it. But but certainly self compassion does, and there’s some kumbaya to it all. And for some people, that’s great. I mean, it works for them. As you know, for me, I have such a I think I have an aversion to that sort of holiness. Because I’ve been around so many therapists that are hokey, like, doesn’t work for me. And and what I would say about that, but but here’s the thing, here’s the thing about here’s the half truths, half truths, that it is hokey, it is hokey. And that’s why you have to find your own way of doing it. And the future of therapy, the future of psychology that where we are headed next is individualization. Which means what Sonya Looney says it’s okay. But for somebody else, I know I can think about a client right now that if I told them, it’s okay, they would feel like it was most invalidating statement they’ve ever heard in our life. And they would find it to be like, so off putting to tell them it’s okay. Right? So with self compassion, you have to figure it out for yourself, what works for you? What words when you say them to yourself, or what ways of relating to yourself fit? Not every human is the same. And that’s part of the exploration of it. The other thing about I don’t know, have you Sunday, we were talking about AI

Sonya Looney 39:37
a couple of weeks ago, yeah, weeks ago.

Diana Hill 39:39
And, you know, I think AI is hokey. You know, some, but you put a little something into AI and it comes out with this verbiage of your journey into the inter woven tapestry of your life, you know, oh my god, it’s so okay, this

Sonya Looney 39:57
this. So hard chat.

Diana Hill 39:59
Do you perhaps Yeah, to beauty, like the flowery language, and then you kind of could get the essence out of what what it what it’s trying to do, right. So if you can get the essence for yourself of how, what, what fits best for you what is motivating for you. And part of that, for me, is more just the embody. And there’s some good research on embodiment of the compassion itself. So, you know, taking on the facial expression of somebody who has kind eyes, taking on the posture of somebody who is strong and stable and solid, taking on the Open Heart of somebody who’s here to receive whatever comes, taking on the breath of somebody who feels like I can handle this. Just do that, go sit down and work on your paper with that posture, that facial expression that breath and see what happens. And that’s not so hokey. That’s just sort of like showing up as the version of you, which we all have, that wants the best for you. So but it is still a little hokey. And I’m, I’m increasingly okay with hokey and less judgmental about it as Ah, so

Sonya Looney 41:07
I like it. Um, one thing I wanted to ask you about is fear of receiving kindness, because going back to the example that I had, like, I want to be by myself, and I’m having a hard time, because I probably don’t want to be, there’s a fear around receiving kindness from somebody else, or comfort from somebody else. I think that this can be a problem in relationships, because, you know, vulnerability might mean that you’re sharing something that makes you uncomfortable. And now you are in a place where somebody might be giving you kindness. And if you’re not willing to be vulnerable, you’re never going to be able to receive kindness from somebody else. So I know people, some people are listening are probably like, oh, that’s me, like, how can people work on that? And how can I work on that?

Diana Hill 41:49
Well, it’s a common fear, I would approach it in the way that I approach a lot of fears. Which is, when we fear something, our tendency is to avoid, right. And so we don’t do it, we don’t show that we’re vulnerable, we don’t cry in front of somebody else. And when we avoid that feared thing, we reinforce it, because we remove that little, that little short term, it feels like okay, I didn’t have to do that hard thing. But we also strengthen it, because we never get corrected information. And when we never get crimped, collected information, we never get to learn the whole learning process is trying something new that you haven’t done before, and then getting feedback on it, did that work? Did it give me what I wanted, did it not give him what I wanted. And doing in a way that is wise, I actually think there is a problem with over vulnerability. I have plenty of cases and clients that I work on where I say whoa, we need to dial back how much you talk about on that first date with somebody, you don’t need to tell them about your trauma history on the first day, like that’s that that kind of vulnerability is not is gonna make them run, not want to stay right. And, and so we do need to do it in a way that is like who, who based on your knowledge is a safe person to do this with that can actually give you support and care and be there with you and you have a left and that relationship history to hold it. And you’re gonna have to skirt that edge of your comfort zone, if you want your comfort zone to grow. But ultimately, if you’re exposing yourself to any fear, whether it’s fear of traveling to a new place, or fear of vulnerability, or for me fear of mountain biking, you have to have a good reason why. And and you need to tap into the the greater benefit or value for yourself for doing that type of exposure. So starting there, like why would I want that in the first place? How might that benefit me? And remembering that why when the fear shows up to then push yourself to the edge of behavioral stretching, to do a little bit more of that thing. You just did it with us by sharing with it, you know, on the podcast that you shared and doing a little experiential with me Sonya. So that it’s just that zone of tolerance, the zone of flexibility grows a little bigger. And for most of us, most of our client, my clients as well that have that fear. The fear doesn’t always go away, but you’re more flexible with it. And you can get to choose not the fear.

Sonya Looney 44:19
I wanted to ask the difference between practicing self compassion and like a loving kindness meditation are those different?

Diana Hill 44:27
Yes, they’re different in Buddhism and the history of Buddhism. Metta is compassion, which is different from I’m sorry, Metta is loving kindness which is different from karuna, which is compassion. And loving kindness is just offering good maybe well, maybe happy, maybe successful, you know, maybe healthy. A compassion meditation is actually contacting suffering in yourself or another person and And, and, and being with their suffering. There’s a classic compassion meditation in Tibetan Buddhism is something called Tong Lin. And it’s one of the more advanced practices that I that I do and actually kind of really started to like doing but it sounds terrible. Whenever I suggest someone, a client do it, they’re like, I’m not doing that. So what tonglen is, so meta would be something like I’m going to bed at night, and I’m just imagining the circle of people around me that I love. And imagine each and every one of their faces, and I’m just sending them goodwill. Maybe well, dad, maybe a healthy sister, may you just find peace in your marriage, whatever it is right? With Tomlin, or more compassion type of meditation, you would sit there with your, I don’t know your mom, imagining your mom, and you would see where they suffer. What is hardest about them? For them? What is hardest about them for them in their life right now? What are they struggling with emotionally? What are they struggling with, physically. And then you see that suffering and then you imagine breathing it in to your body, you breathe in their suffering. And then time when you breathe it in, like dark smoke. And then you transform it into in your body into like a bright, white clear light, and you breathe it out to them, I’m sending you compassion, and love and clarity and all sorts of good things. And then dark smoke all of their suffering, breathe it in, make contact with it, and send it out. And you can do that with your own suffering, too. You could breathe in that part of your heart that feel sad, and just really be with it and breathe it in and like dark smoke, and then breathe out clarity, compassion to that part of you. So there’s a distinction. And you know, all of these practices they have, they have deep roots in contemplative practice. And there’s, you know, contemplative practices has changed and transformed based on what kind whether it’s Vietnamese Buddhism, or it’s Tibetan Buddhism, or it’s Buddhism that’s come to the United States, or it’s secular Buddhism, that has now entered into our science, but, but they they do share this, this common thread of, you know, loving kindness is different than compassion. And then there’s sort of the four measurables, like, we need to have loving kindness, we need to have compassion, and they’re called the measurables. Because you could never have enough of them. We also need to have mudita, which is joy, joy for other people’s successes. And then we also need to have equanimity, which is the capacity to to be stable and solid and centered in our being and in our life. And they all work together to support our well being.

Sonya Looney 47:53
I always love how you frame and teach these concepts, because I think, even like Buddhism is become very secularized in North America, and that sometimes you miss some of the nuance and context of it.

Diana Hill 48:09
Yeah, it’s, it’s sort of both and it’s wonderful, because, as we said, your latest Buddhism, I’m involved in a research study right now with Elissa Epel, where they’re taking these concepts of mindfulness and compassion, and they’re, they’re spreading it across UC campuses, that for students that have experienced climate distress, and that are involved in climate change activism, and how to support them in climate change activism, right. So we got to make it secular, you can’t bring in, you know, religious concepts into a UC system. Yeah. And I also know that the people that are that are translating these concepts, people like Alyssa, the teachers that she’s brought on, have really deep roots in the spiritual practice. And so the deep roots of the spiritual practice, I think, makes you a better translator, just like if you’re, if you’re a clinician, or you’re a coach, and you have deep roots and research, what you’re saying in your coaching or in your clinical work, is going to be so much stronger. Even if you’ve never mentioned a research study. It’s gonna be stronger. So same thing with these contemplative practices.

Sonya Looney 49:19
I can’t believe we’re already out of time, but that was so enlightening. We’ve talked about self compassion on this podcast, not you and I but on this podcast listeners have heard, you know, from Chris enough and others about about it, and we haven’t heard about it in this way. And I found this personally. Very interesting. And I think this is going to be highly applicable to our listeners. So where can people find the journal?

Diana Hill 49:43
If you go to my website, Dr. Diana hill.com. I have a special thing where you can if you order the journal there, then you get some free meditations with me for free meditations. So that’s always good little bonus thing. And that’s the place that’s place to go. And then I’m also have a podcast that I’m just in the process of changing from your life and process to wise effort. And I’m gonna be talking a lot about some of the things that we talked about in terms of wise effort. And certainly we’ll be having you on Sonia as soon as you have time or life to come on, as well. So that’s the wise effort podcast with Dr. Diana Hill. All

Sonya Looney 50:22
right. Well, thanks so much for coming on. And I’m excited for everybody to keep content connecting with your work. Thank you.

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