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Be Kind to Yourself: Self-Compassion and the Duty to Self

June 18th, 2018 · be kind to yourself

We’ve heard the phrase a lot: “be kind to yourself”.  But what does psychological care of oneself really look like?  Is there a “duty to self”?

be kind to yourself

Did you ever dream?…  Workman dancing on the roof of the Imperial Palace, Forbidden City, Beijing, China

Of course, we’re mostly used to thinking of duties that are not duty to self, such as duties to one’s family, one’s country, one’s fellow human, perhaps duty to God.  It can initially sound strange to us to consider the possibility of a duty to ourselves.
Well, how should we relate to ourselves?  Can that relationship be a good one?  Can it be a bad one?  If so, what’s the difference?

Self Acceptance

Before we can have self compassion, we must first come to a place of self acceptanceC.G. Jung had a famous quote in connection with this:

“The most terrifying thing is to accept oneself completely.”

He also stated that:

“The acceptance of oneself is the essence of the whole moral problem and the epitome of a whole outlook on life.”

For Jung, acceptance of ourselves with our faults, flaws, and broken-ness, is the foundation of any kind of psychological movement in ourselves  Everyone has parts of her- or himself that are very hard for the ego to accept, perhaps because they seem at odds with widely accepted norms and standards, or because they do not fit with the ego’s preconceived ideas of who we are.  To acknowledge these parts, to accept them and just let be, this is the first key to the work that we need to do.  To have a good relationship with ourselves, we need to start here.

Self Compassion

Depth psychotherapists see self-compassion growing out of this initial hard work of self-acceptance.  It’s only when we finally see all the parts of ourselves — attractive and unattractive, those which accord with the moral standards of the ego, and those that do not, those which seem strong, and those which seem shamefully weak — that we begin to be in the place where we can experience genuine self compassion.  we can be sure that every aspect of who we are has its own unique story, its own unique reason for being the way that it is.  We will only understand those stories when we listen to ourselves from a place of compassion.

The Truth About Duty to Self

From a place of self-compassion, we start to see the wounds and vulnerability in our lives.  As we understand them, we start to perhaps see something of our true self, which is seeking to emerge in the middle of all the contradictions and broken-ness.  Such moments can be moments of recognition and connectedness.  It might be that we start to gain a sense of the wholeness of self that has been trying to emerge at many different points in the course of our lives.  This may be associated with a sense of yearning or aspiration that we have been trying to realize for the whole of our life journey — something that we have always longed for, and wanted to make real in the midst of our lives.

be kind to yourself

The duty to self can be the duty to be ourselves — to be who we most fundamentally are.  It’s only in truly following the injunction to “be kind to yourself”, and thus being kind to the whole of ourselves, to all that we are, that we begin to gain some understanding of our duty to ourselves, to be and become all the things that make us who we truly are.

This duty to self may emerge as particularly important in the second half of life, or as the individual experiences major life transitions.  It also takes on particular importance for those whose life journeys have consistently led to meeting the needs of others prior to considering their own,

Exploring Duty to Self

The duty to self, which includes respecting, valuing and becoming even more who we most fundamentally are, is at the core of Jungian depth psychotherapy work.

Brian  Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist & Jungian Psychoanalyst

PHOTOS: Gauthier DELECROIX – 郭天 (Creative Commons Licence) ; Ian Sane (Creative Commons Licence)
© 2018 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

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