The curious paradox is that when I accept myself as I am, I can change.
~ Carl Rogers, Founder of Humanistic Psychology
How am I?
Last Thursday and Friday I presented a marathon series of trainings. Within 24 hours I presented the same 1.5 hours of material four times. At the beginning of each session, as I like to do, I invited the participants into a minute of silence to ask themselves this question: “How am I?”. This action, known in Compassionate Communication as self-empathy, is the first step toward effective communication
The key with self-empathy is to focus our attention on what’s happening inside ourselves not to get the “right” answer. Just asking the question brings our focus to a new place. This shifts us from attending to all that’s happening outside ourselves into a mindful connection with what’s stirring in our emotional world. Awareness of the answer, which asks us to tune into the feelings and the needs connected to them, is a further step to self-connection. The willingness to accept the answer to this question brings us more fully into a loving relationship with the beauty of our inner world.
Changing Your Mood
Self-empathy allows us to change our inner state while a lack of awareness of what’s going on in you makes it unlikely you’ll be able to alter your mood. For example, last Thursday I had hoped to be at the training location by 8 am to attend the opening session of the conference to get a sense of the culture of the group I’d be training before my first session began at 10:15. When I arose at 6:45, I tuned on my computer only to see these words in white on a blue background: “Microsoft is updating. This will take a while. Do not turn off your computer.” Accompanying these ominous worlds (“This will take a while”!?) was a percentage indicating the progress of the update.
At 7:45, the computer was at 45% and I was very uncomfortable. I chose to check-in with myself by asking “How am I?”. I discovered that I was upset because I really wanted effectiveness and ease. I wanted effectiveness by being able to attending the 8 am session to better understand my trainees and the context of their conference. I wanted ease in getting out of the house (I told my wife that I was under Microsoft “house arrest”). When I asked and answered the question (and accepted the answer), I felt much more calm and centered. Rather than dwelling on something over which I had no control, I did the dishes, walked the dog, packed the car, and completed other work.
Had I not taken time to check-in, I would not have been able to shift out of the upset. It’s likely that by focusing on what I wasn’t getting, why I wasn’t getting it, and why I should be getting it, I would become angry and have trouble settling down before my day of trainings.
At about 9 am, the computer was updated. I had plenty of time to get to the training and see part of the first session.
2 Minutes of Self-connection
Below is a 2-minute video that I invite you to listen to while asking yourself “How am I?” Let me know what you find.
Flowing Creek in Rocky Mountain National Park — June 2017