Charles Starrett


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Culture consultant & social tech teacher/facilitator at SoulCo & Northeastern University. He/Him. Dad, Harvard and NEC alum, visual thinker, dabbler in ukulele, electronic music, 한국어, and TTRPGs.


Step two is self-compassion

As we become more aware of our thoughts and feeling and notice the times when we get activated by something that happens, what then? What do we do after we notice that strong emotions like anger, fear, guilt, shame, or anxiety have come up?

My habit was always to think more. To analyze and figure out what caused them. What made those feelings come up all of a sudden? Where are those feelings coming from? How can I make sure this doesn’t happen again?

What I’ve learned is that thinking in response to feelings doesn’t help me in the long run. Feelings want to be felt. So how do we work with these eruptions of strong feelings in a way that supports our long-term well-being? How can we relate to them if not by thinking about them and analyzing them? How do we feel the feelings without getting entangled deeper?

The approach that works for me is self-compassion.

Self-compassion lets myself feel the emotion while also acknowledging to myself that it’s hard to feel it. And that it’s natural to feel these things as a human being. And that it will pass (eventually). Just to be with the strong emotions with gentleness and kindness.

When I remember (which isn’t always), I start by taking a deep breath and try to create a little space. A little distance to be able to notice the feelings as something I am experiencing, rather than something that has taken over my whole world.

I notice the feeling and, while keeping attention on my breath, or my feet, or some other focus point in the physical world, remember that feeling these things is okay. It is part of what makes me, me. In fact it is part of being human. And that everyone has times when they feel strong emotions for one reason or another.

And, while still keeping attention on a focus point in the physical world, I try to speak kindly to myself. To comfort myself. To acknowledge that this is hard. That being human is hard sometimes. That living is hard sometimes.

We all know that eventually the emotions goes away. The anger you felt at another kid on the playground disappeared ages ago. It’s the same with every emotion. What I’ve found is that the more I can let go of thinking about these emotions, and the more I can learn to be with them with kindness, the more I can learn about where these emotions come from.

All the insights that I used to try to get from thinking about the emotions arise out of the same space of kindness. The difference is that I’m able to have these insights when I feel calmer and more settled. And the learning I gain comes from a place of kindness towards myself and anyone else who might have been involved.

And insights that come from a place of kindness, tend to generate more kindness. Which is what I want more of in the world.

11 September 2022

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