The value of self-compassion: Part 3 - using "Tapping"
The value of self compassion: part 1 - the science
The value of self compassion: part 2 - common practices
In this final part, you'll learn how to apply a method known as “Tapping” to cultivate self-compassion. Seeing as most of us have been using self criticism for most of our lives, it may not be an easy habit to change. Implementing a more self-compassionate approach can come with its own set of challenges. Just the notion of reducing self-criticism or being more self-compassionate might feel uncomfortable as many of us associate strength and toughness to how self-critical we are. This is where Tapping can be particularly useful.
If you’re already familiar with Tapping, feel free to jump to the next section in this blog where you’ll get some tapping prompts and ideas. If you don’t know what Tapping is, here’s a brief intro:
“Tapping” (officially called “emotional freedom techniques”) is a scientifically proven, mind-body connection method. It allows you to rapidly reduce the emotional intensity of situations in your life. Science shows that when you reduce that intensity, you are more intelligent, resourceful and resilient amongst many other things. You’re better able to see problems from new perspectives and take more efficient action.
While knowing what to do is powerful, we can often have resistance to doing the things we know. With Tapping you can reduce and sometimes completely eliminate that resistance. This isn’t just a mental hack, this is something that has profound effects at the level of your nervous system, your biology, and your subconscious mind.
Tapping involves lightly tapping on acupressure points on your body while focusing on a specific problem. This physical action of tapping sends a calming signal to your brain and body. The result is that the problem that once caused you distress, now has little or no power over you. In other words, you’re removing what’s in the way rather than using more force.
Remember to take responsibility for your own wellbeing.
Tapping: how to do the basics
1) Identify a specific negative experience (past, present or future) to work on.
2) See if you can feel any emotion or physical sensation when you focus on this. (eg: feeling stressed, angry, tightness in your chest, pit in your stomach etc). Identify the level of intensity for you right now on a 0-10 scale (0 being no intensity, 10 being maximum intensity).
3) Tap the side of hand point continuously while saying the following 3 times:
“Even though_____________(insert problem), I deeply and completely accept myself”.
eg: “Even though I’m stressed by this project, I deeply and completely accept myself”.
(Note: If the last part of this statement feels off, you can try using “I accept I’m feeling this” or “I’m OK right now”).
4) Gently tap the 8 points about 7 times each with your fingertips while repeating a brief phrase at each point, that reminds you of the problem. eg: “feeling stressed”, “this project”.
5) Test to see if there has been any change on the 0-10 scale of intensity or a change in emotion/physical sensation.
6) Repeat until intensity is 0, adjusting statements to reflect any changes you experience.
keep in mind that these are just the basics of one method. You may either need more knowledge or the guidance of a trained practitioner to get the results you want.
You will get the best results with Tapping when you focus on your specific situation and use your own words to accurately describe it. However, having some prompts can be helpful to get you started. I encourage you to use the following as starting points rather than strict rules to follow. Use what resonates with you and discard what doesn't:
Even though I'm so used to being self-critical, I acknowledge that this is how it is right now.
Even though I can't not be self-critical, I deeply and completely accept myself.
Even though being self-compassionate would make me_____________(insert any concern about being self-compassionate eg: it would make me weak, pathetic, soft etc), I accept that this is how I feel.
Even though being self-critical makes me_____________(insert the benefit you feel to being self critical, even if logically know different eg: it makes me feel tough, strong etc), I deeply and completely accept myself
Even though being self-critical is just how I am, I deeply and completely accept myself.
Even though I don't think I can not be self-critical, I accept this is how I feel
Even though I don't know who I would be if I wasn't self critical, I deeply and completely accept myself.
Think of a particular circumstance for which you criticise yourself and tap on that. It might be the way you act in meetings, how much work you get done, your proficiency at a particular task in your job etc. Pick one circumstance, and ideally focus on one example of it. For example, you might always act a certain way in meetings, but see if you can focus on one time you acted that way. You'll know it's specific enough if you can take a mental picture of the moment it happened. Here are some suggestions of how you might begin to approach it:
Even though I'm beating myself up for this, I deeply and completely accept that this is how I feel.
Even though I'm telling myself_____________(voice what you're telling yourself when you think about this situation), I deeply and completely accept myself
Even though I can't not be self critical about this, I accept that this is where I am right now.
Even though I should have done better, I deeply and completely accept myself.
Even though I'm _____________(voice any mean comment you're making about yourself. eg: "I'm so pathetic/stupid/such an idiot/bad" etc) for that, I accept myself anyway
Even though remembering this makes me feel (voice what you’re thinking right now as you think about the situation), I deeply and completely accept myself
Is it your voice or someone else's?
See if the self critical voice sounds like somebody you know. Many of us grow up with people criticising us and we can internalise that. It becomes a voice in our own head that comments on our actions / thoughts / feelings etc.
If it does remind you of someone, try tapping while focusing on how it reminds of this person. Tap on any time in the past when you remember them criticising you and how it makes you feel.
Removing the bad from the good
Another approach is to verbalise how you want to be. e.g: “I am always self-compassionate” and tap as you say this. That way if there’s resistance to always being self-compassionate, you’ll experience that distress as you say it and can tap to reduce the intensity. You can also say “I’m always self-compassionate” while tapping, and then listen to see if there’s a little voice that comes up at the end with “yeah but…” eg: “yeah but…that’s not who I am” or “yeah but… I’ll fail at this just like I fail at everything else”
Here are some statements to try out:
It’s safe for me to be self-compassionate
I allow myself to be self-compassionate
It’s possible for me to be self-compassionate
Trading self-criticism for self compassion is a process, you’ll probably never completely get it done and dusted. It probably won't be a perfectly smooth transition where you see incredible results from day one, but if you take it one step at a time, you'll likely find wonderful benefits. You'll be more resilient, more approachable, better able to handle the unexpected and stressful situations that come up and have a greater sense of safety and inner calm.
References / resources
Self-Compassion: Stop Beating Yourself Up and Leave Insecurity Behind by Kristin Neff
Cover photo by Igor Érico on Unsplash
Side of hand photo adapted from Andrik Langfield on Unsplash
Tapping points photo adapted from Albert Dera on Unsplash