How to Tend to Self

In terms of teaching self-care, one thing that I strive to do is to take care of myself. Even though I don't talk to clients about my own self-care, I think that they know whether or not I am doing it. More specifically, this means helping the client understand the impact of disturbed sleep, disordered eating, lack of time for themselves, and other stressors. Modeling good self-care can often be the most powerful example for a client to follow.

The Platinum Rule

One way that I work with the Platinum Rule uses The Empty Chair. Sometimes, when a client comes to me with an issue that seems solvable except that the client is stuck on the idea of helping themselves, I recommend that the client role play a friend (sitting in The Empty Chair) having told them the same thing that they just told me about their issue. While this seems like a simple exercise, it can be a powerful experience to separate the issue from the person and to be able to look at the issue more objectively.

I have seen clients shift before my eyes to a place where they can more easily give feedback to the friend in The Empty Chair then go on to accept that feedback for themselves. This can be a tangible example of self compassion at work. Variations on this theme include the client giving feedback to The Empty Chair and then the client sitting in the chair where they can respond to the feedback or hear the feedback they have given themselves spoken by me. 

Being In Self

How I work being in self involves helping separate the person--the Self--from thing that is impacting the person. This is not all that different from The Empty Chair example above. Helping the client understand that you are not your thoughts and emotions; you are not your self-judgements; you are not your job, family, or personal life can be life changing.

Internal Family Systems uses the technique of asking the client how they feel toward the part that is impacting them. Jungian therapy helps the client make the unconscious complex more conscious.  I use both of these in my work to help differentiate the person for the issue and facilitate conversation. Separating the client from the situation can help the client become more objective, help them examine the issue at hand, and instill hope for a change. 

Being Honest with Yourself

One way to work with being honest with yourself is to make a list of thoughts and feelings that you have about yourself that are intrusive or consistent. For each item on the list, assess whether or not this is something that can be refuted. By this, I mean "Is it possible to contradict this statement somewhat easily?" or "How hard do I have to convince myself that this is true?" Some of the items may feel more or less true to you after this exercise and hopefully you can eliminate the ones that are most obviously untrue.

From this place of having more knowledge about yourself, the hope is that you can better understand from where these thoughts and feelings come. The stories that we tell ourselves can be powerful motivators and de-motivators. Either eliminating those stories that are not useful or changing them to narratives that are more constructive is one way of being more honest with yourself.