Try a Little Tenderness—for Yourself

Recently I went to a workshop on Mindfulness, and its use in psychotherapy.  I was quite excited as I listened because I could see its usefulness to parents. 

First of all, what is mindfulness?  When people practice mindfulness, they try to change the quality of their awareness so that they are observing and accepting of themselves.  Mark Sorensen, Ph.D., (www.sorensentherapy.com) one of the presenters, teaches his clients to Stop, Observe, Accept, and Refocus.  This shortens very nicely to SOAR.  That’s a good concept isn’t it?

Imagine that your three children are home after school.  They are quarreling, procrasting about homework, and begging you to intervene.  Meanwhile, you are very tired.  This is a recipe for an angry outburst in many families.

 What would SOAR look like here?   Stop means that you stop your action and your thinking.  Just stop with resolve and intention. 

Now, Observe.  Observe your own mind.  What is the story you are telling yourself about the situation?  Here are some possibilities:  “This is a disaster.”  “I’m a terrible mother because Angie is behind in spelling, and I can’t get her to start her homework.”  “This will never stop.”  Wow — thoughts like those would upset anyone.  Try to separate the events from the story you are telling about them.  Imagine that the events are appearing on a radar screen.  Observe your thoughts, your emotions, and your physical feelings.  “I’m thinking this is a disaster; I feel anxious and angry; my shoulders are tight and painful.” 

Next Accept the situation.  (I know this sounds absurd, but stick with me.)  Accept is an attitude.  You stop struggling with the reality.  You are open to it.  “My children are arguing.  My children are asking me to intervene.”  This is a way to relax into the situation. 

Lastly, Refocus.  Try to refocus to good intentions.  Can you feel compassion for yourself?  Patience? 

After this sequence you might be better able to decide how to respond to the situation in a productive way.

I’ve listed the steps, but this is a discipline that is learned with practice.  One participant suggested that people practice “Mindfulness Moments” or M&M’s during the day.  You can tie the M&M’s to specific behaviors, like using the bathroom!  Each time is an opportunity to go through the steps. 

I will be researching some resources on this topic, and I’ll post more next week.  Meanwhile be kind to yourselves as you observe Thanksgiving.

Comments

4 Responses to “Try a Little Tenderness—for Yourself”
  1. Ann Becker-Schutte says:

    Carolyn,

    I have been studying mindfulness for several years, and I’m impressed with how much change we can create with small choices. Thanks for sharing the SOAR method.

    Ann

  2. dr.cstone says:

    Yes, it’s amazing how a small adjustment changes the whole scene.
    Carolyn

  3. Hi Carolyn – Mindfulness seems to be here to stay…I enjoy using this concept with my clients and TRY to use it in my own life…
    thanks, Kathy .

  4. dr.cstone says:

    Yes, I try to use it also. I hope to get better at it. Like all things, it takes practice.