Posts Tagged ‘self compassion’

A Death in the Family

Thursday, July 31st, 2014

My brother Ben died last week. I miss him a lot and always will. He was a wonderful man, husband, brother, and human being. You can read more about him in the tribute on his Facebook page:

I’m writing about his death for two reasons. The first is because I am grieving and am trying to come to terms with and accept the reality that I will never see him again. And writing about it, my memories, and my brother’s (mostly) wonderful qualities, will help me heal.

The second reason I’m writing about Ben’s death is because I think it may have been preventable. And while nothing will bring him back, I want future possible deaths that can be prevented to be.

Here are a couple of my memories: Ben was five years younger than me, so he had five less years than I’ve had to learn the lessons life gives us. So it seems kind of ironic that I, as someone whose job and career is to give people ideas and suggestions to help them live better lives, would call him for help and advice. But I did, more times than I can count. And the counsel I received was always compassionate and wise.

One more thing I want to share about Ben is that he was a gifted french horn player. While I’ve heard him many times, one time that was especially memorable was last year when my girlfriend and I stopped by to visit on our way home from a trip out of state. We were treated to our own live performance, and I can truthfully say that what came out of Ben’s horn was richer and more heartfelt than anything I have heard from any other french horn player’s horn before or since.

I’m grateful for those and many more memories, but of course I wish Ben hadn’t died. I’ll probably never know for sure, but I think his death could have been prevented. I’ll describe how by sharing my own story.

I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease in 1996. When the treatments my doctor gave me didn’t help, I decided to learn as much as I could about my illness and all the standard and alternative treatments people were using to treat it. I made a vow to myself that I was going to do everything I could to get well, and do so for as long as necessary.

While doing my research, I was well aware that on the internet people can say anything – and some do. So I got corroboration before trying anything. I ended up trying many standard and alternative treatments, and even devised one of my own.

In effect, I became the head of my medical team of doctors and other practitioners. And after three years, my Crohn’s went into remission. With the exception of a few relapses (the last one was four years ago), it has stayed in remission without drugs ever since.

Ben didn’t do that. He got the best medical care he could for his atrial fibrillation and his lung disease, and followed his doctors orders religiously for years. His health would get better, but then get worse than it was before, but he continued to follow orders.

He also didn’t give his heart or his lungs – or himself – the kind of compassion I have written about in many of my posts. And he died, much too soon.

Just to be clear, I’m not saying you should disregard what your doctor says. He or she has studied and learned a lot about diagnosing and treating illnesses.

But doctors are human and they make mistakes, and in my experience they often ignore potentially helpful alternative treatments.

So what I am saying is do your own research, and ask questions about the treatments you’re given and also about alternative treatments you think may be helpful.

I don’t know if the holistic approach to treating illnesses and healing the body that I have briefly described here would have prevented my brother’s death. But I have seen far too many positive results for me not to strongly encourage others who are struggling with illnesses to try it themselves.


To learn about other effective ways to heal your pain, I invite you to sign up for my free E-Course: Learn How to Raise Your Energy – and Your Spirit – in Just 21 Days.

An Awful Christmas Present

Tuesday, December 31st, 2013

Earlier this month, I was having a conversation with a woman who has lupus. The reason I’m writing about it is because I was greatly affected by one of the things she said.

Linda, who is a cable TV installer, told me about a customer of hers who has some very difficult health challenges. And then she shared something the woman had said to her, which was this:  “The best Christmas present I could get would be to not wake up.”

I don’t know what illnesses she has, but I have to think she has probably been in a lot of pain and that she has struggled with her illnesses for a long time. And I know, from both my own experience with a chronic illness and from working with 100’s of people with chronic illnesses for over 10 years, how hopeless a person can feel and how impossible a better life can seem.

But I also know, from what my clients have shared about their lives, from books and posts I’ve read, and from my own experiences, that miracles can—and do—happen. And while I don’t know if they will happen, for me or for anyone else, I have learned what we can do to make it much more likely that they will.

First, we can look for all the things we have to be grateful for, including food to eat, a roof over our heads, friends and family and the good times we’ve had and the special moments and love we’ve shared, the education we received that makes it possible for us to read books, blogs, magazines, etc., our organs that are working fine (and everyone who is alive has some) – the list goes on and on.

And second, we can have empathy and compassion for the parts of ourselves (remember, we all are made up of many parts) that are struggling and are in emotional or physical pain. And we can let the organs and the parts of our bodies that aren’t well know we appreciate them for doing the best they can, and then send them loving compassion.

I sent Linda an email letting her know that I would be glad to give her customer a no cost consultation. I hope she takes me up on my offer. I know it’s after Christmas, but if she does the things I’ve described here, I have a strong sense she will find that life, even with serious health challenges, is a gift, and she will want to wake up tomorrow and the next day and the next, etc., and enjoy that gift.

Are You Angry at Yourself? Probably – Even if You Don’t Think so

Saturday, November 30th, 2013

You may already know that anger can have negative effects on both your emotional and physical well-being. I will describe some of those effects later in this post.

But before I do, I want to point out something most people don’t think about, which is this: when most of us think about anger and being angry, we think about someone we’re angry at, or about something that happened to us that made us angry and upset. We remember getting angry when something happened to us that wasn’t fair, like getting sick or losing our job – or both. We get angry at our government for passing bad laws or for not passing laws we know are needed.

But when we think about anger and being angry, rarely do we think about our anger at ourselves. However, most if not all of us have some–and some of us have a lot of it.

We get it from not being the way we think we should be. We get it from not having the willpower we think we should have. We may have it because we haven’t taken good care of ourselves or from not staying true to our values. We can get angry at ourselves because we got sick—even though we’re not to blame for that happening. And we can be angry at ourselves for countless other reasons.

Whatever the reasons and wherever they came from, whether we are aware of it or not, virtually all of us have some anger at ourselves. And that self-anger can have the same negative effects on our emotional and our physical well-being as anger at others does.

Those effects include weakening our immune system, high blood pressure, problems with digestion, skin problems, heart attacks, strokes, anxiety and depression, and many others.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has stated that 85 percent of all diseases appear to have an emotional element. I think the percentage is even higher.

So if most of us have some self-anger, and that anger has negative effects on our emotional and physical well-being that makes our lives worse, what can we do?

The first thing we can do is to look and see if there are things we’re angry at ourselves for, things we’ve forgotten or never acknowledged in the first place. Then when we find that anger, we can do the same thing we can do when others do things that hurt and upset us: Just as we can forgive them, we can forgive ourselves.

In one way, it’s often easier to forgive ourselves than it is to forgive others. That’s because it’s easier to forgive people who apologize for what they did, but other people often don’t ever apologize. But we can always apologize to ourselves, and when when we do that, and mean it, it is a lot easier for us to forgive ourselves. So I strongly recommend that you take the time and make the effort to forgive yourself.

The next thing you can do is to be gentle with yourself and have lots of understanding compassion for both the part of you that has been hurt and angry and for the part that caused the hurt and anger. Remember that the part of you that did that was doing the best it knew how and was not intentionally trying to hurt you or make you angry and upset.

Healing self-anger can make a very big difference in your life. One of my clients recently discovered that because of her anger at herself, anger that she didn’t realize she had, she had been punishing herself for years. When she forgave herself and stopped doing that, she had a big breakthrough and experienced a miraculous shift in her often difficult relationship with her husband.

Whether or not you have a breakthrough, I am certain that healing any self-anger you have, by apologizing, forgiving, and having compassion for yourself, will have a very positive effect on your physical and emotional well-being.


Tom Robinson, who has a chronic illness (Crohn’s disease) himself, helps people with chronic illnesses meet their many challenges and then find and follow a path to happiness and fulfillment.

Get his free report, Has Living with a Chronic Illness Worn You Down? Learn How to Outsmart Your Illness and Have a Much Better Life.

How Good a Racecar Driver are You?

Thursday, October 31st, 2013

I’m going to start out this post by asking you a favor, which is to please bear with me while I explain why I titled this post How Good a Racecar Driver are You?

My guess is that while you’re probably a good driver, you’re not a racecar driver. But even though you’re not, you know that in any car race, the fastest driver wins. And I’m sure you also know that there are two ways to be go faster in a race.

The first way is to get a car with a more powerful engine, while the second is to be a better driver. And while I have no intention of disparaging any of the drivers who participate in the Indianapolis 500 or the Daytona 500, it seems to me that how fast drivers are able to drive on a course with tight turns, such as the Monaco Grand Prix or the EuroSpeedway Lausitz, depends more on their skill than how fast they are able to drive on a large oval-shaped track.

For that reason, a skilled driver with a slower car could easily do better than than a less skilled driver with a more powerful, faster car.

Having talked about drivers, racing, and cars, I’m going to switch, and talk about you and me, life, and our bodies – and the illnesses we have.

Here’s why: When we have a chronic illness, then if we compare our body to a racecar, it’s probably not a supercharged fast one. But even so, by becoming better and better drivers, we can do better and better on the course of life – even better than people who have healthier bodies.

So how can we become “better drivers?” We can do that by, rather than focusing on the fact that our car isn’t as good or as fast as we would like it to be, focusing instead on the things that add to our quality of life. Maybe that means playing a game of Scrabble with our partner or our children. Maybe it means getting out in nature. Maybe it means nurturing a relationship with a friend by paying a visit or making a call. Maybe it means being gentler and more compassionate with ourselves.

Now it’s your turn. How can you be a more skillful racecar driver on your life’s course?

Is this why you have a hard time having compassion for yourself?

Sunday, June 30th, 2013

When I tell people all the reasons why they should give themselves lots of compassion, some of them do. But others don’t. They may try, and they may even think that they’re giving themselves compassion, but they aren’t.

For a long time, I have wondered how to help that second group of people so they too can experience the peace and the healing that results from self-compassion.

One answer became clear to me recently when a good friend, whom I’ll call Jane, finally understood how to give herself compassion, three years after I saw that she would benefit a lot from doing that because of the illness she was dealing with, and told her so.

She told me how helpful truly giving herself compassion was and how good it felt to finally be able to do that. And in response to my question about why learning to do that took so long, she had two answers. The first was that she thought she actually was giving herself compassion, even though I told her many times that it didn’t look like it to me.

Her second answer touched me very deeply, and I will never forget it. I knew that her father had died recently, that she loved him very much, and that she had a very complicated relationship with him. But while she knew he had punished her a lot when she was growing up, she was not able to admit to herself that she had been very badly abused. What had happened to her was that until she was 17, her father had beaten her every day after he came home from work for her transgressions that day, no matter how minor.

While she wasn’t consciously aware of it, admitting that she needed and deserved compassion would have been admitting that her father had done that to her. It took her three years and her father’s death to be able to do that.

Once she did, she was able to give herself compassion – and her tears started to come and she began healing.

Having worked with people with chronic illness for more than 10 years, I have found that like Jane, many had been abused. Maybe you were too. But whether you were or not, if you are finding it hard to give yourself compassion, I strongly encourage you to look and see if things happened to you in the past that you haven’t fully let in and acknowledged. And if you find them, do acknowledge and let them in, so that you too can start giving yourself the compassion you need and deserve.

One final reminder: giving yourself compassion is not a one-time event; it is an ongoing practice, I encourage you to continue for the rest of your life.

Not being critical of yourself is a GOOD start

Thursday, January 31st, 2013

Recently, when I suggested to a client that she give herself compassion because of the difficult challenges she was going through, she told me she was doing that. Then she explained that in spite of making a couple of mistakes, she wasn’t being hard on herself, getting down on herself, or calling herself names like “Stupid” or “Idiot.”

I was very glad to hear that. Many years ago, I used to talk that way to myself, but am glad to say I no longer do. Talking that way to ourselves is far too common, especially for those of us who had critical parents. If you do it, I strongly encourage you to stop.

In her book, How To Be Sick, Toni Bernhard writes about how she learned to stop doing that from a teacher at a spiritual retreat. The teacher described realizing that she would never talk that way to someone she cared about, and Toni saw that she wouldn’t even talk that way to a stranger. So they stopped!

Not talking harshly or critically to yourself is a good thing. Talking to yourself in an encouraging way is a good thing. Acknowledging your accomplishments and your special qualities and gifts to yourself is also a good thing to do.

But none of those are the same as giving yourself compassion. And I have found that giving ourselves compassion is one of the best, most effective things we can do to heal the emotional wounds we get when others say and do things that hurt us or upsetting or traumatic things happen to us.

At first, my client had a hard time giving herself compassion. Many people do. She’s a very productive person, with a demanding job, and she had a strong desire to “do something.” But giving yourself–or anyone else—compassion doesn’t require you to physically do anything.

Thinking about the way she was with her pets and the way they were with her was helpful, and since she knows a lot about the energy of the heart, my suggestion of giving herself “gentle heart energy” was very helpful.

It’s important for us to be good to ourselves and it is important that we not be critical of ourselves. But to heal our emotional wounds, what works much better than either of those is to give ourselves a great deal of  self compassion. I hope this helps you give yourself a lot more.

You Truly Need Gentleness and Compassion–from Yourself

Thursday, May 31st, 2012

If you have read more than a few of my posts, you know that I frequently recommend that you be gentle and compassionate with yourself when you are experiencing painful symptoms or having a hard time because of your illness. I do that because I have seen, again and again, how people’s lives change significantly– and often dramatically– for the better when they do.

I have also seen, again and again, that many people have a hard time being gentle and compassionate with themselves. But that isn’t all that surprising, because few if any of us were taught to do that by our parents, teachers, or mentors. I sure wasn’t.

However, it is definitely possible to learn how to be that way with ourselves. I have, and so have the many people I’ve taught.

Some of those I taught learned how to be gentle and compassionate with themselves when I asked them how they would feel and what they would do for someone they cared about who had the same illness and the same symptoms and pain they did – and then asked them to have the same feelings for themselves. Others understood the concept when I asked them what they would do if they found a helpless injured bird. For those clients who were especially hard on and critical of themselves for not being able to do all the things they could before they became ill, I asked them if they would criticize the bird for not being able to fly. Their answer, of course, was always no, and they usually realized that their criticism of themselves was not justified or called for. Still others learned to be gentle and compassionate with themselves when I had them imagine how they would feel if their beloved dog or cat got injured, and then had them imagine how the animal would feel when it got the compassion and reassurance they would automatically and spontaneously give it.

Clients who were directly involved in helping people in difficult situations make their lives better often had very dramatic “aha’s” when they suddenly realized that they could give themselves the same gentle, compassionate caring they were giving others.

As I said at the beginning of this post, I have seen many, many people with chronic illnesses experience significant and often dramatic improvements in the quality of their lives when they give themselves gentleness and understanding. Here’s what a client with recently wrote about giving herself compassion and how it helped her: (Note: the hard work she refers to is giving herself compassion. It can be hard to do at first, but the results make the effort very worthwhile.)

“My coaching sessions with Tom over the last several weeks have brought me a level of peace, understanding and acceptance about living with a chronic illness that I never envisioned was possible. His masterful approach to helping you to extend the compassion to yourself that you would extend to a treasured friend experiencing similar challenges is brilliant and effective. You do the hard work, gently and compassionately guided by Tom, and before you know it you have opened yourself up to see beyond your condition to all that you still have to offer. For the first time in a very long time, I look forward to each day with joyful expectations.”

Somerset, NJ

Because of the difference it will make in your life, I encourage you to give yourself all the compassion you possibly can. And if you are one of those who have a hard time doing that, I hope you will take a good look both inside yourself and in the mirror, and realize that you truly deserve lots and lots of compassion.

What’s so great about situation-specific self-compassion?

Saturday, March 31st, 2012

What’s so great about situation-specific self-compassion is that it is an extremely powerful tool for healing. In this post, I’m going to tell you what it is and how it differs from “normal” self-compassion.

Over the past few months, I recommended to several clients and others who have been going through very difficult challenges that they give themselves self-compassion, and they responded that they were doing that. But they weren’t- at least not in the way I meant.

From the descriptions they gave me and from their answers to my subsequent questions, I realized that the self-compassion they were giving themselves was broad and general, and was like the compassion a person would feel for an acquaintance or a distant relative who was going through a hard time. Maybe it was somewhat stronger than that. But it wasn’t self-compassion that was specifically about and for the challenge they were going through at the time. And because it wasn’t, it wasn’t very healing for them.

So I told them about situation specific self-compassion. And I told them that a good way to give it to themselves would be to imagine that someone they loved and cared about a lot was experiencing the same difficult challenges they were, and think about how they would feel knowing that.

They all said that they would feel lots of compassion for the person, and empathy too, and that they would want to comfort them. Some said that they would also feel sad or hurt because of what the person they loved and cared about was going through. That often happens, and it’s the main reason that it’s often hard for us to give ourselves situation-specific self-compassion.

Once they were in touch with the compassion and other feelings they would have for someone they loved and cared about who was going through the same challenge they were, I asked them to have the same feelings for and give the same compassion to themselves. Doing that didn’t make their difficult challenges go away, but it went a long way toward healing the emotional pain they were feeling.

I know it can do the same for you.

A New Golden Rule

Sunday, July 31st, 2011

My New Golden Rule will help you have a better life when you have a chronic illness. But before I tell you what it is, I want to say that if you aren’t following my frequent suggestion of giving compassion to any parts of your body that are hurting, I strongly encourage you to do that, because it works! Here are just two of many examples I know about:

1) A colleague of mine has a neighbor of who had been in a lot of pain for several weeks after her recent knee surgery. My colleague told her about my suggestion, and she began using it and experienced a remarkable and complete healing.

2) Over three recent days, my knee became more and more painful and swollen. I will never know for sure why, but the gradual onset of the pain matches what happens when the meniscus is torn. So I think I probably tore it on one of my occasional runs. It got so bad that I couldn’t sleep, and bending and straightening it was excruciating (which made walking very difficult and climbing stairs all but impossible). I went to the doctor, who prescribed a month’s worth of Advil and said I might need surgery.

I got home from the doctor’s office, took the first pill, and my knee started to heal. It continued to heal until, three days later, it had recovered completely (and I didn’t need any more pills after that first one). As I said, I don’t know what happened to my knee. But I have no doubt that all the love and compassion I gave it since the pain and swelling began were what enabled it to heal so quickly.

As I wrote at the beginning of this post, I strongly encourage you to give any parts of your body that are hurting lots and lots of compassion. And I hope you will share your results in a comment.

Now here is My New Golden Rule. It’s a modification of the Golden Rule, which as you probably know is “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” The Golden Rule comes from the New Testament of the Bible, but all major religions have similar maxims because the principle they are based on is so basic and important.

The New Golden Rule, which if you follow it will help you have a better life when you have a chronic illness, is this: “Do unto yourself as you would have others do unto you.”

The reason for the modification is this: We know we’re supposed to treat others well (and I’m sure you do your best to do that), and we always want others to treat us well, but many of us often forget to treat ourselves well.

So remember to treat yourself the way you want others to treat you. I know you will have a better and better life the more you do.

For other ideas for living well when you have a chronic illness, sign up for my free report:

Do you have TLCC Deficiency Syndrome? Here’s how to treat it

Tuesday, May 4th, 2010

You won’t find TLCC Deficiency Syndrome in a medical dictionary, but in my many years of coaching people with chronic illnesses I’ve found that it describes what many of them have. TLC, of course, is an acronym for “tender loving care,” and the last “C” is for compassion, so TLCC Deficiency Syndrome is the condition of lacking the needed tender loving care and compassion that people with chronic illnesses often experience.

Many things can cause TLCC Deficiency Syndrome. Some of the most common are new symptoms or a worsening of symptoms that are already present. I’ve observed that when people have flares or develop new symptoms, they usually get the treatments they need to combat those flares and new symptoms, but they often ignore the need for extra TLCC that almost always accompanies them. I’ve also often seen people’s families and friends provide lots of logistical support, such as rides to doctor visits, advice, etc. in those situations, but overlook or not fully recognize the need for extra TLCC their friend or family member has. As a result, the TLCC Deficiency Syndrome goes untreated.

So what do you do if you have TLCC Deficiency Syndrome? First, let your friends, family, and others in your support network know that you need more TLCC, and ask if they would be willing to give it to you. Chances are good that many of them will.

However, there will inevitably be times when you are suffering from a TLCC deficiency, but your friends and family aren’t able to give you the TLCC you need. When that happens, it’s up to you to give yourself the extra tender loving care and compassion that you need and deserve!

Here’s how: First let in and acknowledge to yourself how unpleasant and painful living with the symptoms of your illness has become. Now you may find doing that to be difficult and uncomfortable. However, the discomfort won’t last long and your TLCC Deficiency Syndrome treatment will be much more.

Once you’ve accomplished the step of letting in and acknowledging how painful your symptoms have become, then complete your treatment by giving yourself the same compassion you would give to someone you feel close to and care about, such as a child, a spouse or partner, or a dear friend. When you do, I’m certain that you’ll feel much, much better. Not only that, but you may find, as I and many of my clients have, that the treatments you’re undergoing for your illness become more effective.

Tom Robinson – Life Coach for People with chronic illnesses