The voice in my head is not very kind.
My mother was always quick to criticize and find fault. I only recently realized that it is her voice I often hear in my head.
Telling me that I’m not enough. That I need to push harder. That I am only as valuable as my latest achievement.
Given the way I talk to myself, it is no surprise that I expected a lot of others. I assumed everyone should hold themselves to equally high standards. That it was not okay to quit or complain or disappoint anyone.
In an impatient moment, I shared this perspective with my excessively patient new beau. His response surprised me. He suggested that I try to practice more empathy – but begin first with self-empathy.
The mere suggestion brought tears to my eyes.
It had never occurred to me to be kind to myself. Even when Max died, I forced myself to muscle through.
The idea of allowing myself to collapse into a puddle felt weak and unproductive, so I pushed through, allowing myself to cry while multi-tasking, like practicing yoga or walking the dogs, but never as a non-multi-tasking experience.
I found ways to keep myself so busy that I never had time to actually feel my feelings.
The idea of treating myself with kindness never occurred to me, until I was fortunate enough to meet someone who showers me with kindness and was wise enough to encourage me to add it to my self-care ritual.
The Practice of Self Empathy
When most people think of empathy, they think of empathizing with someone else.
Self-empathy is the act of treating yourself with empathy, kindness and compassion or allowing yourself to look at your circumstances through the lens of compassion. This requires you to feel worthy of compassion and to avoid the trap of self-judgment or criticism.
When you learn to become more compassionate with yourself, you learn to treat others with similar kindness and better understand and share the emotional experiences of other people.
How Essential Oils Can Support Self Empathy
Engaging your senses, like your sense of smell, helps you focus your attention and your energy on kindness and compassion, in essence priming your brain to help focus on positive feelings and thought patterns.
In fact, research published in the journal Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience found that essential oils offer “a promising method for improving emotional intelligence” which helps improve self-empathy.
Your sense of smell plays a critical role in emotional regulation as it links directly to the limbic lobe of your brain which stores and releases emotional trauma.
To this end, essential oils can help you release anger, blame and shame.
Research found that inhaling linalool, an alcohol component of lavender odor, made mice more open to exploring, indicating they were less anxious than normal mice.
But the linalool did not work when they blocked the mice’s ability to smell, or when they gave the mice a drug that blocks certain receptors in the brain. This suggested that to work, linalool tickled odor-sensitive neurons in the nose that send signals to just the right spots in the brain — the same ones triggered by Valium.
Specific essential oils can help support characteristics of self-empathy, including self-kindness, forgiveness self-awareness and self-regulation.
Self-kindness refers to the practice of being understanding and forgiving toward yourself, even during challenging or painful times. Being gentle with yourself is an essential aspect of self-empathy because it prevents you from judging yourself too severely.
Heart™ helps amplify feelings of love and gratitude, helping to increase the amount of love in your life. Every moment of our life we have the opportunity to see the glass as half empty or half full. How we envision each moment helps paint a picture of our actual experience, so why not choose to be happy, to think of and move toward things that bring us joy. Essential oils are a wonderful tool for cementing in that positive frequency. Apply 2-3 drops of Heart™ directly over the heart (left side of chest). During times of intense stress and fatigue, use as often as is needed (every 20 -30 minutes). During times of normal stress, use 2-3 times daily to calm and uplift the heart and the body.
Self-forgiveness allows you to acknowledge that mistakes and missteps without continuing to punish yourself or wallow in shame. Self-forgiveness instead allows you to treat yourself with compassion and understanding so you can learn from this experience, accept responsibility for your actions, and grow in ways that will encourage effective change. This requires you to acknowledge your feelings, not deny or judge them.
Liver Support™ allows us to acknowledge, feel, work through and release anger, blame and shame that are often stored on very deep cellular level. Just place the bottle under your nose and breathe deeply, fully inhaling the oil for 3 – 7 breaths. It helps you breathe into and work through the emotion. You can also apply it around the ankles as this is often an area where we hold resistance to moving forward in life and block the ability to receive joy and pleasure. Start at the back of the ankle and apply under the ankle bone around to the front and back under the other ankle bone, all while allowing yourself to release challenging emotions.
Self-Awareness refers to the ability to identify your thoughts and feelings without reacting to them or judging them. Self-awareness is key to understanding and managing your emotions. It’s important to be aware of your own feelings in order to understand how they might affect your thoughts and actions. If you’re not aware of your emotions, you may have difficulty controlling them or communicating effectively with others. Becoming an objective observer allows you the freedom to consider different beliefs and attitudes about what is happening in your life.
Small Intestine Support™ helps support positive boundaries and confidence to assist in bringing a sense of peace to our lives. When you are struggling with negative emotions, it can be helpful to clarify what belongs to you and release what belongs to others. I find it best to apply around the ears for emotion related issues. You can start on the bottom of the ear at the earlobes and gentle massage upward along the exterior of the ear, hitting many of the major reflexology points. This article and chart show specific points on the ears for specific issues.
Self-Regulation refers to the ability to respond instead of react, allowing you to be more aware of your own inner experience, and emotional and mental state so you can regulate your thoughts, feelings, emotions and actions more effectively.
Your sympathetic response narrows your perception so you can identify and survive threats. This turns off your ability to focus on anything outside of the pressing danger and self-regulate and thoughtfully contemplate different perspectives and options.
Parasympathetic™ helps you activate your parasympathetic “rest and digest” state which can enhance your sense of safety and ability to self-regulate. Applying Parasympathetic™ behind your earlobe on your mastoid bone helps you drop into the “rest and digest” parasympathetic state, alerting your body and your amygdala that the danger has passed so it can stop over reacting.
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