QUESTION: How does self-compassion lead to a deeper sense of belonging with clients?
For me, it’s a practice of, especially in therapy but with others as well, coming from my internal sense of self-compassion, mindfulness, presence, anti-oppressiveness as well as trauma sensitivity as my grounding and my intention for being with these various individuals from the neck down. Even though there is the cognitive piece, the foundation or the depth of it [belonging] is coming from the core, it is coming from inside out—from heart and soul.
My sense of intention and presence with others who are suffering and me being with my own humanity and my own suffering—that in my experience has led to a deeper sense of connection, belonging, more of a sense of, for me, this safer, braver container when it’s difficult.
I honor so much when clients and students, especially survivors of trauma—I really honor how difficult it is for them to be present with me. And especially when this is the first time and they don’t really know who I am. They know a bit, but not really, and in therapy that takes a lot.
So I’m always holding that sense of honor and the courage that it takes for them to show up. I ask them, “You know, I was curious to know if you’re willing to share, what was it like for you coming here today? If you’re willing to share and if not, that’s totally fine.”
There’s absolutely no judgment, but they pretty much share, and they’ll say. “Yeah, it was hard. I almost thought about canceling.”
And so, that’s why I’m saying that it’s really that embodied piece of presence that is also just honoring the humanity–my humanity and their humanity–and the difficulties that we all have in life. And honoring in particular, survivors of trauma and others, how difficult it is to take this step, this small step, to try to enter that potential world of healing.
Just honoring that as a human being: I’m a suffering human being. They are a suffering human being, but we also have some differences too. And so I’m honoring and holding the container for that and my awareness, my mindful awareness around that as well because it does shape our reality.”
BIO: Sydney Spears PhD, LCSW, LSCSW, TCTSY-F, is a certified Mindful Self-Compassion teacher, Center of Mindful Self-Compassion Director of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging, and a Trauma-Sensitive Yoga facilitator and certified through the Center for Trauma and Embodiment. She is also licensed as a clinical social worker and works part-time at the University of Kansas as an adjunct instructor teaching coursework in diversity, anti-oppression, social justice, and trauma-sensitive practice.