How to Be Kind to Yourself

Dealing with Loss, Anger and Sadness

Sometimes we have many intense feelings when we experience loss. For example, after a breakup with a partner, or a divorce or even a death, we may feel intense anger or jealousy. We might get worried and feel ashamed because we’re hating someone and, at the same time, feel very sad about the loss. In both cases it’s important to be kind to yourself.

It is quite common to experience a kind of hatred toward certain individuals. Hating, just feeling this sense of aggression itself, is not a problem. The problem is when you reify it, when you make it strong and solid, and you spin your head around it again and again with projections. That becomes self-destructive. It causes problems deep in our mind.

So when you experience this element of hatred or anger, if you direct your mind toward this experience, inwardly, then you can see the energy or power of this emotion. You can feel it vibrating. You can see, you can feel mentally, this anger. The energy itself is pure. It’s perfectly fine, just as it is. The question is how you express this energy.

If you express this energy of anger with thoughts––spinning thoughts––or with action, then it becomes painful both to yourself and others. One way you can deal with it is to simply experience the energy, and then when your mind starts to go spinning, say to yourself, “Oh don’t do that . . . .” You can do this instead of saying to yourself, “Don’t be angry.” Because that’s almost impossible. But you can stop the mental projections.

Our projections based on anger and hatred are not too accurate, that’s the problem. In fact, our thoughts’ projections are usually proven wrong by the thought itself. Isn’t that right?

Take a look at your thought projections from the past. Look at how you believe this or that is true, or that it’s real or unreal, that it’s a good thing or a bad thing, or “This is really cool. This is a really cool jacket.” You can see how readily we believe in that, but then the next year, it’s not cool anymore. Right? So our thought itself proves that our earlier thought was wrong. When we reify and invest so much in a given thought, it becomes a problem.

So let’s leave the projections for now and let’s just work with this energy. Just relax in the anger energy and be with it for a little bit. In that way you develop a sense of kindness toward yourself. You’re not telling yourself it is bad that you’re angry. There’s nothing bad about feeling anger.

Sadness, too, comes naturally with a breakup of a relationship. That is difficult, but sometimes we miss the point. It’s like our feelings about the four seasons of the year. No matter how much you like the summer, you have to move into the autumn. No matter how much you dread the winter, you have to move into the winter, too. Similarly, the whole world is changing constantly, and with this change comes the experience of loss.

Losing a friend or loved one is part of the nature of change. It may sound easier said than done to accept the loss of your parent or a friend, it’s very difficult. It may help sometimes, though not always, to think of loss in this way. To recall that this is the changing nature of things. Spring changing into summer, autumn into winter. Sometimes we have to let ourselves accept that. We have to accept the change and then move on to the next thing. That doesn’t mean we can’t have good wishes for our partner, or good feelings about what was lost. But at the same time, we can simply accept that change is inevitable.

Listening Within: An Exercise for Working with Loss

1. Breathe naturally, while sitting in a relaxed upright position.

2. Listen to your breath for a few moments.

3. Notice how you are feeling: anger, sadness, or whatever you are feeling. Without thinking too much about it or creating a story about it, notice what the energy feels like in your body.

4. Sit for a few minutes with that experience of that energy. Notice where it goes and how it moves. Does it change?

5. What was that like? Were you surprised by anything you noticed?