Cultivating Emotional Intelligence

Common Humanity

Common HumanityBy George Marino, CPC, CMMT May 17, 2022

We are not isolated individuals; we are interconnected beings. Quantum physics tells us that we live in a unified universe. Just like everyone else, you too are an intrinsic part of the universe and the more-than-human world. Central to this notion is the recognition that each one of us is imperfect in the world of form. Humans are a work in progress. We are transitory beings.

A sense of our common humanity came up for me a few years ago when my mother was in the hospital for surgery. Sitting in the waiting room, I became anxious as her time in the operating room far exceeded what was expected. Noticing these feelings, I looked deeply at each of the other people in the room, also waiting for their loved ones, and felt a strong bond. Shortly thereafter, a family came over to me and started to talk with me. I felt deeply comforted. When felt in the body and mind, this sense of common humanity works wonders in unexpected ways.

Has this happened to you? Most likely, it has in some way. Rather than dismissing it as a coincidence or luck, through common humanity we can come to know a synchronicity between our inner state and outer circumstances that fosters well-being. There is a saying: “When neurons fire together, they stay together.” Our brains can be rewired for inter-connection and compassion.

What is Mindful Self-Compassion?

Self-compassion is about treating yourself the way you would treat a friend who is having a tough time, even if the friend has “gone off,” is “feeling disappointed and sad,” or is just facing a tough life challenge. Self-compassion is about becoming an inner ally rather than an inner critic (1). Imagine your best friend is also an accountant and calls you one night after you were just let go from your firm, and the conversation goes something like this:

“Hi,” you say, answering the phone. “How is it going?”

“Terrible,” she says, holding back tears. “You know the firm I have been working for the last five years, where I was hoping to get a promotion next month to partner after another busy season? Well, I got fired today, and I am shocked.”
You sigh and say, “To be honest with you, it is probably because you are not strong in tax and accounting, not to mention you are nerdy and an introvert. I would just call it a day in public accounting because there is really no hope for you now to make it in accounting. I mean, frankly, you do not deserve it!”
Would you ever talk this way to someone you cared about? Obviously not! But unfortunately, this is precisely the type of inner dialogue we say to ourselves in such situations. Sometimes it is even worse. With self-compassion, we learn to cultivate a friendly relationship with the inner voice. It may sound a little bit like: “I am so sorry. Are you okay? You must be devastated. Please know I am here for you, and I deeply appreciate you. Is there anything I can do to help you during this time?”

Self-compassion is not a “poor me” attitude or a type of “pity party.” Rather, it is very real and an aspect of our true nature. Mindful self-compassion just needs to be cultivated more fully through self-discovery and acknowledgement.

According to research by Kristen Neff, PhD and Christopher Germer PhD, mindful self-compassion involves three core elements that we can bring to bear when we are in pain: self-kindness, common humanity, and mindfulness (2).

I will be writing more about the three components of compassion in the next blog.

(1) Neff, K., and Germer, C. The Mindful Self-compassion Workbook: A Proven Way to Accept Yourself, Build Inner Strength, and Thrive, p. 32. New York: Guilford Press. P.9.

(2) . Neff and Germer, The Mindful Self-compassion Workbook, 85–102.

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