Hello and welcome to the Love and Compassion podcast with me, Gissele. Don’t forget to like, and subscribe to our show for more amazing content. Are you struggling with parenting right now? Are you having a hard time with a baby or a toddler, are you stressed out about managing the teenage years or are you an empty nester trying to figure out what to do?
Gissele: If yes. Then this podcast is for you, Susan M Polak, M T S E D D is a psychologist in Cambridge, Massachusetts. She’s a long time student of meditation and yoga who has been integrating the practices of meditation into psychotherapies since the 1980s.
Dr. Polak is co-founder and senior teacher at the center for mindfulness and compassion at Harvard medical school, Cambridge health Alliance, and was president of the Institute for meditation and psychotherapy from 2010 to 2020. She is the co-author of Sitting Together essential skills for mindfulness based psychotherapy and the author of the new book.
Self-compassion for parents nurture your child by caring for yourself. She writes the popular blog, the art of now for psychology today and is a frequent contributor to the 10% happier app. Please join me in welcoming Susan M Polak. Hi Susan .
Susan: Thank you so much for having me and thanks to everyone who’s listening.
Gissele: Thank you so, so much for being here. It’s a real pleasure. thank you for your book. I really, really loved it. I cried, I laughed. It was great. because I think it, it ha offers a kind of a wide range of support throughout the journey. I was wondering what got you interested in compassion in parenting.
Susan: Oh, first of all, I trained in, self-compassion from the very beginning in 2010. In fact, I was one of the very first teachers, along with Chris of mindful self-compassion I joined him and teaching the eight week class and I have two kids. And as every parent knows, it is not easy and it’s not easy for anyone.
In fact, Freud called parenting one of the three impossible professions. And, you know, I think he’s right. in terms of how this became a book, it’s an interesting story. So I’m a clinician. I was sitting with someone, who was going through the storms of adolescence with, with her kids and one of her kids.
And again, you know, be very careful about details and, discussing identity, had gotten in real trouble. So the kid, had posted something on social media that was really, damning to a classmate. I mean, really, vastly wildly inappropriate and of course, you know, word spread and. this kid got thrown out of school because it was such a violation.
I’m sure so many of your listeners, have had similar situations where a kid has been bullied online or, smeared in, in some way online. So this kid was expelled, and my client felt so shamed. She felt like she had been a horrible mother. How could her child do this? This wasn’t how she raised her child, what you’ve done wrong.
Susan: So it was just like, a hurricane of shame and blame. And self-loathing. So we sort of sat down and we talked about adolescents, cause I was actually someone who taught adolescent development when, you know, when I was doing more academic work and we just went through, how the adolescent brain is really under construction.
and I was able to draw on the research of adolescents and share stories about how challenging my, my own kids had been during that time and other stories. And at the end, she said, this was really helpful, have you thought about writing a book. And I thought, oh, that’s a good idea. but it was for her, one of those. We’re going back to the children’s literature here. it was initially one of the worst days of her life, because there was such shame and guilt.
Susan: And I thought, well, you know, if I could help relieve some of the shame and some of the guilt and some of the self-loathing that all parents seem to have, I feel like I would have, you know, do something useful. So that, that was what launched it.
Thank you for sharing that. I also wanted to share that as a parent of a teenager, I appreciated the line in the book that said, sometimes a neutral, comment by the parent can be seen as criticism by the child, and I thought, oh, okay. That explains a few things.
Susan: Exactly. And you know, some much of this work comes from personal experience because I remember reading the research on that and I thought, oh, that makes perfect sense. I’ll say something to my daughter or my son that I think is supportive and they’ll blow up.
And it’s like, wait a minute. What happened here? If you look at the words, you know, they’re relatively neutral and supportive, you know, why did I get. It’s such an extreme reaction.
Gissele: Yeah. I definitely get eye rolls when I say compassion.
Susan: I think all parents do because it’s sort of become a buzzword, but, you know, let those eye-rolls be again because the research shows that when parents model compassionate for kids, the kids actually do much better.
You know, that the kids are more resilient. They incorporate compassion in their lives. So just because they roll their eyes at us doesn’t mean that they’re not taking it in.
and thank you also for mentioning the issue of shame. I know that when I was a new parent, I experienced a lot of shame cause I had issues breastfeeding. and I found that I would get really angry at myself and say, women are supposed to be able to do this why am I struggling so much?
and I was wondering if you could share a little bit about some of the most common challenges that new parents have I know shame is one of them and guilt such as myself, but what are the other common challenges that they have in being compassionate to themselves while parenting?
Susan: This is actually great timing for this question because, my son and daughter-in-law had a baby recently,
thanks so I get to see it all over again. I get to see their stress. Their exhaustion their crankiness and, you know, especially in COVID where, you know, people have not had the support of families, just how impossible it is to be doing this alone.
so it used to be that we would have, you know, a village to support us and we’d have friends who would bring food and parents who’d come and grandparents would come. And what’s, what’s happened for so many of us in the past year, year and a half is we’ve been parenting alone and without a safety net.
Susan: So something’s bound to go wrong. I mean, something is bound to go south either. It will be a difficult delivery or, your milk won’t come in or, your kid will get sick. I mean, as Roseanne Roseanna Danna said Saturday night love. There’s always something, you know, and I think with parenting, it’s always something.
and especially when you’re a new parent, you’re not skilled. And, I remember my daughter was really colicky. Luckily she was my second child because I know that if she were my first, I would have thought I’m not good at this. I’m a terrible parent. What am I doing wrong? You know, why is she crying constantly?
until five, like I took her for her pediatrician’s visit when she was eight or 10 weeks. And the pediatrician said, can your husband take her out, this crying, is getting to me? And I thought, I thought, well, okay. If the pediatrician is saying she can’t tolerate the crying, you know, it’s intense. So it made me feel like, okay, this is hard for everyone.
Susan: And I think that is one of the take homes I’d love to give new parents. Everyone has a hard time, but because of, Instagram and Facebook and all our social media sites, everyone looks great. So your, your hair is done.
You know, you have concealer on under your eyes. You look like you’ve slept and somehow you get the rare moment where everyone’s smiling and you think, oh, other people aren’t having trouble sleeping. Other people aren’t having trouble nursing when the truth is, yeah, they’re just hiding it well.
Gissele: Yeah, absolutely. That is so true. I was always in awe of people that made those amazing lunches. Have you ever seen those like super like amazing and like my husband and I always struggled to make lunches.
I’m like, ah, sandwiches again. And so I felt bad. I’m like kids, oh, why am I failing as a parent and not doing these amazing, intricate lunches.
Susan: Right. You know, as if you have nothing else to do, as if you’ve slept as if your child isn’t screaming, there’s a saying from AA that I find really helpful, which is don’t judge your insides by other people’s outsides.
And what we see on social media is other people’s outsides. So I’d like to say to my clients don’t believe that it’s airbrushed. I mean, it’s not literally airbrush, but it’s sort of like, you know, the rare, the rare moment.
people take like 50 pictures to get them that one good one.
Exactly. So it’s like how not to beat yourself up.
And that’s really where self-compassion comes in because we’ve been raised no matter where you grew up. I think to be hard on ourselves and some people when they hear self-compassion, I mean like, like your daughter they’ll roll their eyes. and there’s a story I like about Kristin Neff, who with Chris Germer was one of the people who really developed the self-compassion program.
And it was a number of years ago. The New York times had just written an article about self-compassion and how, what it was about and how useful it was. And she was so excited, like, oh great. I’ve made the New York times. And then she made the mistake of looking at the comments. And one of the comments said, just what we need a nation of wimps.
And she thought, and that, I mean, self compassion or compassion has really bad PR. So people think it means being indulgent. It means, you know, letting your kid eat icecream and chocolate cake for breakfast. I mean, no boundaries. So people really misinterpret it. and it’s been hard to really reframe it. Some people like to say inner compassion or, inner resilience training.
So my feeling is if the word grates find something else, I mean, just saying, be kind to myself after a no-good horrible, awful day. No, whatever language works.
Gissele: Agreed. It’s so interesting you know, one of the things that, you talk about, is reflecting on our parents, history and how w when we were kids and so on. And when I reflect on my grandparents and my parents upbringing, and even myself, there wasn’t a lot of nurturance.
there was a lot of expectation. I was a really weepy kid. Like I would always cry. that would be like my default. it was always seen as a weakness. you’re not strong enough. And so I always kind of admired people that was stoic.
Gissele: Right. Because I, to be honest, I could never hide my, my emotions. I was just out there, like my face would always show it. And it’s so funny how we’ve had to pivot back and say, oh, no, those things that I disliked about myself were things that. Good. my ability to kind of cry about it and sooth myself were things that actually we should be doing more of.
But I think when you were raised in that kind of environment where you were told to toughen up, it seems like a huge chasm between what you were taught in. What we’re saying is okay now. Right?
Susan: Exactly. And that’s how our parents were raised. So they were taught like don’t cry, stiff, upper lip, you know, that’s not okay.
You cry people, aren’t, you’re too sensitive. I mean, you would basically be criticized for, in-tune, compassionate, empathic behavior. And I remember my dad who was actually a very kind man would say, why do you have a sad face. Or, you know, wipe that sad look off your face? Like you couldn’t feel what you were feeling.
that was one of the things I had to deal with as a parent. I didn’t want my children to cry and get upset, but as I kind of underwent my own self love and self compassion journey, thatwe cry for a reason. Crying is a good cleansing.
Gissele: And so just to, instead of asking them, oh, don’t cry. let’s find ways to stop you from crying just to sit with them and be with them when they cry you know, like things happen that make us upset inside. It’s okay to be with our sadness.
Susan: yeah, exactly.
Or rather than some sort of inquiry, like, okay, what’s what’s happening? What are you feeling? What do you need? And modeling that sort of behavior. Is great because it makes a child emotionally literate because so many kids will have feelings and they don’t know what it is. And, traditionally we’re told that when kids have feelings and they don’t know how to label it, they will somaticize.
So our child may say, oh mommy, my tummy hurts. You know, I can’t go to school. Right. Feel sick rather than someone’s bullying me or someone’s taunting me or math is hard or the teacher’s mean, or, you know, I’m scared. So we feel it. And Dan Siegel has a, a line I really love, which is, if you can feel it, you can heal it
I had a friend who, um he’s a pediatrition. And we cause, I used to work, in a children’s aid society where there’s a lot of kids, children with trauma. and he would always say to me that kids with trauma at school’s a hard day at work for them to go to school into, it’s like that’s a bad day at work. Right. Because their, their brains are hypervigilant and then you’re, you know, they’re stressed out or what the need to, you know, to do at school and perform at school and issues of concentration.
Gissele: And so, that really, spoke
Susan: to me.
Gissele: I was hoping that we could go back to your comment about COVID, and you know, how it has kind of increased the loneliness that parents feel, especially new parents. I was wondering what you might suggest to people that are in that situation right now. I mean, as things are slowly opening up, but there’s the new wave coming up.
I’m just wondering what sort of things they could do to, help themselves or give themselves some compassion during challenging days.
Susan: Well, you’re again, hitting me at a great time because I’ve been writing a number of essays for psychology today on parenting during a pandemic. And I’ve been writing these now for oh, you know, 18 months or whatever.
And I don’t quite know what, what things were like in Canada, but the states have been really, really hard hit by the Delta variant. And I was just listening to a program on NPR yesterday about what it’s like for kids to go back to school. Cause we’re trying to get everybody back to school. And the principal was saying, well, the first day, you know, one of the teachers was diagnosed with COVID.
And then one of the kids was, and the second day, the head of the football team, the captain of the football team was diagnosed with COVID. So then, you know, the whole football team had to quarentine. And then the third day, the president of, student council, the class president was diagnosed with COVID.
So then, you know, no one student council could meet. And then yesterday, the science teacher, was diagnosed with COVID and he said, and we haven’t even finished a full week yet. This was Thursday. And I’m thinking like, okay, what are we doing? You know, so we’re sending kids to school, but everyone’s getting sick.
So anyway, it’s, I think it’s a pretty impossible situation. And, I don’t know if you know the film Groundhog day, but it sort of feels like, you know, Groundhog day all over again, like he keeps repeating and I was talking to a friend and colleague the other day, and I know people bandied about, you know, different words for what’s happening.
And, I don’t know, six weeks ago or so we were languishing that was sort of the hot buzzword. And I said to my friend, and colleague, how are you doing? and she’s also a mom and she said, I feel dispirited. And I thought that is the perfect word. It’s sort of like, we are all so worn down as parents.
It’s kind of like, we feel like we’ve lost our spirit or lost our motivation or lost our resilience. Can’t believe this is happening again. So the question I have is like, how do you keep going and keep trying to model compassion and goodness and mindfulness and, you know, resilience and determination for your kid.
When you feel like you’ve had the wind knocked out of you. and I think that is where mindfulness and compassion come in. And I think without those tools, we ended up going because it’s so dispiriting, we go back to destructive behavior.
And if we can practice compassion,one things I like is, the self-compassion break, which I’m sure you use a lot with your kids. And I have a number of variations in the book, and it’s one of the main practices in mindful self-compassion and basically to, you know, give your, your listeners a snapshot.
It’s basically acknowledging what’s happening. So you would say to a parent or a friend, or even to yourself, ah boy Gissele, this has been a tough day, tough day at school, tough day at work, tough day parenting. Ahh, okay. And then, so that is the first step, which is really the mindful awareness. The second step is to widen it out.
So it’s not just about you cause when we’re alone in it, that’s when we feel the most lonely, the most guilt stricken, the most shame, if you may want to say, you know, Gissele, I’m not the only parent who feels this. Right now in this moment, there may be hundreds of thousands, maybe even millions of parents who were feeling overwhelmed, disoriented, numb, stressed out, then maybe a hand on the heart.
And then the final phrase in this three-step process is really offering yourself some kindness. And I found just trying this with patients and teaching it for years. the traditional words that we have been using is, may I offer myself some compassion, again, people will roll their eyes. So I don’t even try to use the word compassion.
It’s sort of like, may I be kind to myself? This is a really hard moment. Or may I aspire to be kind to myself? Because some people will feel like, oh, I don’t deserve kindness. No, I’m a bad parent. Well, nah, I aspire to be kind to myself because beating yourself up. And again, we have research we can rely on does not help.
It only makes it worse. So that is I sort of a roundabout answer to what can parents too, but first just like, know that this is really hard. This is really hard for everyone. And mindfulness and compassion can help you get back in balance. And one of the great things about mindfulness is we know that every moment isn’t permanent, so this may be a horrible moment, but then you may say, okay, come on kids, let’s go outside for a walk.
And it’s a sunny day and you know, they’re birds singing and the sky is blue and their flowers blooming. It’s like, okay, okay. You know, there’s still some beauty here and your kids are laughing and, you know, one kid is saying, come on, mom, let’s get some ice cream. It’s like, you know what? That sounds good.
I mean, so just working together and trying to have some perspective and some sense of humor about how crazy this all is, can really help.
Gissele: Thank you very much. I know that for myself, managing COVID while my kids were at home in that they would themselves were feeling, isolated in, I mean, by the time the second or third, I think it was second, lockdown was lifted.
They were done. Like they wanted to see their friends. They felt isolated. I know that for myself. the practice of compassion and mindfulness was really kind of life-saving in the sense that. I really needed to, to help myself through and focus on where I had power. I use the practice of equanimity in the sense of like, you know, what these things happen, you know, suffering occurs, allowing things to be, and then focusing on my point of power, which is okay, what is my point of power in, how can I see the opportunity in this situation and what things can I control?
And so through being, putting my own oxygen mask on first as a parent, in being loving and nurturing to myself through this process and understanding we’re all doing the best we can. I mean, to be honest, The school leaders don’t know the government doesn’t know. I remember when I was in leadership, and we were managing COVID, at my old agency, we were flying by the seat of our pants, which is like, what are we doing today?
Oh, okay. You know, like at one o’clock we decided we were going to do this by the afternoon that we had different direction from the government of Canada. And by the later in the day, everything had changed. and so I found that the more I was able to kind of put my own oxygen mask. First, the more I was able to help my kids through that journey.
and I would say we got through it.
Susan: Yeah. And let me just really support you on that. I have found equanimity to be enormously helpful and on my website, their audios, their audios on equanimity that people can listen to. The other thing that I have found to be really helpful for parents is practicing some appreciation.
In fact, my most recent psychology today post is on appreciating yourself as parent. And it goes back to an issue that you just flagged a few minutes ago, which is we were never taught most of us weren’t to really appreciate ourselves. We were taught criticism. So it can be really radical to appreciate gee, you know, you made a great lunch today or, The way you responded to your child who was crying was really skillful and, think about the things that you like about yourself and that your friends value about you that can help shift it as well.
Gissele: Yeah. it’s great to mention gratitude because I find what you appreciate appreciates and that the more that you appreciate and find something, even a small thing, you know, my, of a friend who, had gone through a car accident and was able on her journey of self compassion and self love to get herself back to walking again.
and she talked about how, you know, even just being appreciated for being alive, being able to breathe to, have mobility your, to, Thank yourself for your hair and your eyes and everything. Even just the small things can do a lot to shift you, you know, in a very quick way.
Susan: Yeah. Yeah, exactly. And if some of your listeners are thinking, oh, you know, this is woo woo, you know, this is narcissistic or whatever. The way the gratitude and appreciation practices are done is that you look at where you got these good qualities. So no good quality has arisen by itself. You were taught these skills by parents, by grandparents, by friends, by teachers, and by remembering those who have helped you, we feel less alone and more connected.
Gissele: Beautiful, I wanted to go back to mindfulness, because I know that, you know, I’m an avid meditator, you know, practice mindfulness as well for a very long time. but at times I find with my teenagers, that when we kind of get into this dialogue and there’s friction, sometimes I will react rather than respond.
Like there’s not like enough, space between my response. And I find that the more I react, the more that they react. so what practice can we do, to actually introduce a greater pause when we’re engaging in dialogue with our children so that we can respond with kindness and compassion rather than with just reaction and just harshness.
Susan: Yeah, well, you know, there are a bunch of practices that help. I like pausing. I like the self-compassionate break. The other thing I like to do, is sort of seeing with kind eyes and I’m actually gonna teach a practice. That’s not the book because I just learned it recently. Right. So, and it’s something that shifts your perspective almost immediately.
So let’s, let’s do this together. And one of the things I learned as I started teaching this material is to try to keep the practices, super short. Do things you can do in the middle of a fight. You know, when you and your kids are at it, or, you know, they’re taunting you where you feel like you’re going to hit the ceiling and the way.
About this is I was giving a talk and one mom came up to me and she said, look, Susan giving practices that are three to five minutes long is great, but I have three kids. I can’t close my eyes and I can’t sit down. If I do that, someone is going to kill somebody else. This doesn’t work for me. And that was like, yeah, you’re right.
You’re right. So,
so one of the things I like to do is teach practices that you can do in the heat of the moment that you can do standing up, that you can do cooking dinner when, the kids are fighting. and you know, if they, you know, their blood is probably low, if they eat the there’ll be much better in a few minutes.
Okay. So let me just make this into two parts. One is I’m going to sort of do sort of a mantra and then something else that’s easy. One is just, and let’s do this together. Just feel your feet on the floor. Feel the sensations of your feet on the floor. And again, quick aside, there’s research on this that shows that this can help diffuse, you know, destructive, violent, out of control behavior, just feeling your feet on the floor and letting your energy drop.
And then you can just say, this moment will pass. Now. May I be kind to myself this moment?
just take a deep breath, perhaps put a hand on your heart or you haven’t done your heart belly, and then you can say to your kids, I like this one, you know, I’ve lost it. Or as he used to joke with my kids, I hit the ceiling. You can just say, all right, that was difficult. Moment. I hit the ceiling. Let’s come back to this moment.
Susan: That was then this is now. So you’ve already separated a little from that moment. You’ve given yourself some daylight. So that’s, that’s one in the midst of the moment. The other one I’d love to teach you. and, and this one, it’s hard to do this cooking dinner, but just to imagine that you’ve blown up and you really want to shift your perspective fast.
Okay. So this is a fun practice. So imagine that you put your hands out, we’ll all do this together and just look at your hands. So first look at the, the backs of your hands, see what you’re feeling, what you’re seeing, and then shifted around. So you’re looking at the palms of your hand and just tell me in a word or two, what, what you’re seeing, what you’re noticing as you look at your hands
Gissele: different.They’re not identical. And one side is
darker than the other. .
Susan: Yeah. Okay, good. So, so basically it’s kind of, you know, critical mindset one’s darker than the other. some people will look at their hands and even say, oh, their wrinkles or my hands are getting old or they look worn. I mean, a lot of often there can be sort of negative comments.
Okay. Now close your eyes for a second and feel like you can drop from looking at your hands from your eyes, into being in your heart.
Just feel that warmth, that heart energy, that kindness, that love self-love. I don’t know. Put your hands out again and just take a look at your hands. Now after, and looking at your hands from your heart, then looking at the backs of your hands from your heart, and then looking at the palms of your, from your heart.
And tell me what, what you’re seeing, what you’re, what you’re feeling now.
I feel a lot of love and I feel like I love my hands cause there, they helped me create, they helped me build, they helped me do.
Susan: Yeah, exactly. So that was like two or three minutes. And it’s a major shift now, what would it be like, you know, when you’re fighting with your, your teenagers or they’re fighting with you and you’re seeing.
How much they’re driving you crazy how angry you are with them, how they’re letting you down. And then you shift to seeing them from your heart. I mean, just the potential in that simple shift is dramatic.
Gissele: and I, I love how we can, we can use this with anyone that we’re struggling with, you know, that we’re at at work we’re struggling with.
So I love that.
Susan: Yeah. Or your partner and, I’m someone who’s studied the Buddhist meditation literature for years and years and in the Zen literature, there’s a notion of, seeing with the eyes or the heart of a grandparent. And now that I’m a grandparent, I really liked that because it resonates. And my feeling is, you know, my little baby grandson, can do no harm.
If you drop something, if he breaks something, if he has a tantrum, if he’s fussy, well, you know, he’s a baby. I mean, he can do no wrong and what would happen if we could look at the world with those loving eye, we could look at a coworker. We could look at our partner. We could look at someone in the grocery store or, you know, someone who was angry at us.
I mean, it shifts your vision.
Gissele: It’s a great practice. Um, this leads to my next question,you know, one of the things I was grateful for in your book was that you were very candid and honest about kind of the parenting journey in that, you didn’t make anything wrong, including feeling kind of sometimes having negative feelings towards your kids’ behaviors.
Sometimes we don’t, we don’t like what our kids do. And, you know, sometimes we feel like, how did I get to this relationship? How did we get here? and I know for me, a big trigger is for me, my kids fighting with each other and be respectful. but I know that when I listened to them, they say, well, that’s how siblings interact.
so, what can we do as parents to help with our expectations? and at the same time, be able to kind of listen to them, and their perspectives.
Susan: Well, I love this question because I grew up with a dad who I think he probably had a selective memory, but there were five of them and he claimed that they always got along and they never fought.
You know, I don’t believe that. So when my brother and I were fighting and. You know, there was a period when we were fighting like cats and dogs. And just to give everybody the big picture, now that we’re older, we’re actually very good friends. And, you know, we’ve both gotten nicer and smarter. Anyway, we would fight like cats and dogs and my father would get so upset.
I mean, it would almost make him sick that we were fighting and it’s like, you know, we’re just fighting dad, for him, it was like the end of the world. So the first step is sort of looking at well, what baggage might you be carrying?
You want your kids to be close. You know, their teens are fighting right now, but one of the questions you could ask yourself is just because you’re fighting as teens, does this mean they won’t be close? No, you know, so what, what baggage am I bringing to this?
Susan: What assumptions am I bringing to this? in the moment they’re arguing, it doesn’t mean anything. And, I’m someone who was trained in internal family systems, which I think is a wonderful, form of, of therapy. And one of the, maxims of internal family systems is all parts are welcome.
So, yeah. Okay. You know, these are human emotions, you know, if your kids are getting on each other’s nerves or, you know, defending their turf or expressing anger or frustration, Hey, that’s human emotion. It’s okay. And, at the end of the book, it took me a while to, to figure out how to end it. What finally helped was going back and looking at some wonderful old Gilda Radner skits.
And there was one that I found that resonated for me, and it really speaks to this where, in the skit, I mean, Gilda Radner as an adult is playing a six-year-old and she’s fighting with her sister and she hates her sister and she,wants to destroy her sister and she wants a monster to come and eat her sister and her mother basically says, you know, and she just hit her sister, whatever her mother gives her a time out.
And, Then like 10 minutes later, the sister apologizes, she apologizes and then the sister said, you know, want to go out and play. You want to ride bikes and because, yeah. And it’s sort of like how wonderful that is to be able as a kid, just to drop it. You know, we fight with people we blow up and then the storm is over.
Whereas adults, we hold onto it and make it more. And in Buddhist philosophy, that’s called shooting yourself with a second arrow. So the story in a nutshell, this is in the Buddhist scriptures. You know, someone was shot with an arrow, And some comes over, oh, let me pull that up. No, no, no, no, no, you can’t pull it out.
I have to find out who shot the arrow and what sort of arrow it is and, you know, was that arrow poisonous and no, no, no. That’s considered to be shooting yourself with a second, third and fourth arrow rather than saying, okay, I got shot with an arrow. Let me pull it out. Let me heal let me move on. So just looking at the ways as parents that we prolong the agony and the suffering and shoot ourselves with the second, third and fourth arrows like, oh, you know, the kids will never be friends or the fact that they’re fighting means that they’re bad or you know, that I’m a bad parent.
I mean, we just load it on so intensely.
Gissele: It’s all true. We contribute to our suffering, right? I think we talked about it. Pain is inevitable, but suffering is I guess, optional.
Gissele: And we definitely add to our suffering. Yeah. And I think that’s why I was talking about expectations. I understand that. And I’m aware that it’s my own expectation and once I was able to kind of understand that I’m able to kind of engage with my kids in a dialogue and say, okay, I understand that this is my, this is my baggage.
Susan: Yeah. And you may want to say to your kids the next time that comes up, you know, it’s right. And a friend told me that she used to fight like cats and dogs with her brother and now they’re really good friends. So, you know, so it just sort of, I liked the phrase and under this from a mentor, the straw that broke the camel’s back.
Can work in reverse. So just imagine that you can take your, the straws of the assumption off from this incident.
Gissele: Thank you. Thank you. I was wondering if we could talk a little bit about, some of the issues you raised in your book like mean girls and body issues.
Cause I know that this is definitely something that young people face. I’m just wondering what things parents can do to help their children have greater compassion for themselves.
Susan: you know, maybe using the word compassion, it’s so hard and it’s gotten so much worse now.
with social media, No, because kids will bully others. And it’s not just in our country. I was speaking to a colleague in Spain and she was saying that, the body shaming is even worse that you’re supposed to be skinny and you’re supposed to be beautiful. And, my daughter’s in her twenties now. and she was telling me, kids, her age are getting Botox.
Susan: I know, and fillers. And it’s like, really in your twenties, you need Botox. And a friend of her said, oh, you know, gee, I really like, the lip filler you have, and she hadn’t done anything. I mean, but they’re assuming that, you know, everyone’s spending money for fillers and cosmetic surgery.
So it is a crazy culture. There’s enormous pressure. and how do we deal with that? I think it’s shifting a little bit, hopefully in that when you look at Madison avenue, ads, you will see women in swimsuits who, you know, have some extra way, you know, so there’s, there’s a new trend in body positivity, but that doesn’t mean that it’s filtered down to high school.
and girls can be unbelievably mean. So the question is what can you do as a parent to help your child be resilient, and not be as focused on what their body looks like.
Susan: And I have a number of examples and exercises in the book, where you don’t focus as much on what your body looks like. But, you know, that is to process, but how, how can you really be there for your child? When, and I heard these stories over and over, you know, the kid is sitting down at lunch and some mean, girls are there and they’d go, oh, it smells here and get up and leave.
I mean, those words and that treatment are hard to get rid of. So my feeling is you especially really need to be there and have a relationship with your child around body images and, mean girls and really focus on, the varieties of bodies that are okay. And on being strong and competent, not be skinny.
And again, most of the bodies that your daughter may see on social media or in magazines have been airbrushed and that’s not real. And in real life, people don’t look like that.
Gissele: Yeah. It’s amazing. The damage has been done by the media and these pictures, the, in terms of doctored in peoples with surgery and so on.
yeah. What, what no one tells a teenager is, just because you’re skinny doesn’t mean you’re going to be happy. And I think teenage girls tend to think that if they’re beautiful, if they’re skinny, if they look like, a model they’re going to live happily ever after, and that’s not true.
Gissele: Yeah. So, so true. and leads to my next question because, from our perspective as parents, one of the things that we’ve been teaching our children, are things that we wish we had been taught when we were young, which is to love ourselves accepting ourselves exactly as we are and understanding that we are enough and that we’re worthy,we don’t have to earn love.
because from our perspective, people that are truly empowered to lead that understand that they’re enough and love themselves. Don’t need to disempower people don’t need to have these power over competitions so that they can feel better about themselves. And in fact, I did do a podcast on bullying, which is going to be coming out.
Gissele: And some of the stories that are shared by people that have actually bullied people are that is people that, because they’re insecure, they’re bullying other people so that they can feel better. But if we can teach children to love and accept themselves unconditionally, I think that we could have a much better world, but I’m wondering why we don’t do this in schools.
It doesn’t seem like this is, I mean, obviously each of us have to do it at home, but it’d be great if we could have something like this in schools where, you know, they can reinforce the messaging that, you know, beauty comes in all different sizes and shapes and, you know, diversity is what makes it beautiful.
Susan: Well, I guess so much depends where you’re in school or where your kids in school, but hopefully schools, are changing and values are changing.
we’ve come to the end of the podcast. And if there was anything that you wanted to share with the audience about what you’re working on. obviously you want them to check out the book, which is awesome, felt compassion for parents, as well as your website, is there anything you want to share with the audience before?
Susan: Well, I’ve been doing a lot of writing not books right now, but more essays. and a lot of that is on psychology today. and I’ve been doing a lot for, the 10% happier, app and newsletter. So, people don’t have to buy the app. I know there’s a charge for the app, but then the newsletter, is free. You can find Susan’s work here: https://www.drsusanpollak.com/
In fact, I, have an article that’s coming out in a few days. Oh, that’s
Gissele: wonderful. If you could give it to me before we, air the episode, I can put the link directly into the transcript and then people can just go directly to it and start reading some of those articles.
Susan: Okay. That’s great.
Cause it’s actually tied into COVID and, it also ties into one of our themes of sort of not feeling good enough and it’s about being awkward and how practice of loving kindness can help when we’re awkward. Because so many of us have been in social isolation, it’s led to psychological distancing. So people were saying, you know, I’ve been at a party and you know, I don’t know what to do with my hands.
And two, I make eye contact or, you know, a friend saying I had people over for drinks. I forgot to serve food. And then when I realized I’d forgotten to serve food, I realized I didn’t get enough I’m out of practice. So like how to be compassionate with yourself when you screw up.
Gissele: Thank you. Thank you so much for being on the podcast. We really appreciate you sharing your wisdom. check out Susan’s book. Like I said, self compassion for parents, as well as check out her website,
www. Dr. Susan polak.com. And we will add that to our transcript of our podcast and join us again for another episode of the Love and Compassion podcast with Gissele. Thank you everyone.
Susan: Okay. And just one thing to add for people who are clinicians, which is my first book, which is called sitting together. Do you know about that?
Gissele: no, you can share it. Please share it.
Susan: This is designed for clinicians, but it is a list of. again, sort of sequenced, so, you know, practices that you can teach. and the appendix I think is really useful. So it’s a, it’s a good resource. Here is the link: https://www.amazon.ca/Sitting-Together-Essential-Mindfulness-Based-Psychotherapy/dp/1462527736.
Gissele: Well, thank you so much. Or we will also add a linked to that transcripts, if you can send me more information so that we can share that with.
Gissele: Great. Thank you. Thank you so, so much for being on our show. We really, really appreciate your time.
Susan: Oh, it’s delightful to meet you