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Why Self-Soothing Helps

Why Self-Soothing Helps

The first time I learned of the idea of self-soothing, I was reading a parenting book and trying to let my first child settle herself to sleep. I was more upset than she was that evening, gripping the door knob, willing myself to not open it and go in to soothe her. Awash in my own inability to self-soothe, I cried as she whimpered herself to sleep. That night provided only a glimmer of the power that comes from being able to hold onto and soothe yourself in your own pain and suffering.

In the years and babies that followed, it got easier to let my children discover and nurture their ability to self-soothe, but I hadn’t really grasped how deeply those early baby skills evolve into the essential capacity of cultivating self love in challenging situations. I have vivid memories of the combined panic and urgency that I used to feel when my relationships with friends or family were in conflict. My capacity for discomfort in my marriage was equally brief. I had no skill in hanging onto myself when the floor came out from under me and it often turned even small incidents to full-blown emotional trauma for the intensity and reactivity for which I had little control.

As I have learned to listen inside of me and have had the courage to cultivate a friendship with myself first, I have watched my ability to self soothe expand. It comes out looking like more time between the triggering moment and the response. I can find some time in myself to reflect and ponder and realize that usually the thing that upset me is not personal. Other people are not intentionally triggering the emotional hotspots that I still carry around from unexplored injury years before.

Surprisingly these places are easily soothed. Usually it just takes paying attention to them. Recognition, the power of calling something by its right name, is self-soothing in the same way as learning to fall asleep by yourself when you are a baby. Adding a few kind words and looking on one’s self and the world we live in with gentle tenderness is also soothing.

Learning to talk to ourselves  kindly and thinking of our daily experience with compassion makes us soothing to the world. Self kindness and compassion ripples out in the world, making acts of self soothing one of the most important practices we can cultivate for ourselves and everyone we love.

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Wendy Strgar

Wendy Strgar, founder and CEO of Good Clean Love, is a loveologist who writes and lectures on Making Love Sustainable, a green philosophy of relationships which teaches the importance of valuing the renewable resources of love, intimacy and family.  In her new book, Love that Works: A Guide to Enduring Intimacy,  she tackles the challenging issues of sustaining relationships and healthy intimacy with an authentic and disarming style and simple yet innovative adviceIt has been called "the essential guide for relationships."  The book is available on ebook.  Wendy has been married for 27 years to her husband, a psychiatrist, and lives with their four children ages 13- 22 in the beautiful Pacific Northwest.

54 comments

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8:53AM PST on Mar 5, 2014

thanks

12:42PM PST on Mar 4, 2013

Thank you

9:18PM PDT on Jul 31, 2012

yay1

8:22AM PDT on Jul 31, 2012

Things are very hectic in a fast paced society and it is wonderful to be able to sit still and be tranquil for awhile while enveloping oneself in a quiet atmosphere where we have time to listen to ourselves, rest and have self soothing practices be it watching a candle flame, listening to water by a babbling brook or listening to what our inner self would like.

12:09PM PDT on Jun 27, 2012

I don't understand the technique. Is it me or could the article have been more specific?

12:35AM PDT on Jun 23, 2012

Thanks for interesting article...I shall look into self soothing info more...

12:22AM PDT on Jun 23, 2012

Good points but definitely not as easy as it sounds.

4:27PM PDT on Jun 22, 2012

Thanks.

8:22AM PDT on Jun 22, 2012

Thanks for the reminder!

11:37PM PDT on Jun 16, 2012

We as adults or adult children can self sooth. Babies cannot. This soothing is learned from a caregiver

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