I am writing about something that I understand both intellectually and experimentally, however I am not always able to develop the level of compassion for myself or others that I would like at times. We are all works in progress. I have known the freedom that comes from experiencing compassion for someone who has hurt me, but at times I struggle to find that compassion when I am ,"really", hurt and, "really", angry. Most of us are not emotionally free. It is as if we are imprisoned by our own minds, our own self criticism, and maybe even our tendency to be judgmental of ourselves and others. I strongly believe that the path to emotional freedom, and ultimately happiness is understanding and compassion. Compassion for both ourselves and others. It is likely to more difficult to have compassion for others if we can't have some degree of compassion for ourselves. We can't have compassion without understanding. Sometimes we are imprisoned by the anger that we feel toward others. Sometimes we are imprisoned by the expectations we have of ourselves and others, and sometimes we may be imprisoned because we can't forgive ourselves for something that we have done in the past. For me I have some anger that I need to come to terms with. towards others and myself. In addition I continuously need to be mindful of not creating unrealistic expectations that can lead to excessive stress. Excessive expectations of others often breeds stress, resentment and disappointment. .Unrealistic expectations can be an major emotional trap that drives a wedge between ourselves and others Once we are imprisoned, how do we strategize, and organize the, "Jailbreak". I am thinking of the cowboy movies where a friend goes to the back of the jail and ties a rope to the bars on the window. He rides a way with his horse, and the steal bars magically and effortlessly come out of the window. Only in the movies! So what is the strategy, or path to get out of our emotional prison. If compassion is the path to our freedom, than how do we develop that experience or state of mind. It might be more accurate to say, "state of heart". It is not likely that we can develop compassion for others if we are running away from our own emotions. If we need understanding to gain compassion, and we are not able to be understanding of ourselves, if we run from our emotions, if we consistently pretend everything is fine, and turn away from our own suffering, we are not in a good place to be emotionally free. If we can't understand and accept our own emotions, our own suffering, we can't develop compassion for ourselves. Put simply, if we don't develop some understanding and compassion for ourselves, we won't be able to have much understanding and compassion for others. If we don't have understanding for others, and if we are not connected with ourselves, we have little possibility of being authentically, and meaningfully connected with others. We may play cards, and do many other activities with others, but we ultimately are lonely and emotionally isolated. Turning towards our emotions, in place of turning away from them provides us with the needed direction. As the beloved monk Thich Nhat Hanh says, "The way out is in". Of course this is counter intuitive for most of us. He also suggests that we take some time out of our busy schedule, at times observe another person, and try to find the suffering in them. It may not be evident at first, however, since we all suffer, we know it is in them. Thank you for reading. For a counseling appointment call 856 417 2283.