Essential Principles, Practices and Panaceas, A – Z: Kindness

kindness haiku

Three things in human life are important: the first is to be kind; the second is to be kind; and the third is to be kind. Henry James

Kindness costs nothing – how often do we hear that? That’s because it’s true. So there’s no reason to be stingy with it; on the contrary, we could try doing all we can to create a lot more kindness in the world.

Plato said: Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a harder battle. Does considering others’ lives from that perspective make you feel more kindly disposed towards them?

Could it be that kindness starts with you? I’m not sure; I know people who are quite self-critical yet who are capable of showing the utmost kindness to others.

Is it about feeling deserving of kindness, then? And if you don’t believe that you deserve kindness, can you wholeheartedly believe that anyone else does?

Are you kind to yourself? Or do you berate yourself for all of your shortcomings? How is that working out for you?

I wasn’t kind to myself after making a mistake that had catastrophic consequences; I mentally and emotionally beat myself up until I became physically ill. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that being hard on myself (understatement) for years, for what boiled down to fallible human behaviour, caused my immune system to start attacking the healthy tissue in my body.

It was counsellor number three who told me I had to start cutting myself some slack, but although intellectually I understood what she meant, emotionally I was unable to practice what she preached. The self-hatred continued, with debilitating consequences. It took another couple of years and a CBT therapist’s intervention to get me to even begin to consider stopping punishing myself for having been misled by a psychopath. And I still had a lot of resistance; the idea of affording myself compassion made me squirm.

(N.B. You don’t have to be suffering from PTSD to struggle with self-care and kindness; it’s more common than you’d think)

An exercise (devised by psychologist Deborah A. Lee) given to me by my therapist involved creating my ‘perfect nurturer’. A perfect nurturer can be an actual person or an invented character; the important thing is that they accept you, flaws and all, and can be called upon whenever needed to soothe and support you. The details of your perfect nurturer are less important than their ability to make you feel cared for – nurtured.

I eventually managed to dream up a suitable character – a fairy godmother based loosely on Daphne Fowler from the BBC2 quiz programme, Eggheads. My ‘Daphne’ ‘had my back’, and I gradually internalised that sense of having a nurturing relationship which enabled me to treat myself with kindness rather than hostility. Only then was I able to address the reality that I’d gone to extreme lengths to isolate myself.

The human race is interdependent; in The Compassionate Mind, Paul Gilbert reminds us that:

…we have to recognise something very fundamental about ourselves – we are a species that has evolved to thrive on kindness and compassion. The challenge here is to recognise the importance of kindness and affection and place them at the centre of our relationship with ourselves, with others and with the world. So ask yourself: Have you really put warmth, gentleness, kindness, support and compassion at the centre of how you relate to yourself and the way in which you try to help yourself through life’s tragedies? Have you put those qualities at the centre of your relationships with others, even people you don’t like very much?

Another way to foster compassion for self and others is to learn the Buddhist practice of loving-kindness, the essence of which is:

Even as a mother protects with her life.

Her child, her only child.

So with a boundless heart.

Should one cherish all living beings.

Radiating kindness over the entire world:

Spreading upwards to the skies,

And downwards to the depths.

An article on suggests 18 science-based reasons to practice loving-kindness and includes a short loving-kindness meditation. If you are unable to wish the best for your adversaries, then it is possible that there is something in your psyche that needs to heal.

There seems to be a trend to promote kindness worldwide. The Random Acts of Kindness Foundation wants to make 2016 the year of kindness; there is also Kindspring, a global movement for kindness. Both of these websites contain stories of kind acts carried out by people all over the earth, as well as ideas about how you can spread more kindness in the world.

Seneca said: Wherever there is a human being, there is an opportunity for a kindness.

What are you waiting for?

Why self-care is essential.

It is essential that we nourish our inner worlds so that we can remain connected to our natural creative impulses.

Katie Rose


Self-care is a necessary element to transforming a victim story and reconnecting you with your essence. Eating well and making sure you exercise are important, however I am talking here about behaviours and activities that nurture your psyche rather than your body (although your body also benefits).

Most of our time and energy goes into the day-to-day demands of earning a living and achieving what our societies and conditioning deem as success. When we don’t meet the standards imposed on us by these external ‘authorities’, we can be unnecessarily hard on ourselves. The trouble is, putting pressure on ourselves to do more, and better, can be counter-productive; this is how people end up stressed and burnt-out. This stress and burn-out is amplified if your emotional health isn’t robust.

My attempts to conform to society’s norms contributed to my developing PTSD; rather than make my health a priority, I focused on what I had to do to be acceptable according to cultural criteria, the result being that my recovery has taken longer than it might otherwise have done.

There were several practices, however, that I started in the early days following my escape from my tormentor that I have maintained over a number of years. One, in particular, that I heartily recommend is keeping a journal.

I came to journaling after a friend suggested I work through Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way in order to deal with the shock that overwhelmed me after being held against my will and sustaining systematic abuse over an intense six-week period. The fall-out from my ordeal was intolerable and I was struggling to keep myself together.

The Artist’s Way is a twelve week course that professes to help readers recover their creative selves, but for me it achieved so much more than that. It kick-started the journaling practice that has kept me sane, helped me to uncover who I really am, develop my intuition and gain wisdom from my experiences. The insights I realise when journaling are never-ending; it is a master-tool for anyone interested in attaining personal growth.

Julia refers to the practice as morning pages and the instructions couldn’t be simpler: every day, as soon as you wake up, write three pages of whatever is in your head (stream-of-consciousness), longhand.  Spelling and grammar are unimportant; the objective is ‘the act of moving the hand across the page… Nothing is too petty, too silly, too stupid or too weird to be included.’  Morning pages are meant for your eyes only and as such you are free to vent without restraint.

Research carried out in the USA by Dr. James Pennebaker has demonstrated the beneficial impact on health after writing about emotional upheaval (he suggests talking about your concerns into a voice recorder if you’re not keen on writing); I can vouch for Dr. Pennebaker’s findings and encourage you to try out journaling for yourself!

[N.B. Be aware of rumination when writing about upsetting events. Dr. Pennebaker advocates writing for no more than four days in a row about specific traumas. If you write often, focus on solutions and problem solving to gain maximum benefit from your practice]

Another self-nurturing practice is walking in nature. My favourite nature walks are by the sea; I live within 15 miles of the East Anglian coast and walking there helped to disperse the adrenaline that flooded my body as a consequence of constantly being on ‘high-alert’ (a symptom of PTSD); without it I believe I could have developed more serious health problems. Research in Japan and Finland, furthermore, shows that walking in the woods (called ‘forest bathing’ in Japan) reduces stress and enhances the immune system.

Other known self-care activities include making time for a long, luxurious soak in the bath, practicing relaxation, meditation and mindfulness and taking up yoga or tai chi (all of which I can recommend). Experiment to see what works for you; you’ll know when you’ve found an effective self-care pastime because, whilst engaged in it, you will feel peace and contentment at a deep level. When you can get yourself into an optimal state like this you are connected with your essence, which is the opposite of feeling victimised by life. Acting from this position of inner strength enables you to make rewarding life choices

An affirmation suggested by Julia Cameron in The Artist’s Way is:

Treating myself like a precious object makes me strong.

It’s a mantra that has served me well; let it nourish and strengthen you, too.