How to get out of prison

befriend what imprisons you

Your partner does something to upset you once again.  Your boss is a jerk.  That one other parent in the PTA is always putting you down.  You have cancer.  Your child just threw a tantrum and kicked you.

Your limbic system tells you to either to stay and fight or run the other way.  Your mind tells you that whatever hurts you, makes you feel anxious, gets you sick is the enemy.  And yet…you’ve tried denying, tried fighting against, tried running away, tried getting rid of it (or him or her!).  And you still feel trapped by your anxious thoughts, held captive by your habitual ways of reacting, stuck in the mess of emotions, and no closer to peace. You’re still in hell, imprisoned, stuck.

It’s completely counterintuitive.  It’s the last thing you feel like doing. It doesn’t even occur to you that there would be another way.  But…it works.

Befriend what imprisons you.


I know.  And I’m hesitant to even share this practice because it is advanced and it stirs up a lot.  It takes a deep commitment to practicing mindfulness and compassion in our everyday lives.  It’s not “nice and easy”.  There’s a lot of resistance to it because when you are triggered, your whole limbic system is raging.  You want to blame.  You go into your default mode of feeling entitled, being a victim, wanting to be rescued, and focused on the other person changing – NOW – so you can be happy.

But blaming, shaming, playing the victim…it never heals.  It never “gets us happy.”  It never brings the peace we so long for.

There is another way.

Nelson Mandela embodied this practice while he was imprisoned for over two decades: befriend it all.  Instead of seeing the prison guards as his enemy, he befriended them.

But Nelson Mandela had to “start closer in” before he was able to befriend even his torturers.  He had to start with his own self.  Befriending every single part of his own self.

There are parts of you that you keep at bay – that you treat at the enemy.  You speak harshly to the part of you that is sooo not confident and is so insecure.  You shame the part of you that couldn’t control yourself and you ate the other piece of chocolate cake.  You judge the parent in you who yells at her kiddos and “should” all over her.

When did we ever learn that beating ourselves up “works” or motivates us to make positive changes?!  It doesn’t.  And when you’ve exhausted yourself going at it again and again…try this…

Instead, befriend every single part of you.  The shameful part.  The addict.  The yeller.  The insecure part.  The anxious part.  The totally imperfect and never gets it “right” part.  The ugly part.

How?  How do you do that?!  With mindfulness and compassion.  With all the skillful means that I’ve written about on this blog.  By turning inward, pausing, getting grounded, offering yourself gentle words of understanding, tuning into your breath, and allowing every single sensation, emotion and thought SPACE TO BE.  By giving yourself compassionate presence.

holding c lisa mccrohan


This is what I do as a compassion coach and psychotherapist.  This is the work that nourishes us.  These are the keys to open the prison cell…and we walk out.

This is what I so desire for each and every one of you.  Say “yes” to freedom.  EVERY single person can do this.  It takes mindfulness and practice.  But it isn’t work — you’ve already done “the work” of holding too much for too long, of being harsh toward yourself.  I want you to LIVE and LOVE with an open, liberated heart.

Lisa A. McCrohan
Mom. Compassion Coach. Psychotherapist. Delight Passionista.

barefootideaslogo **  Do you feel like you could use some coaching in bringing mindfulness and compassion into your daily living, loving, and working?  THIS IS WHAT I LOVE DOING!  Let me accompany you!  Visit the Barefoot Barn for more information.  Email me at lmccrohan(at)gmail(dot)com.  And check out my website that is in a state of “under construction” as my awesome designer and I work on a new site. Stay tuned for the big move!)

3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. meghannathanson
    Mar 19, 2014 @ 11:20:54

    Best. Post. Ever! Sharing, dear one. xoxo


  2. Trackback: Playing The Blame Game | Spirit Lights The Way
  3. nrhatch
    Mar 19, 2014 @ 23:57:15

    A very powerful practice.


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Copyright. 2013. All rights reserved. No portion of any post may be copied without written permission from the author. The advice offered herein does not constitute a substitute for professional psychological treatment, therapy, or other types of professional advice and intervention. The self-help contents are solely the opinion of the blogger and should not be considered as a form of therapy, advice, direction and/or diagnosis or treatment of any kind: medical, spiritual, mental, or other. If expert advice or counseling is needed, the services of a competent professional should be sought.

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