Awareness and self-compassion are essential to ethical behavior and a prerequisite for cognitive and rational inquiry into our motivations when facing an ethical dilemma. When we are self-critical, self-blaming, or defensively unaware of our effect on others, we cannot engage in the objective assessment of our client relationships. We will have limited ability to determine which of our behaviors and motivations are in our clients’ best interests.
Curiosity can be our ally. We can be curious, rather than closed, to learning more about the client and our responses and reactions, Curiosity and self-compassion are supportive friends on these InnerEthics® journeys of self-inquiry.
Our Healing Impulse
I have learned that almost every ethical misstep occurs because of a healing impulse for oneself or the client. Even if the action is unskillful, unethical, or self-serving, at its root is an attempt at healing oneself, the other, or the system that contains them. When I remember this truth, it is much easier to identify the healing impulse and discover the way back to Right Relationship with my client, myself, and Spirit.
Self-Compassion and Right Relationship
Self-compassion is a prerequisite for staying in Right Relationship with others. Once we learn to recognize and love our inner parts and understand and forgive their motivations, we will more easily identify them when they appear. Whenever we form an outer relationship with a client, we can draw upon this compassionate inner relationship with ourselves.
Cultivating self-compassion is not easy. It takes self-awareness and consistent, deep personal work and a commitment to loving ourselves, shame and all. Not waiting until we are perfect, but loving ourselves as we are now. We can explore, make mistakes, and learn, while appreciating and honoring our good intent.
Learning to love and appreciate ourselves, including our vulnerabilities, gives us a secure base to look non-defensively at our motivations and consider behavioral changes that benefit our clients and ourselves. More information on self-compassion can be found at Kristin Neff’s site https://self-compassion.org/
Rewards of Self-Reflection
When we prepare ourselves with self-compassion, and we willingly dive into exploring our unconscious motivations and shadowed qualities in the service of Right Relationship, insight, understanding, and skills are our rewards. These benefits apply immediately to our current situation and also to professional and personal relationships throughout our lives.
A commitment to personal evolution and ongoing internal self-examination of our values and motivations as professionals is integral to the InnerEthics® model. InnerEthics® also emphasizes the importance of community in support of ethical behavior. It advocates the benefits of self-reflection in community with others in classrooms, organizations, peer supervision, and formal and informal consultation.
Only our willingness to face our vulnerabilities and hidden motivations will allow us to apply self-compassion and make choices that are truly in the best interests of our clients.
Compassionate Self-Reflection in Community
There are several ways an organization or community can foster an ethical culture of personal and professional evolution where developing an internal locus of control is emphasized. These include encouraging and rewarding truth-telling, avoiding criticizing or punishing anyone who breaks the taboo against talking about unethical conduct, and learning how to give constructive, clear, truthful, and also kind feedback.
Crafting a humane code of ethics highlighting the values of ongoing self-examination and self-disclosure to one’s peers is encouraged. A written ethical code is a reminder and a message to others about organizational integrity. A code can serve as a basis for discussion about continuing education, training, peer or other supervision, and specialized consulting on working ethically with clients in profound, extraordinary states.
Source: The Ethics of Caring (2017). pp. 51-54, 157-58, 307-315.