What I Learned From Lady Mary

In an episode of Downton Abbey years ago, Lady Mary and her father were arguing. 

He said to her,  “I suppose you are against me too”.

And Lady Mary said, “I’m never against you, father, but I am for the what’s best for us.”

When I heard this statement, I knew it had a message and wisdom that I needed to understand.  Since then, I have pondered the statement.

Recently, I discovered the wisdom behind that statement.

Action Steps to Self-Acceptance

Rick Hanson is a psychologist and senior fellow at the Greater Good Science Center at University of California—Berkeley.  He studies happiness and meaning in life and is a best selling author.

In a chapter in a book on Self-Acceptance, Hanson presented  his “personal mental first-aid kit” that he uses when he gets caught in a vulnerability storm. Four actions:

  • Notice and name it when you’re rattled. Give words to the experience, “anxious”, “irritated”, “feeling bad”.  Studies have shown that the process of just noting with a simple word or label what we’re experiencing lowers activation in the amygdala—alarm bell—in the brain. So just noticing you’re upset and labeling the feelings can be helpful.
  • Self-compassion is the 2nd step. Compassion is the wish that someone not suffer. Here he addresses himself. “I wish you were not suffering, Rick. I wish that this did not hurt.” He points out that this avoids resisting the pain or craving its absence, but instead brings benevolence and concern to yourself.
  • Get on your own side. Here it is …. Learn: “I’m not against others, but I’m for myself.”  Hanson says that this is an incredibly important step, and one that many people do not have well internalized.  —Lady Mary understood it! — He says this is where we “Be a friend to yourself”. What a great lesson!
  • Make a plan. In all cases, make a plan. Hanson’s final step is to ask himself, “What are you going to do about this?” … talk about it to your partner?, let it go and move on?   Whatever it is, make a plan.

Reflecting on Hanson’s first-aid kit

Naming things. I have to highlight this practice. I had learned the importance of naming experiences from a parenting book written in 1980, by Faber and Mazlish,  How To Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen so Kids Will Talk.  Now 3 million copies sold, and a 2012 edition.

I think it’s a great leadership book. It taught me how to listen. I learned that naming things is a part of listening.  And FYI,  another source about the importance of naming things is the iconic coaching book, Motivational Interviewing: Helping People Change by Miller & Rollnick.

As for learning to get on my own side?  Who better to have first taught me this than Lady Mary of Downton Abbey?

This is not about rejecting support of others, this is a healthy proclamation of supporting ourselves.

Remember this wise statement from Lady Mary, our role model once again.

  “I’m Not Against You, But I Am For Myself.”

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