Self-compassion is for those who want to create a kinder environment internally and interpersonally. It is a kind, connected, and present response to suffering. Who doesn’t want that?
An excellent compliment to psychotherapy and self-help for those in recovery from trauma and relationship difficulties, this mindfulness practice offers tools to harness the brain’s power to initiate emotional regulation by internalizing kind, connected, presence with oneself and others.
As many of you know, I specialize in helping women recognize & amplify inner resources to recover from trauma, addiction, anxiety, and depression while attending to the important relationships in their lives. Over the years, I have become increasingly aware of the power of self-compassion in my integrative treatment approach. As a result, I have incorporated compassion-focused therapy as well as self-compassion daylongs to harness the undeniable effects of this powerful lifestyle change.
I have noticed many benefits of self-compassion, but these seven tend to be the most obvious and impactful:
1. Self-Compassion transforms negative internalized messages from childhood.
People who have experienced trauma often have the core belief that they are not good enough or carry themselves in such a way that reflects harsh inner criticism (i.e. looking down, shoulders pulled in, etc.).
Using the compassionate, present-moment adult in ourselves to comfort the inner child parts stuck in a past memory, sensation, or feeling helps us feel the kindness we may have not consistently received as children due to neglect or abuse. Self-Compassion practices help us re-parent ourselves with loving and compassionate voice, words, and gestures.
2. Self-Compassion helps transform habits created from addiction and/or codependence.
Those of us who are in recovery can be tormented by feelings of being a victim to cravings or life circumstances. To control the intensity of emotions, feel different ones, or not feel at all, we self-medicated with alcohol or drugs to be in control of our experience. Self-compassion helps recovering addicts and alcoholics connect with an internal ease that we can return to again and again.
Co-developers of Mindful Self-Compassion training Kristin Neff and Chris Gomer say the goal of self-compassion practice is to “become a compassionate mess” and for those who tend toward codependence, this practice reduces the compelling notion that we have to fix something in ourselves or others to feel at ease. By allowing emotions and situations to exist in a mindful way, meaning we don’t make them better/worse in our mind than they actually are, we can free ourselves from the self-judgment and frustration that can occur when we cannot keep our loved ones from harming behaviors.
3. Self-Compassion increases motivation and productivity by empowering you with encouragement rather than criticism.
It takes a lot of energy to constantly cut ourselves off from the flow of our lifeforce. Researchers who study motivation consistently link self-confidence and the ability to reach our goals. Self-criticism undermines self-confidence and is strongly associated with depression, limiting the energy and focus we need to work toward our dreams.
This is why so many influencers focus on a positive mindset when talking about productivity and success. While this is key to our own mental health, success also depends on compassionate responses in the workplace. According to Stanford psychologist Emma Seppala, promoting a culture of trust – rather than fear – encourages collaboration and inspires a creative workplace, built on the skillful use of compassion and curiosity.
4. Self-Compassion reduces stress, anxiety, and depression that result of self-criticism.
Many of the women that come to me for compassion-based psychotherapy suffer from a great deal of anxiety and depression. Research confirms what I have witnessed in my practice, that people who are more self-compassionate are better able to maintain emotional balance, have more perspective on their problems, and mobilize coping skills when difficulties arise (see Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself by Kristin Neff).
I am not surprised by the research because giving compassion to ourselves doesn’t require us to evaluate our accomplishments, failures, or worthiness. It is understood that we have both strengths and weaknesses and if we are suffering, self-compassion helps us show up for ourselves with a heart full of loving kindness.
In my next blog, we will explore 3 more powerful benefits of self-compassion.
If you are in the San Francisco Bay Area and are interested in psychotherapy or self-compassion daylongs, feel free to contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 510-995-6499. I offer a 20-minute complimentary phone session so we can explore whether we are a good fit.
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