When someone is in pain their response toward themselves is important in determining how much suffering they will endure. Research suggests the people who demonstrate self-compassion are better able to handle stress and recover faster from difficult events. For some self-compassion comes naturally (perhaps they learn this from their parents or caregivers). For others, it seems much more difficult. Some are able to have compassion for others but unable to bring that same level of kindness toward themselves. It is believe that many struggle with self-compassion based on a notion that if they remain hard on themselves they can whip themselves into line. The belief that if one remains harshly critical of oneself they are more likely to take action has proven to be incorrect. This self critical talk actually tends to diminish confidence over time, leading to more painful feelings, and negative judgments which can get people stuck in a cycle of suffering. Dr. Neff a pioneer in the research of self-compassion has identified three components that make up self-compassion; 1. Self-kindness, 2. Common humanity and 3. Mindfulness. Self-compassion involves being open to and aware of one’s own suffering, offering kindness and understanding towards oneself, desiring the self’s well-being, taking a nonjudgmental attitude towards one’s inadequacies and failures, and framing one’s own experience in light of the common human experience.
Here is a video of Dr. Neff discussing Self Compassion
Some articles and blogs on the topic of self compassion
- Psychology Today March 2, 2011 - The Power of Self-Compassion: Self-compassion contributes to, not undermines, self-accountability.
- New York Times February 28, 2011 - Go Easy on Yourself, a New Wave of Research Urges.
Books on Self Compassion
- Kristen Neff, Ph.D. (2011) Self Compassion: Stop Beating Yourself Up and Leave Insecurity Behind.
- Christopher K. Germer, Ph.D. (2009). The Mindful Path to Self-Compassion: Freeing Yourself from Destructive Thoughts and Emotions.
- Paul Gilbert (2010). The Compassionate Mind: A New Approach to Life's Challenges.