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Navigating Emotions Using Self-Compassion

Why do we need compassion?


We need compassion because life has moments that are inevitably hard. To have a human life means we will face some form of painful experiences. During these tough times, it's common to grapple with shame and self-criticism, often feeling like "something must be wrong with me." 


A room with Self love  written on the wall.  Self Love  is a part of Self-Compassion

Shame, a vulnerable state linked to negative self-evaluations, can contribute to anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress, and an unwillingness to be in contact with one's emotions. 

 

Self-Compassion: 

One powerful tool to combat distressing emotions is self-compassion. Dr. Kristin Neff, a leading expert, defines it as "a way of relating to any moment of difficulty or pain, being mindful of what you're feeling, giving it space, remembering you aren't alone, that there's nothing wrong with you, and adding some emotional tone of friendliness, support, kindness, care."

 

Why is self-compassion crucial?

It empowers us to face uncomfortable emotions—shame, sadness, grief—and be willing to experience what is uncomfortable. While it is human (and understandable!) to prefer avoiding such emotions, research suggests this often backfires. Instead, the more we fear, struggle with and avoid these emotions, the more intense it becomes. Developing a cycle that exacerbates the very feelings we seek to escape.

 

In this context, compassion doesn't seek to erase painful experiences but strives to cultivate a compassionate self—wise, courageous, kind, and committed to facing difficulties. Unlike shame, which thrives on emotional avoidance, self-compassion aims to build emotional courage and responsibility, encouraging us to approach and actively engage with life's challenges.

 

For example, consider a scenario where shame hinders growth. A husband observes himself yelling at his wife (perhaps prompted by noticing his wife's fearful look), and he experiences shame - driven by the thought, "I'm a horrible husband." This harsh judgment may perpetuate a cycle of threat, flight/flight/freeze response and avoidance. In that event, rather than focusing on learning more effective ways to cope so that he doesn't yell at his partner anymore, he fixates on his perceived inadequacy. These feelings can also be so painful that he may quickly move to distract himself, rationalize his behaviour, blame his wife and just about any other behaviour to avoid this experience. 

 

The Goal:

Therefore, the goal of self-compassion isn't self-pity or denying responsibility.

Instead, its goal is to overcome such avoidance by shifting from a shaming perspective to a compassionate perspective that helps us be responsible for working on our life challenges. An example could be, "It makes sense that I react by yelling because of my own experiences, but it's not the type of partner I want to be. It's time I committed to being the type of partner I would be proud of. What might help me do that?” In the journey of self-compassion, we discover a profound shift from self-blame to self-growth. 

  

Andreea Maries | Registered Provisional Psychologist

Therapy can be one of the ways in which we can have a safe space to explore these uncomfortable emotions, build self-compassion and help us reach our goals.


To receive more at-home resources and guided exercise on self-compassion, please book an appointment, and let’s talk more about how self compassion can positively impact your life, relationships, and well-being! 

Come heal, grow and create together


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1 Comment


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