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Self Compassion

Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D.

Self CompassionThis past summer (2010) while driving cross country from Florida to Colorado, we stopped at a hotel for the night and, next morning, had breakfast before loading back into the car. Breakfast is self help and I selected what I wanted from the buffet and walked back to our table. Along the way I dropped two of the plastic plates I was carrying and spilled bread and cereal over the floor. I was immediately aware of feeling stupid, embarrassed and self critical for my clumsiness. My wife stopped me in my self attack, reminding me that I am human and these things happen. That helped a lot.

Have you ever had the thought, after making a mistake, such as dropping a glass of soda and spilling all over the table, "Darned, how stupid I am and how clumsy?" It is a common reaction.

Last June 2010 I posted an article called, "A Plea
For Imperfection." It can be found at:

http://www.mentalhelp.net/poc/view_doc.php?type=doc&id=38258&cn=117

This is a follow up to that posting and deals with the concept of "self compassion."

When we look at the word, "forgiveness," there is an understandable tendency to believe that forgiving others is the topic. Nevertheless, it is important to think of, "Forgiving Ourselves."

Filip Raes published an article in the journal, "Personality and Individual Differences," Vol 48(6), Apr 2010, 757-761. The title of the article is, "Rumination and Worry as Mediators of the Relationship Between Self-Compassion and Depression and Anxiety." In this study more than 270 college students were surveyed on their levels of self compassion. Those with high levels of self compassion  were less likely to suffer from anxiety, depression, repetitive thinking, and worry. It was found that they were better at forgiving themselves for mistakes, accepting their flaws, and recognizing that everyone has negative experiences.

If you are someone who tends to obsess over past or potential future mistakes, or who worries and becomes depressed, then, Cognitive Behavior Therapy may work for you. The idea is to replace the automatic negative thoughts, having to do with endless self criticism, with more realistic thoughts that help recognize and accept our human imperfections.

What about the idea of being compassionate to yourself when an accident occurs or you perform at a lesser level than you hoped for?

Your comments and experiences are encouraged.

Allan N. Schwartz, PhD