Self-Compassion: A Therapy Technique for Negative Thoughts
Therapeutic and specific techniques for practicing self-compassion.
Posted May 30, 2022 | Reviewed by Vanessa Lancaster
- Self-compassion entails being kind, gentle, and understanding toward ourselves when we suffer, are imperfect, or feel inadequate.
- Self-compassionate people are kind to themselves when confronted with all these painful experiences instead of being critical or unsympathetic.
- Self-compassion involves recognizing that suffering, pain, weakness, and imperfection are all part of the shared human experience.
Self-compassion has been shown to strengthen the parts of the brain that make people happier, more resilient, and more attuned to others. It helps comfort negative emotions in the present, heal painful memories from the past, and change negative core beliefs.
Three Components of Self-Compassion
Self-Kindness vs. Self-Judgment
Self-compassion entails being kind, gentle, and understanding toward ourselves when we suffer, are imperfect, or feel inadequate. Self-compassionate people are kind to themselves when confronted with all these painful experiences instead of being critical or unsympathetic.
Common Humanity vs. Isolation
Self-compassion involves recognizing that suffering, pain, weakness, and imperfection are all part of the shared human experience – something everyone experiences rather than something that happens to “me” alone.
Mindfulness vs. Over-Identification
Mindfulness is a self-compassion practice that encourages people to be in the present moment instead of ruminating about their past or worrying about their future. The technique involves observing our thoughts instead of suppressing them or overly identifying with them.
Below are two exercises we recommend for our clients to practice and learn about self-compassion from Kristen Neff. They are short and simple but can be quite healing.
They can be applied to the present moment or toward a traumatic or distressing memory.
- Guided (audio) self-compassion break. This "general five-minute self-compassion break" can be used to practice the three aspects of self-compassion at the moment you need it most.
- Questions to evoke self-compassion. How would you treat a friend struggling in life? How would you respond to them? How would you typically treat yourself in this situation? How do you think things might change if you respond to yourself in the same way you react to a close friend in times of suffering? Why not treat yourself like a close friend and see what happens?
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