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The Importance of Self Compassion

From Audio: Session 167: The Importance of Self Compassion

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Duration: 07:22
Host and licensed psychologist Dr. Joy Harden Bradford discusses the importance of self-compassion with pioneering self-compassion researcher Dr. Kristin Neff.
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Host and licensed psychologist Dr. Joy Harden Bradford discusses the importance of self-compassion with pioneering self-compassion researcher Dr. Kristin Neff. In this snippet, she equates self-compassion to being a good friend to yourself, and defines it as the "alleviation of suffering". The rest of the episode follows with the difference between this and self-esteem, how to manage difficult emotions, and Dr. Neff's favorite way to practice self-compassion.
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If there's anything we can use right now and in the coming months, it's self compassion. Today I'm joined by Dr Kristin Neff to chat about the many ways self compassion can be a helpful tool to us to get through these difficult times. Kristen is currently an associate professor of educational psychology at the University of Texas at Austin. She's a pioneer in the field of self compassion research, conducting the first empirical studies on self compassion over 15 years ago. In addition to writing numerous academic articles and book chapters on the topic, she is the author of this book, Self Compassion. The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself, Released by William Morrow in conjunction with her colleague Dr Chris Germer, she has developed an empirically supported training program called Mindful Self Compassion, which is taught by thousands of teachers worldwide. Dr. Neff and I chatted about what self compassion is. How is different from self esteem, how it can be helpful in mediating difficult emotions and her favorite activity for practicing self compassion. If anything resonates with you while enjoying our conversation, please share it with us on social media using the hashtag t B G in session. Here's our conversation. Thank you so much for joining us today. Kristen, I'm really, really excited to chat with you. Self compassion was our yellow couch Collective Book club choice for last month. So it feels very timely for you to be joining us for this conversation. Oh, that's great. Wonderful. I'm happy to be here. Yeah, so I wonder if you could start just by talking with us about what self compassion is and what it isn't. Right? So the easiest way to think of what self compassion is is simply being a good friend to yourself, right? So in terms of how you relate to yourself, especially when you're struggling, you're struggling because you feel inadequate or you made a mistake. Or just when life is really difficult that you treat yourself with the same type of kindness, warmth, care, support, concern that you would naturally show to a good friend. Right? And most of us actually don't do that. Most of us if we talk to our friends where we talk to ourselves, we would have no friends, right? And so really self compassion is just turning that around. Kind of doing a U turn and being kind of supportive to ourselves. Now some people get confused about this. I think that being nice to ourselves mean, you know, being self indulgent, being lazy, being selfish. But actually that's not compassionate, right? So? So if you, if you want the technical definition of compassion, is concerned with the alleviation of suffering, right? And so when your self indulgent or your lazy or you know you are helping yourself and you aren't actually alleviating your suffering, your actually causing yourself more problems in the wrong one Also, you know the word compassion comes from the Latin. Passion means to suffer and and come means with. So there's an inherent connectedness in self compassion is a sense that, well, everyone's in perfect. Everyone's struggling, you know, it's not just me, and this is what makes up compassion different than something like self pity and self compassion. We just remember that this is part of the shared human experience, you know, So it's not just me, by the way. I have to say that, especially in today's times, whenever I say that some people think this is like a coded version of like all lives matter, right that somebody doesn't acknowledge that some groups suffer more than others. Absolutely, they do. The amount of suffering is different. The source of suffering is different. All people in all groups do not suffer the same way. And so we need to acknowledge that as part of the human experience. And yet every single individual, especially when it comes to relating to their own suffering their own suffering is valid if you're in pain. If you treat your own pain with kind of a kind, caring response, you will be able to turn your attention outward more effectively. So it really sounds like, you know, sometimes we hear this conversation around like grief, Olympics or paying Olympics right where we're trying to say, like Oh, my heart is bigger than your hurt, right? Yeah, exactly. It's not like that. You aren't saying that my pain is bigger or smaller. I mean, you recognize that people's paying different is very important, I think, especially nowadays, and we have to recognize, like, you know, through structural reasons, the pain of all people is not the same. And yet with self compassion, weaken treat our own pain as worthy of a compassionate response. You know, we're just saying, Hey, I am in pain. I am in perfect and I'm not. The only one is very simple in that way. But the reason that so important is because if you get into self pity, like what was me for me like victim mentality? That's actually not help. Believe there's a wisdom element to self compassion, seeing that the bigger picture of things in your place in it. So it's interesting that you mentioned like the structural inequalities that have, of course, led to some people suffering being different than others. And there's a quote in your book that talks about and we know this as psychologist, right that often the critical voice that we established comes from our parents or early caregivers. So the quote in your book is people with critical parents learn the message early on that there so bad and flawed that they have no right to be accepted for who they are. And I think that the way that this sometimes plays out, especially in black communities, is that there does tend to be a tendency for parents to maybe be a little more critical as a means of survival, right So I need to try to toughen you up for the world before the world has an opportunity to take advantage of you. Yes, absolutely. And so that could be done. My parents and also individuals as well. There's a sense that being harsh with yourself, it's I'm not going to toughen you up. The problem is that actually doesn't work. But we know. And there's a lot of research showing that when combat veterans who came back from Iraq and Afghanistan that actually saw combat overseas and so those soldiers who are more supportive to themselves, Warner with themselves were less likely to develop post traumatic stress syndrome. And so any sort of traumatic situation, whether you know it's a war zone or whether it's racism or whether it's sexual assault or whether it's going through a divorce or whether it's raising a special needs child rights. There's a lot of different sources of a struggle in life. If you think of it is when you go into battle. If your ally to yourself, if you have your own back if you're there. If you know that you've got your own support, you weren't going to abandon yourself. You know by just not attending to your problems. You're gonna be a warm and supportive and caring. You're gonna be stronger in battle that if you're an enemy cutting yourself down, shaming yourself, that actually doesn't help to be supportive. Supportive doesn't necessarily mean coddling. Sometimes that has to be tough love. But the difference is there's love there. It's that the support comes from a place of love, as opposed to saying You're inadequate, you aren't good enough. And the second you start saying you're an adequate, you're good enough and shaming yourself and actually pulls the rug out from underneath you and makes it harder to get through difficult.
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