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Clinicians Agree: Self-Compassion Desperately Needed

10 May


Over the past several years, there has been a surge of interest in the topic of self-compassion, and for good reason. So many people find it easy to feel compassion for others, but have difficulty being compassionate toward themselves. Self-criticism and harsh judgments can be difficult habits to break. Yet, the research on self-compassion has found that the practice has a number of benefits. These include enhanced compassion for others, increased personal motivation, decreased distress, and greater optimism and self-worth.

Dr. Kristin Neff, a pioneer in self-compassion research, states that the three elements of self-compassion are: self-kindness, common humanity, and mindfulness. Self-kindness refers to acknowledging our own suffering and responding with caring, patience, and acceptance - much as we would be patient and kind toward another. Recognizing our common humanity involves understanding that everyone has ups and downs, strengths and challenges, and feelings of self-judgment, but that each of us is far more than any of these. Our own foibles and errors simply make us human. Finally, a mindfulness practice enables us to sit with whatever is going on in the present, without judging it, attaching to it, or pushing it away. Mindfulness is key to being in the gift of the present moment and breathing through suffering.

It’s important to know that some people initially resist the idea of self-compassion, worrying it will lead them to be lazy, self-centered, or unmotivated, or that it is equivalent to self-indulgence or self-pity. Yet, the opposite is true: we can still be self compassionate and make good use of feedback, take responsibility, and acknowledge the need to make changes, without being harsh or demeaning. It really comes down to treating ourselves with the same kindness, understanding, and patience that we would afford another. Not surprisingly, in addition to the benefits mentioned earlier, self-compassion also paves the way for better self-care.

Both the Self-Compassion and Self-Compassion during Sleep programs begin by enlisting the breath and carefully crafted language to facilitate a sense of ease and profound comfort. Mindfulness and hypnotic suggestions woven through the guided imagery help the listener foster feelings of self-kindness, observe difficult situations, thoughts, and emotions from a safe distance, and reframe or release harsh judgments and unreasonable expectations. The imagery also encourages breathing through any negative self talk and accessing one’s inner ally, kind friend, or wise and patient shepherd – even if they have not yet experienced this kind of acceptance from others.

The tracks on the Awake program are set to the lovely music of composer Steven Mark Kohn. Because ocean waves themselves are both trance-inducing and relaxing, and as some prefer not to hear music while falling asleep, the Sleep imagery is set against a background of soothing ocean waves. This can help the listener more rapidly fall into a peaceful slumber. The sleep track also features abundant hypnotic imagery to foster deep and restorative rest, while taming the Inner Critic, and accessing the listener’s wisest, most loving inner champion and guide.


Traci Stein

Traci Stein, PhD, MPH, is a practicing psychotherapist and Columbia-trained
clinical psychologist, ASCH-certified in clinical hypnotherapy. She has combined integrative therapies, including hypnosis, with conventional medical and psychotherapy practice. Her passionate commitment to mind-body healing has spanned two decades.