top of page

Self Compassion: Learning to treat yourself with kindness and acceptance

Trauma at its core affects a person’s capacity to be self compassionate and trauma recovery is about nurturing and growing that ability. Our ability to be compassionate depends on our ability to be self-compassionate. Safe, trustworthy and authentic relationships are the heart of recovery. The relationship we have with ourselves is just as crucial to our healing as our relationships to others.

However, treating ourselves kindly can be quite an unusual concept. Giving ourselves some slack can be viewed as making excuses for ourselves, or encouraging self pity. Our critical thoughts judge our weaknesses and struggles in ways that we would never express toward a friend. We say things to ourselves that are quite shocking. Self hostility, just like abuse from others, impacts our ability to manage stress and is associated with a host of mental health problems (Gilbert, 2008).

The below diagram represents our 3 emotion regulation systems. When we are able to get a balance between the drive/resource-seeking, soothing and threat system then we are better able to regulate emotions. Self-compassion is a way to activate the soothing system. If we were constantly on the move, pursuing, fighting or running away from something we would exhaust ourselves. Therefore we need to rest and digest , which releases neurohormones such as endorphins and oxytocin to leave you feeling content, calm, peaceful. Activating this system allows for openness and balance in our new brain, facilitating an open, clear and flexible way of thinking.

"Compassion is the sensitivity to the suffering of self and others (and its causes) with a commitment to relieve and prevent it." –Prof. Paul Gilbert


bottom of page