Here at the Rape Recovery Center, we talk a lot about self-compassion. Self-compassion is critical to your health and well being. Self-compassion is one of the pillars of healing trauma and it is a great tool to address burnout for our staff and volunteers. In our culture, self-compassion is often discouraged. Too often, we try to motivate ourselves and others to change through shame and blame. However, research tells us that people are more likely to practice positive self-care when they are compassionate towards themselves.
What is Self-Compassion
Dr. Kristin Neff has spent many years researching and writing about self-compassion. She tells us that there are three important skills in fostering self-compassion: (1) Self-kindness, or treating ourselves like we would treat a friend, (2) Common Humanity, or reminding ourselves that others suffer like we do, and (3) Mindfulness, or learning to be in the present moment without judgement.
Why is Self-Compassion Important in Healing Trauma?
One of the most painful aspects of trauma recovery, especially for survivors of sexual violence, is the shame and self-blame survivors experience. We beat ourselves up for what happened. We go over the details in our minds and all the ways we think we "should" have acted differently. This leads to an immense amount of suffering.
By practicing some self-compassion, we can arrive at a mental space where we can respond to painful thoughts with kindness, connectedness, and mindfulness. This might sound like:
- "I am OK just as I am. I did the best I could with the skills and knowledge I had at the time.
- "I am a human, with a brain that responds just like other humans, and part of our common humanity involves pain and suffering."
- "I am going to choose to be with this pain that I am experiencing, and notice how hard it is for me in this very moment."
When we approach our post-traumatic responses in this way, they often have a shorter duration and become less overwhelming over time. At first, it may feel impossible! Just like any new skill, the more we practice self-compassion the more intuitive it becomes.
Want to Learn More About Self-Compassion?
If you would like to learn more about self-compassion training and find some practices to try at home, visit selfcompassion.org. They have some great exercises you can try at home and lots of helpful resources.
If you are a survivor of sexual violence and would like some help exploring self-compassion and healing from trauma, call us at 801-467-7282 to schedule a service planning meeting. You can also call our 24-hour line to learn more about our services at 801-467-7273, or visit the services section of our website here.