Trauma can change so many aspects of a person’s life. For those who have experienced physical, emotional, and psychological trauma, a common side effect is losing the ability to be self-compassionate. Research has shown that self-compassion is a fundamental element of trauma recovery. The strength of the relationship we have with ourselves is equally important to our recovery as our ties to those closest to us.
The team of specialists at PTSDrecovery wants to help our clients discover the importance of self-compassion, for the sake of recovery and also to help them lead a happier, healthier life. Building this essential skillset will change your perception around so many of life’s challenges and obstacles. In this article, we describe self-compassion, as well as highlight its importance in trauma recovery.
Self-compassion is the act of treating ourselves kindly. It is the forgiving relationship we have with ourselves, the voice of encouragement, and inner dialogue we use to determine how we view ourselves.
Unfortunately, there are people who have experienced trauma that has taken away their ability to be self-compassionate. These individuals are much more critical of themselves than they are of others. In their mind, giving themselves a much-needed break can be misrepresented as making excuses, and so they hold themselves to impossible standards.
These people won’t hesitate to minimize accomplishments and emphasize failures. This causes a dangerous feedback loop, always talking down to and belittling themselves. You might wonder how impactful our thoughts and inner dialogue can be, well the answer is that it has a tremendous impact. In fact, treating yourself in such a hostile way can lead to serious mental health concerns and impact your ability to cope with stress.
In psychotherapy, there is a strong correlation between people who ruminate on their personal failings/trauma and those who develop depression. Also, strong negative emotions associated with self-loathing, like shame or guilt, contribute to self-imposed isolation and feelings of helplessness.
This 2015 study found that therapies that included self-compassion exercises saw an in-person decrease in self-judgment, isolation, and an increase in self-kindness.
People suffering from PTSD need compassion more than most. PTSD may occur after a traumatic accident or a situation that was beyond your control. Self-compassion allows people suffering from PTSD to learn to forgive, to stop placing blame, and to understand that we are all human, we all make mistakes, and that no one is perfect. This doesn’t change the past, but it allows you to cope with the present and shape your future.
In this study, mindfulness and self-compassion were found to minimize the effect of PTSD in veterans.
Those who practice self-compassion have been observed to have lesser, more manageable symptoms of anxiety and depression. This is because you place less emphasis on societal expectations, allowing yourself to fall and get back up, encouraging yourself to learn and improve.
The world has a tendency to reflect yourself back at you. Meaning if you project positivity throughout the day, you are more likely to notice the positive occurrences happening around you. Viewing events through the lens of self-compassion, allows negative events to become learning experiences. We give ourselves a break, shrug things off and try again tomorrow.
Mindset truly is everything. Our world is experienced through our own perceptions. The good news is that self-compassion can be learned, and you can train yourself to get better at it, eventually having it become second nature.
While this is something you can teach yourself, you can make incredible progress when you are supported by your peers and a team of professionals. Learning that you are not alone in your struggles and that others share your experiences, can be enlightening. You can recognize an immediate sense of compassion when you have a community that knows your pain.
Learning self-compassion is all about repetition, mindfulness, and positive affirmation. We learn to treat ourselves with kindness, to cut ourselves some slack, and to change our inner dialogue from one of judgment, to one of encouragement! Identifying and stopping negative thoughts is how you begin to rewire the brain!
The best part about learning self-compassion is that you can start right now! There is an abundance of online learning resources that can introduce you to the topic and help you get started.
Self Compassion Guided Exercises
If you or a loved one are living with the symptoms of PTSD, take the first step towards resolving your pain and living a happier, more fulfilling life. PTSDrecovery offers a comprehensive trauma recovery program designed to give you the tools to reclaim your life.
Call our office or schedule an initial consultation online today!