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Let's Talk About Self-Compassion

By: Samantha Abplanalp, LPC-MHSP, Primary Therapist at The Renfrew Center of Nashville

Posted on August 12, 2019

Let's talk about self-compassion! This is an untapped resource for recovery that is right at your fingertips to practice anytime, anywhere. It's especially useful during times of stress or suffering that could lead to urges to avoid painful emotions and reinforce ED behaviors.

Over the past ten years, the practice of self-compassion has been the focus of research studies across the country and has been shown to significantly reduce levels of depression, anxiety, stress, and shame and increase levels of happiness, life satisfaction, self-confidence, physical health, and positive body image. On a physiological level, this practice helps us learn the skills to decrease the reactivity of our "threat defense system" (fight, flight, freeze) and increase the activation of our "care system" (sense of safety, comfort, and security). Not only is it a helpful practice, but there is research and science behind it!

So, what is self-compassion anyway? There are three components to practicing self-compassion:

1. Mindfulness: This means a non-judgmental, receptive state of mind. We cannot ignore our pain and feel compassion for it at the same time. At the same time, requiring that we not "over-identify" with thoughts and feelings, and be swept away by negative reactivity.

2. Common Humanity: This means recognizing that suffering and feelings of inadequacy are part of the shared human experience – something we all go through, rather than being something that happens to "me" alone.

3. Self-kindness: This means being warm and understanding toward ourselves when we suffer, fail, or feel inadequate, rather than ignoring our pain or flagellating ourselves with self-criticism. Recognize that being imperfect, failing, and experiencing life difficulties are inevitable, so be gentle with ourselves when confronted with painful experiences rather than get angry when life falls short of set ideals.

Check out this website for more information, research articles, and practical exercises for practice!

Samantha Abplanalp, LPC-MHSP, is a Primary Therapist at The Renfrew Center of Nashville. Sam is from Memphis, TN, graduated from Vanderbilt University in 2011 and worked in residential and IOP programs for women with addictions and mental health before coming to Renfrew in May 2018. In her free time, she can be found with any excuse to be outside, kayaking, watching a new documentary, or hanging out with her 13 year old lab Molly.
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