If there is one certainty in anyone’s recovery journey, it’s that life will throw you scenarios that will trigger negative self-talk and self-criticism.
It is in these testing times that self-compassion practice is your go-to.
Fortunately, you can learn to change your brain and behaviour via neuroplasticity by behaving differently towards yourself.
Moving from self-criticism towards self-compassion is not about pretending you are perfect or putting your head in the sand about your own behaviour. It is not weak or self-indulgent. Rather, self-compassion, involves being kind and understanding to oneself, aware that pain and failures are unavoidable common experiences among humanity. It involves a balanced awareness of one’s emotions.
One recent study found that increased self-compassion resulted in reduced depression, anxiety, thought suppression, rumination, and self-criticism and that self-compassion was strongly inversely related to psychological health such as depression, anxiety, rumination, thought suppression, self-criticism, and neurotic perfectionism.
The study found that one cannot be compassionate towards feelings that are repressed and unacknowledged, but self-compassion quickly turns into melodrama when one is so carried away by negative emotions that all perspective is lost. Instead, self-compassion involves having the right amount of distance from one’s emotions so that they are fully experienced while being approached with mindful objectivity.
The link between self-compassion and recovery from addiction
One 2012 study on self-compassion reveals what The Buttery has known for over 40 years – that self-compassion is crucial to the recovery from substance dependence.
This study was among the first to examine the self-compassion of people with alcohol dependence, who were currently using alcohol at hazardous levels and who, for the most part, were also experiencing depression and anxiety at higher levels than the general population.
The study found, considering that self-judgment was related to alcohol consumption at baseline, efforts to reduce a person’s problematic alcohol consumption, particularly via the use of meditative practice, incorporating mindfulness-based approaches, could be powerful in promoting positive self-judgments, and perhaps more enduring change.
The Buttery uses art therapy, meditation and other mindfulness practices with its residents with great success and there is no shortage of such programs in the general community. As a taster, we believe this The School Of Life video below nails the basics.
So c’mon. Be gentle with yourself: