Psychiatry & Psychology--General/self-compassion

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Question
When someone we know is in a bad situation, it is perfectly fine to feel sorry for them and show them sympathy. But if we are in that same situation ourselves, and even if we are doing our best to make things better, when we show ourselves that same sympathy or feel sorry for ourself, it's frowned upon? E.g., "stop feeling sorry for yourself." Not that we should wallow in it, but isn't it reasonable to show ourselves the same sympathy and compassion that we show someone else? Thanks

Answer
Hello Lee,

I am sorry for the delay but I had multiple questions to answer and I am answering them in order received.

You pose an EXCELLENT question: Why are we so quick to show compassion, empathy, care for others and yet we are quick to dismiss our own suffering OR quick to condemn those that show self-compassion and self-acceptance?

First, thinking about it from a cultural perspective, this has been something of a mystery to me as well,. Why do we not teach self-compassion to our children?  We are so conditioned to be judgmental of ourselves and much more understanding of others. I believe this is cultural. There are cultures who teach and live self-compassion and self-acceptance but in our competitive society, this would be seen as weak and self-serving. Unfortunately, we have lost an important motivator to being at peace in the world and striving to do good for both ourselves and others as a way of life. From a personal perspective, I think I have fallen and still do slip into the mental space of self-criticism that by definition lacks  self-compassionate. I have to catch myself and re-direct my thinking and feeling into a mode of self-acceptance and self-compassion. It does not always work. And that happens to me...someone who is very familiar to the concepts of self-compassion and self-acceptance.

Second, our sense of self is created and sustained by how our important relationships (i.e. mother/father/siblings) saw us and related to us. As such, our families own psychic struggles become, therefore, components of that creation. Unless parents have gotten sufficient therapy to deal with their own traumas, those traumas are passed down to children through anxieties, fears, unrealistic expectations, and sometimes abuse...a reflection of what the parents received as children. If self-compassion was not a part of parents' childhood, it will not be a part of THEIR children's psychic make-up.

My suggestion is to keep thinking about this dilemma. Part of the resistance to seeing self-compassion as a desired trait may rise from the question of whether too much self-compassion can turn into self-indulgence. My thoughts about this are that if the person has a level of self-awareness that allows the person to show him/herself true compassion, then that person wants to do right by herself and and also others. True self-compassion cannot be perverted. On the other hand, if the person is not taking responsibility, is feeling sorry for him/herself, then that is not defined as self-compassion; the intention was not to do right...it was as a way to do nothing at all or used as an excuse for bad/negligent behavior.

Those are my opinions on this matter. If you would like to engage in further discussion, I would welcome it. This has been a nice opportunity to write about something that is important to the welfare of everyone's mind. Thanks for the question!

Psychiatry & Psychology--General

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Jacquelynn Cunliffe

Expertise

I would like to answer under the category of Psychiatry and Psychology. However, I would like to see a separate category for Psychotherapy/Psychoanalysis. I do not answer questions about medications as I do not prescribe. My expertise is in psychotherapeutic treatment.

Experience

I am a psychotherapist and psychoanalyst who specializes in the treatment of mental health issues caused by childhood trauma, domestic abuse, eating disorders, relationship difficulties, and a wide variety of psychological disorders. The kind of therapy I do is often referred to as deep therapy, talk therapy, or psychoanalytic therapy. Please note that I am not against medications and when managed well, medication can be an adjunct to psychotherapy intervention. I think it is important for the public to realize that psychodynamic or psychoanalytic psychotherapy DOESmake changes not only in people's minds but those changes can also be detected in their brain structure. Psychotherapy and psychoanalysis are powerful interventions to help people change their lives from the inside out.

Organizations
American Psychoanalytic Association American Psychiatric Nurse Association Member of Psychoanalytic Center of Philadelphia Member of National Eating Disorder Association

Education/Credentials
Ph.D.-University of Pennsylvania, Psychology and Education, Division of Human Development M.S.N. and R.N.-B.C. Board Certified Nurse in Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing. 2-Year Adult Psychotherapy Program graduate 2-Year Child Psychotherapy Graduate Current: Candidate in Psychoanalytic Training at the Psychoanalytic Center of Philadelphia

Past/Present Clients
I have worked with clients who have experienced significant childhood traumas. These patients come with a variety of mental health issues, including anxiety, depression, suicidal ideations, relationship difficulties and diagnoses such as Personality Disorders, Adjustment Disorders, and, though rarely, Dissociative Identity Disorder (formerly multiple Personality Disorder)

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