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Self-compassion and its relationship with empathy, emotion regulation and fear of compassion for and from others

Nikolas Nikolaidis, Olga Zikopoulou, Marilia Nomikou, Anna Nisyraiou Speaker

Compassion seems to influence people’s ability to deal with life’s adverse situations such as stress and it is linked with lower psychopathology and greater wellbeing. Compassion is defined as the recognition of the pain of the self or others’ that is accompanied with the will to take action in order to relieve the person from pain. Its main features are kindness, the recognition of common humanity and mindfulness when facing adverse conditions. Aim of the present symposium is to present findings related to compassion and its relationship to a variety of mental phenomena that are hypothesized to relate to compassion to self and others. The first presentation tries to investigate the role of compassion for self and others in the occurrence of stressful events and levels of perceived stress in students, as well as the role of attachment. Compassion to self seems to decrease the negative effects of stressful events, while students with a secure attachment tend to feel compassion towards both self and others. The second paper focuses on the relationship among compassion, emotion regulation strategies, and empathy. Aspects of self-compassion seem to relate in a positive way with aspects of empathy, while low self-compassion relates to limited access to emotion regulation strategies. The third presentation elucidates the relationships of compassion to self and fear of compassion to and from others. Positive aspects of self-compassion, like self-kindness and mindfulness seem to relate in a negative and conceptually expected way to fear of compassion to and from others.

Chair: Gregoris Simos & Nikolas Nikolaidis

Greek Association for Cognitive Behavioural Psychotherapies, and the Department of Educational and Social Policy, University of Macedonia, Thessaloniki, Greece

a)The relationship of self-compassion to empathic understanding of others

Olga Zikopoulou, Marilia Nomikou, Gregoris Simos

Department of Educational and Social Policy, University of Macedonia, Thessaloniki, Greece

 

b) Self-compassion and difficulties in emotion regulation

Gregoris Simos& Marilia Nomikou,

Department of Educational and Social Policy, University of Macedonia, Thessaloniki, Greece

 

c) Self-compassion and fear of compassion for and from others

Marilia Nomikou, Anna Nisyraiou & Gregoris Simos

Department of Educational and Social Policy, University of Macedonia, Thessaloniki, Greece

The relationship of self-compassion to empathic understanding of others

Olga Zikopoulou, Marilia Nomikou, Gregoris Simos

Department of Educational and Social Policy, University of Macedonia, Thessaloniki, Greece

 

Introduction

An adequate amount of self-compassion seems to be related to a better mental health, as well as to a number of positive variables, like life satisfaction, social connectedness or personal responsibility. Empathic understanding of others, our ability to understand the thoughts and feelings of others, in other words our ability to put ourselves in their shoes, also relates to positive heath variables. Since one could suppose that empathy may have a close relationship to self-compassion too, aim of present study was the study of the relationship between self-compassion and empathy.

Method

We used the Greek versions of the Self-Compassion Scale (SCS) and the Interpersonal Reactivity Index (IRI). SCS includes six subscales- three subscales that enhance self-compassion (Self-Kindness, Common Humanity,  Mindfulness) and three subscales that inhibit self-compassion (Self-Judgment, Isolation,

Over-identification). The IRI assesses empathy along four subscales- Perspective Taking (PT), Fantasy (FS), Empathic Concern (EC), and Personal Distress (PD). Study participants were 317 young adults (mean age of 23 years).

Results

Self-compassion correlated negatively mainly with the IRI- Personal Distress and positively with the IRI- Perspective Taking subscales. The IRI- Perspective Taking subscale related only to the positive self-compassion subscales, while the IRI- Fantasy subscale only to the negative self-compassion subscales.

The IRI- Personal Distress correlates to all SCS subscales (positively with the negative SCS scales and negatively with the positive SCS scales), while the IRI- Empathic Concern correlated only to the SCS Mindfulness (positively) and the SCS Over-identification (negatively). All three positive SCS subscales correlated negatively to the IRI- Perspective Taking and negatively to the IRI- Personal Distress, while all negative SCS subscales correlated positively mainly to the IRI- Personal Distress and less strongly to the IRI- Fantasy

Discussion and Conclusion

A rather low self-compassion seems to relate to feelings of personal anxiety and distress in interpersonal contexts (IRI- Personal Distress), while a rather high self-compassion seems to match to one’s tendency to almost automatically adopt another human being’s psychological point of view (IRI-Perspective Taking). Present results suggest that self-compassion and empathy may actually come together from the same (developmental?) path, and also help us hypothesize that compassion focused techniques in therapy may as well promote empathic understanding.

 

Self-compassion and difficulties in emotion regulation

Gregoris Simos & Marilia Nomikou,

Department of Educational and Social Policy, University of Macedonia, Thessaloniki, Greece

 

Introduction

Emotional dysregulation seems to be associated with a range of psychopathological symptoms and problems. On the contrary, self-compassion - our tendency to stand in kindness and understanding against our pain and failures, instead of being self criticizing, seems to be associated with fewer problems, such as less anxiety or depression. Aim of this study was the examine the relationship between difficulties in emotional regulation and self-compassion in a young adult sample.

Method

We used the Greek versions of the Difficulties in Emotion Regulation Scale (DERS) and the Self-Compassion Scale (SCS). DERS assesses six different dimensions-difficulties in emotion regulation-

nonacceptance of emotional responses (NONACCEPTANCE), difficulties engaging in goal directed behavior (GOALS), impulse control difficulties (IMPULSE), lack of emotional awareness (AWARENESS), limited access to emotion regulation strategies (STRATEGIES), and lack of emotional clarity (CLARITY). SCS includes six subscales- three subscales that enhance self-compassion (Self-Kindness, Common Humanity,  Mindfulness) and three subscales that inhibit self-compassion (Self-Judgment, Isolation, Over-identification). Study participants were 322 young adults (mean age of 23 years).

Results

Female subjects expressed significantly greater difficulties both in emotion regulation and self- compassion. Age had a low positive correlation to self-compassion and a low negative correlation to difficulties in emotion regulation. The relationship between self-compassion and difficulties in emotion regulation was negative (r=-0.54, P<0,001). Correlation analysis among DERS subscales and SCS sunscales shed more light the DERS-SCS relation and also showed some conceptually very significant correlations (e.g. especially significant was the relationship of low self-compassion to limited access to emotion regulation strategies  or the nonacceptance of emotional responses).

Discussion and Conclusion

Although the concepts of difficulties in emotion regulation and self-compassion come from two rather different streams of thought, it seems that emotion regulation difficulties and self-compassion affect each other in a significant way, both as a conceptual whole, and at the level of their sub-specified variables. Such relationships seem to reflect their importance in the contemporary cognitive behavior therapy.

 

Self-compassion and fear of compassion for and from others

Marilia Nomikou, Anna Nisyraiou & Gregoris Simos

Department of Educational and Social Policy, University of Macedonia, Thessaloniki, Greece

 

Introduction

During the last 15-20 years, self-compassion, the tendency to address our pain and failures with kindness and understanding-instead of being harshly self-critical- seems to develop as an important variable in the area of psychopathology in general, and specific conditions like depression, social anxiety or inappropriate anger in particular. Along these lines, fear of compassion for and from others has also become the recent focus of interest. The assessment of the relationship between self-compassion and fear of the expression of compassion for and from others is the aim of the present study.

Method

Study subjects were 365 community participants and university students of a mean age of 23.4 years. Participants were administered the Greek versions of the Self-Compassion Scale (SCS), the Fear of Compassion for others (FCForO), and Fear of Compassion from others (FCFromO). SCS includes six subscales- three subscales that enhance self-compassion (Self-Kindness, Common Humanity,  Mindfulness) and three subscales that inhibit self-compassion (Self-Judgment, Isolation, Over-identification). The FCForO and FCFromO scales assess one’s fear of expressing compassion for others (e.g. “People will take advantage of you if you are too forgiving and compassionate”) or from others (e.g. “When people are kind and compassionate towards me I feel anxious or embarrassed”) respectively.

Results

Self-compassion correlated negatively to the fear of compassion for and from others. SCS subscales correlated, either positively or negatively, to the fear of compassion for and from others in a conceptually appropriate or expected way; for example, SCS- Self-Judgment and SCS-Isolation correlated positively to FCForO και FCFromO, while SCS- Self-Kindness and SCS-Mindfulness correlated negatively to FCForO και FCFromO. Additionally, SCS-Isolation could predict fear of compassion for others, while SCS- Self-Judgment could predict fear of compassion from others.

Discussion and Conclusion

Our finding that low self-compassion relates to the fear of expressing compassion for others or our fear of their expressing compassion for us, help us understand the role of self-compassion in interpersonal problems, as well as its role in the context of CBT. Nevertheless, behind the relationship between self- compassion and fear of compassion for and from other, there may be one or more mediating factors, something that is worth examining it or them.