What Self-Compassion Means and How You Can Build This in Recovery

What Self-Compassion Means and How You Can Build This in Recovery

Addiction can take such a huge toll on our livelihood, and, over time, it’s quite possible that a person can become disconnected from their mind, body and/or spirit. When one area of emphasis is disconnected, the other parts begin to feel “out of whack” too – and it’s during these times that individuals often find themselves stuck in a negative cycle. Even when addiction isn’t present, self-compassion can be incredibly hard to achieve, whether it’s due to the lingering pain from trauma or the aftermath of mean comments people have said, difficult circumstances or mental illness. 

If you’re currently on the road to addiction recovery, you’ll find that self-compassion is crucial for a healthy, well-rounded approach to life. Without it, we’re likely to criticize ourselves for the smallest mistakes – and, since we’re only human, it’s a natural part of life that we need to learn to accept. Even the most shameful moments of life can be tended to with self-compassion, and this is what helps us to grow and become better people over time. 

Defining Self-Compassion 

Dr. Kristen Neff, author and professional in social work, explains that self-compassion involves several components:

  • Self-kindness vs. self-judgment: being warm and understanding of ourselves when we suffer, fail, or feel inadequate.
  • Common humanity vs. isolation: recognizing that suffering, failing and feeling inadequate is all part of being human – and that nobody truly experiences any of these in isolation.
  • Mindfulness vs. over-identification: taking a balanced approach towards negative emotions and being receptive to whatever experiences we’re having while finding compassion for ourselves at the same time.

As you’ve just finished reading these aspects of self-compassion, what would you say? Are you more critical of yourself, or are you more loving? Dr. Neff states: “Instead of just ignoring your pain with a ‘stiff upper lip’ mentality, you stop to tell yourself, ‘this is really difficult right now, how can I comfort and care for myself in this moment?’”

The problem is that many of us grew up in homes where our parents or caregivers either didn’t expect anything from us or expected too much. Throughout childhood, this can lead us to feel as though we’re either not good enough, or we must do everything right – and it can translate into adulthood and throughout the rest of our lives if we let it. 

Self-Criticism vs. Self-Compassion

It’s crucial to know that self-compassion isn’t about allowing ourselves to fall victim to our circumstances. It’s quite easy to fall into the trap of, “This and this happened to me, and I’m just so broken from it that I can’t ever become stronger” or “This event occurred, and because of that I can never trust another person again” because that means that we’re closing off our mind, body, and spirit to growing and becoming stronger. Even amidst what feels like a tragic storm, a person can rise again from it – of course, after offering self-compassion and allowing oneself to feel their emotions in a healthy way. 

A study published in the journal Mindfulness explored the application of self-compassion for those recovering from alcoholism, and found 6 facets that truly made a difference in these individuals’ recovery journeys:

  1. Self-kindness
  2. Self-judgment
  3. Mindfulness
  4. Over-identification
  5. Common humanity
  6. Isolation

At the beginning of the study, the researchers found that participants were extremely high in depression, anxiety, stress, and alcohol use, and were extremely low in self-compassion; by the end of the study, which involved 15 weeks of clinical assessments and practice in self-compassion, participants were reported a significant increase in mindfulness, common humanity, and self-kindness, with significant decreases in self-judgment, isolation, and over-identification. What this goes to show is that self-compassion can be strengthened over time – it’s just all about practicing it on a daily basis, and remaining dedicated even on the hardest of days.

Applying Self-Compassion in Addiction Recovery

Sharon Salzberg, a world-renowned teacher, and best-selling author, once stated, “To truly love ourselves, we must challenge our beliefs that we need to be different or better.”

This is an incredibly powerful quote – because it enlightens us to the idea that we’re fine just as we are. We don’t need to feel upset because of who we are – because there are amazing qualities, talents, and gifts that we all have to offer to the world. We just have to learn to recognize and embrace them. If you’re ready to practice some self-compassion in your recovery journey, try some of the following exercises: 

  1. Imagine yourself as a small child who is scared, or hurt, or feeling unloved. How would you treat them? What would you say?
  2. Give yourself permission – out loud – to be imperfect.
  3. Practice mindfulness by breathing and focusing in on the present moment, whenever you can. 
  4. Remind yourself that suffering is a part of the human experience and that you’re not alone. 

If you’re ready to strengthen your self-compassion as you move along your journey to recovery, speak with a professional from Avalon Malibu today. Healing is possible – but you can’t give up. 

Avalon Malibu is a world-renowned, California state-licensed mental health and substance abuse recovery center. If you are ready to seek treatment to develop the tools you need to overcome life’s obstacles and be on the road towards happiness, health, and well-being, call us today at 844-857-5992 for a consultation. It’s never too late, and there are people here ready to help you – it’s never too late to begin taking steps towards a happier, healthier life. 

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