Last updated on 8th July 2009
Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible. Dalai Lama
This first post on Compassion & criticism contains a series of loosely linked handouts and questionnaires about compassion, self-criticism, hostility, self-esteem and related subjects. To see a further post with additional handouts click on Compassion & criticism (second post) . Compassion is an area that is being actively researched at the moment from a series of overlapping angles. Here in the UK, Paul Gilbert's work is probably the best known. His focus has partly been on the damaging effects of excessive self-criticism (for example in vulnerability to depression) and the potential benefits of promoting self-compassion. In the States, Kristin Neff has been a leading researcher on self-compassion - see for example her self-compassion website and list of freely downloadable publications. I think both these authors would argue that self-compassion may often be a preferable way to relate to oneself rather than focusing too much on boosting self-esteem. Other research - for example, by Mark Leary & colleagues - has further supported this view. From different traditions, more emotion-focused investigators have looked at self-criticism using approaches such as internal dialogue exploration - see the Emotions, feelings & personality handouts webpage. Different research teams have come at compassion from varying viewpoints. Barbara Fredrickson looked at how loving-kindness meditation boosts positive emotions, leading to better functioning and increased life satisfaction. James Carson explored possible benefits for people suffering from chronic pain. In the second of these Compassion & criticism posts I mention the rather differently angled work by Jennifer Crocker at Michigan's Self & Social Motivation laboratory exploring how compassion impacts on relationships with others as well as oneself. More in the public domain, Buddhist teachers like Sharon Salzberg have published quite extensively on loving-kindness meditation, and there are further groups like the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation. All in all, although the field cries out for more research (and possibly more over-arching theory), we seem to have reached a stage where one can say there are real benefits for people who develop both greater self-compassion and greater compassion for others.
Self-compassion scale (Neff) with scoring and research - Kristin Neff's self-compassion scale can be helpful in assessing various aspects of self-compassion. It can be a little time consuming to score, so may be best use just occasionally during therapy.
4 item scale, self-criticism & self-compassion - I find the Neff self-compassion scale a bit too long and slow to score for week by week use. This simple self-constructed 4 item scale can be helpful in keeping an eye on how things are going session by session, while the fuller Neff scale is only being used occasionally.
Toxicity of self-criticism abstracts - a chronic self-critical, self-attacking attitude is toxic to our wellbeing. Sometimes this damaging attitude to ourselves seems to be associated with difficulties in childhood, including poor care from our parents (possibly due to their own depression) and bullying from other children. This handout gives research abstracts that illustrate these points.
Toxicity of hostility abstracts - persistent anger, hostility & cynicism are damaging - not only to those at the receiving end but also to those who repeatedly feel these emotions. This handout details some research studies highlighting these connections.
Undoing the brainwashing, slides 1 & 2 and slides 3 & 4 - here are 4 slides (usually printed out as 2 slides to a page handouts) that illustrate ideas from Paul Gilbert's compassionate mind training. Slides 3 & 4 particulary are from Paul's work on how the way one is treated by external harsh critics (e.g. parents, etc) can be 'ingested' and become a way that one views and treats oneself.
Moods affect us quickly & powerfully - here is a nice two slides to a page handout illustrating the rapid effects of hostility and of compassion on mind and body.
Assessment of self-critic (or self-scarer) dialogue work - this is a questionnaire I put together to encourage client reflection after they have worked with forms of two-chair dialogue involving their internal self-critic (or self-scarer for anxiety disorders).
Post-imagery rescripting questionnaire - and this form is similar to the one above, but used more after work on specific memories (rather than after dialogue work) - for example using Mervyn Smucker style rescripting.