Develop your emotional resilience by practicing Mindful Self-compassion


Most of us feel compassion for our close friends as they go through the peaks and troughs in their lives.  

What would it be like to receive that same warmth and attention from yourself when you needed it most? 

 

Mindful Self-compassion (MSC)  is a training programme designed to develop compassion skills developed by two psychologists from the USA.  Based on the empirical research of Dr. Kristin Neff and the clinical expertise of Dr. Christopher Germer, MSC offers a treasure chest of principles and practices that enable participants to respond to our experiences in life with kindness, care and understanding. 

Self-compassion involves the capacity to motivate ourselves with encouragement as well as to comfort and soothe ourselves when we fail, are hurting or feel like we aren’t good enough.  


Self-compassion provides emotional strength and resilience, allowing us to admit our shortcomings, motivate ourselves with encouragement, forgive ourselves when needed and relate wholeheartedly to others. It opens up the space to be ourselves in any moment just as we are - without trying to hide the parts of ourselves that we are less fond of. 


Self-kindness. Common Humanity. Mindfulness

 

These are the three components that make up Self-Compassion, as defined by Dr. Kristin Neff (2003)*.

Self-compassion is a resource that can be learnt by connecting with the innate care and concern that we have for others and including ourselves in the circle of beneficiaries of our own compassion. 

Self-kindness Vs. Self-criticism

The first component of self-compassion is self-kindness.

You can learn to become an inner friend to yourself and treat yourself with the same attention, support and understanding that you would also offer to a close friend. This inner friend is in contrast to the part of you that is more like an inner enemy, that judges and criticises you. 


Self-kindness can be expressed  in many different ways such as actively soothing yourself through gentle touch or recognising what you need at a particular moment and fulfilling that need as best as you can the resources that you have available to you.

Self-kindness is not just about what we do but also how we talk to ourselves internally and create a more nurturing form of self-dialogue.

Self-compassion is not just about being gentle with ourselves and being nurturing. There is another side to it, that can be strong, almost even  fierce.

'Fierce self-compassion'  is about proactively engaging with the world to protect ourselves and our loved ones from harm and to provide for ourselves and others. This might be the daily act of doing what we need to do to provide for our families. Sometimes it entails everyday acts of courage to stand up for ourselves and set boundaries. Or it can involve acts of civil courage to stand up for someone who is being harassed in public or through getting involved in non-violent protest against injustice. 

Self-kindness is about comforting, soothing and protecting yourself, particularly when you are experiencing emotional pain or are suffering in some way and need it the most. 


Common Humanity Vs. Isolation

The second element of self-compassion is recognizing our common humanity. 

Often when something goes wrong, when we made a mistake or are struggling we think that it shouldn’t be happening and that something must be  wrong with us. We feel abnormal which is a very isolating feeling. 


When we recognise that being human means being imperfect, that life itself is imperfect and that all of us struggle and make mistakes at different times in our lives, then we can feel less alone. 


This change of perspective helps us to feel like a part of the greater human experience. 

Common humanity is about realizing that you are not alone in being imperfect and in struggling in life from time to time. 

Mindfulness Vs. Over-identification

The third element of self-compassion is mindfulness.

Mindfulness means different things to different people.
In the context of Mindful Self-Compassion, mindfulness refers to being in a balanced state of awareness of what is going on within and around us.
Our attention is balanced when we don‘t try and avoid or supress what we are feeling. 

And on the other hand we do not get totally consumed by our own narrative of what is happening, which is a process that can be referred to as over-identification


This awareness based on our direct experience in the present moment allows us to recognise our thoughts and feelings, regardless of whether we evaluate them to be positive or negative. 

This awareness enables us to turn towards our feelings and give them the space to be as they are without trying to change them.


Anyone can learn to be more self-compassionate

Self-compassion is a skill that can be developed by anyone, even those who didn't receive enough affection in childhood or who feel uncomfortable when they are good to themselves. 

Part of the learning process involves adopting a courageous attitude that stands up to harm, including the harm that we unintentionally and often unconsciously inflict on ourselves through self-criticism, self-isolation, or self-absorption. 

Self-compassion provides emotional strength and resilience, allowing us to admit our shortcomings, motivate ourselves with kindness, forgive ourselves when needed, relate wholeheartedly to others, and be more authentically ourselves.

In a full 8-week MSC course you can learn to:


  • Integrate self-compassion and mindfulness into your daily life 
  • Motivate yourself with kindness rather than criticism
  • Experience difficult emotions with greater ease and less 
  • Improve challenging relationships, both old and new
  • Manage caregiver fatigue
  • Develop the art of savoring, self-appreciation and gratitude
  • Understand the empirically-supported benefits of self-compassion


The Mindful Self-compassion programme introduces you to an extensive toolbox of practices and exercises to develop emotional resilience that you can draw upon when you need it the most. 

How do you practice Mindful Self-compassion?

Created with Sketch.

Mindful Self-Compassion offers a treasure trove of different practices. In a full 8-week course you will be introduced to around 25 formal and informal practices. 

Formal practice refers to guided meditations that you typically do in a seated position or lying down, occasionally whilst standing or walking, and last between 15 and 20 Mins. Informal practice refers to activities that can be easily integrated into your daily life, they include elements of self-reflection, movement, touch to calm and soothe yourself, writing exercises and sharing what you discovered with a partner to name a few examples.  

What can I expect from a Course in Mindful Self-compassion? 

Created with Sketch.


MSC is primarily a training program in developing compassion as an emotional resource rather than mindfulness training, although mindfulness is the foundation of self-compassion.

Regardless of the course format that you choose,  I endeavour to teach courses in a way that is as interactive as possible using a variety of different methods to keep you engaged.
 
You will be encouraged to participate actively by sharing your direct experience of Mindful Self-Compassion at different points throughout a session. That could be in partner work, small group discussions or during the enquiry sharing sessions after each guided meditation.  

Typical elements of an 8-week MSC Course

The course is made up of 2 hour 30 Minute sessions and a 4 hour silent retreat. 


Soft landing: Each session usually starts with a so-called soft landing. This is a short meditation to help you settle into the course and arrive fully at the session physically, mentally and emotionally. 

Guided Meditations: This could be one of the three MSC core meditations or an additional meditation, which lasts between 10 and 20 Minutes each.  After each guided meditation, you are invited to share what you experienced during the meditation with the group, sometimes in pair work with other participant beforehand.

Self-reflection exercises: Often they involve silent reflection to go within and write down what you have discovered with a discussion in pairs or as a group afterwards.

How is MSC practice going for you? After session 2 we spend time in each session exploring in the group how and what you have been practicing from the exercises you have already been introduced to, what you are finding challenging about establishing a regular practice as well as what is going well. 

Short talks: This input from either me or my-co-facilitator is a way to introduce you to a concept prior to doing a related exercise.

Regular breaks, stretching and physical movement, poems, shorts stories and quotes are also interspersed at regular intervals. 

Is a Mindful Self-compassion course suitable for anyone? 

Created with Sketch.

Mindful Self-Compassion is a course designed for members of the general public, based on the values of equity, diversity, inclusiveness and belonging

Although it is helpful, you do not need to have any prior experience of mindfulness or meditation to participate in an MSC course. 

Please note that the number of spaces on each course are limited. This applies to online as well as in-person courses. 


As part of the registration process you will be asked about whether you have any physical or mental health conditions, that could affect your ability to participate in the programme. 

If you have a diagnosed mental health condition, particularly if you are currently experiencing acute symptoms, or are currently undergoing treatment for a mental health condition (such as psychotherapy and / or pharmaceutical medication), please discuss attending the course with your doctor, psychiatrist, or psychotherapist / counsellor as well as with me or my co-facilitator during the registration process. 

Can I take an MSC Course if I have a physical or mental health condition? 

Created with Sketch.

If you have a physical or mental health condition that could impact your participation in the programme, particularly if you are experiencing acute symptoms or are currently undergoing treatment for a mental health condition (psychotherapy, pharmaceutical medication), please discuss attending the course with your doctor, psychiatrist, psychotherapist or counsellor.

I also ask you to inform me or my co-facilitator in a registration form and pre-course conversation, both of which will be treated confidentially and following GDPR guidelines, if any physical or mental health conditions could impact your participation. I request this information so that I can understand your needs regarding physical and emotional safety.

Some of the exercises in Mindful Self-Compassion can be emotionally activating. As you become more aware of your thoughts and feelings through mindfulness practice,  you might feel some emotions more intensely or start notice emotions that you don't often experience.

Whilst MSC is neither a form of group therapy nor a replacement for going to see a Psychotherapist or Counsellor, it can have a therapeutic effect. The emphasis of MSC is on building emotional resources rather than addressing old wounds. The possible therapeutic effect arises from the beneficial changes that occur naturally as we develop the capacity to be with ourselves in a kinder, more compassionate way.

The aim of the pre-course conversation with each other is to establish whether attending an MSC course is likely to be a resource that you can draw upon considering your current circumstances.  

What are the requirements to be able to participate? 

Created with Sketch.

Commitment to daily practice: By signing up to the course you commit to start establishing a regular home practice in Mindful Self-compassion of between 20 and 30 Mins per day. This can be a varied mix of guided meditations and informal practice. Please refer to  'How do you practice Mindful Self-Compassion' for further details.

Pre-course discussion: As part of registration, you will be asked to complete a form with background information and to have a short discussion with either me or my co-facilitator on the course. This self-reflection supports both you and us, as facilitators, to evaluate whether our MSC course in this format would be helpful to you at this time, given your current circumstances. 

Mental health conditions: If you have a diagnosed mental health condition, particularly if you are currently experiencing acute symptoms, or are currently undergoing treatment for a mental health condition (psychotherapy, pharmaceutical medication), please discuss attending the course with your doctor, psychiatrist, or psychotherapist / counsellor as well as with me or my co-facilitator during the registration process.

Course handbook: If you are attending the 8-week course you will also need to purchase a copy of “The Mindful Self-Compassion Workbook: A Proven Way to Accept Yourself, Build Inner Strength, and Thrive” by Kristen Neff, PhD and Christopher Germer, PhD. This book is a requirement as it will be used in preparation and follow up throughout the course. 

If you are attending the 6-week Short Course, an electronic participant handout booklet is included in the course fee and you are not required to purchase the Workbook, although I do recommend it as a valuable resource. 

How does the 6-week MSC Short Course differ from the full length 8-week MSC course?

Created with Sketch.

The 6-week Short Course in Mindful Self-compassion is an adaptation of the 8-week Mindful Self-Compassion course that has been developed to give participants the opportunity to learn a selected set of practices with less initial time commitment than the full 26-hour programme. 

It is made up of 6 sessions that each last 75 Minutes. Once the session is officially over my co-facilitator and I will remain online for a further 15 Mins to answer any further questions that you might have. 

The Short Course includes the following elements:

  • a short practice to fully arrive at the the session
  • exercises that involve self-reflection, writing and  discussions in small groups
  • group sharing on how establishing your regular practice is developing
  • short talks to introduce you to the key concepts
  • poetry, short stories and inspirational quotes 


Please go to the Events page to see a more detailed description of the 6-week Short Course. 

How can I register for a course?

Created with Sketch.

Please contact me via e-mail at gina@aspacetobecome.com and I will send you the registration forms to complete and return to me. Once I have reviewed your form and we have had a pre-course conversation, you will receive an invoice for the course fee.