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Study Finds Self-compassion Helps Heal Divorced People

The Dalai Lama once said, "Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them humanity cannot survive." For couples seeking divorce advice in Pasadena, however, love and compassion might be particularly difficult to muster up. But according to a new study, "self-compassion" could be the secret weapon for helping the recently-divorced heal emotionally.

Self-compassion is described as a "combination of kindness toward oneself, recognition of common humanity, and the ability to let painful emotions pass." And researchers at the University of Arizona say self-compassion is proven to help recently-divorced people get over a painful divorce faster.

Researchers studied 38 men and 67 women with an average age of 40 who had been married for more than 13 years and were divorced an average of three to four months. Subjects who had higher levels of compassion for themselves were able to recover from the often-devastating emotional effects of a divorce. The results of the study appear in an upcoming issue of the journal Psychological Science and the findings could help divorcees put their lives together faster.

"We're not interested in the basic statement, 'People who are coping better today do better nine months from now.' That doesn't help anybody," said study co-author David Sbarra in a journal press release. Many positive characteristics, like self-esteem and optimism, also were studied, but he found more than others "this one - self-compassion - uniquely predicts good outcomes."

Sbarra also notes that self-compassion isn't something that individuals can be forced into having.

"It's not easy to say, 'Be less anxious,'" Sbarra said. "You can't change your personality so easily. What you can change is your stance with respect to your experience."

When divorced people use their failed marriages as positive experiences to bring about change while not blaming themselves, Sbarra said, anxiety and isolation could be less painful.

"This study opens a window for how we can potentially cultivate self-compassion among recently-separated adults," Sbarra said.

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