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  • Writer's pictureJenna Matisz

The Importance of Self-Compassion in Trauma Recovery

Updated: Oct 3, 2023

Going through a traumatic experience can feel like a storm that never really passes. Trauma doesn't just leave you when the event is over. It lingers, messing with your thoughts, feelings, and even the way you act.

My experiences as a therapist have shown me time and time again that self-compassion is one of the essential elements of trauma recovery. By understanding the power of self-compassion and how to make it a part of your life, you'll be better equipped to move forward from the past.

What's Self-Compassion Anyway?

Imagine treating yourself as kindly as you would a close friend going through a tough time. That's self-compassion—a way of giving yourself a break, especially when things are hard. It's like having your own back, understanding your feelings, and being okay with the fact that you're not perfect. Self-compassion has three parts:

  1. Mindfulness: We can't be self-compassionate if we're not aware of what we're actually thinking or feeling. Mindfulness means paying attention to your inner experience on purpose and without judging it.

  2. Self-kindness: Instead of being tough on yourself, treat yourself with some love and understanding. Be gentle, especially when things get rough.

  3. Common humanity: Realize that suffering is a part of the human experience, and you're not the only one dealing with it. This shared feeling can make you feel less alone in your struggle.

Why is Self-Compassion so Important in Trauma Recovery?

  1. It helps with self-blame and shame: After trauma, it's common to blame yourself or feel shame. Self-compassion counteracts negative self-talk by telling you that no one deserves to go through this stuff. It reminds you that no one deserves to suffer and that your reactions are natural responses to an extraordinarily challenging situation.

  2. It fosters emotional healing: Self-compassion gives you permission to feel your feelings without beating yourself up about it. By offering yourself the same understanding and patience you give a friend, you create an environment conducive to healing. You wouldn't try to help someone feel better while also being hard on them, so why would you do that to yourself?

  3. It reduces feelings of isolation: Trauma often leads to a sense of isolation, as survivors may feel that others cannot truly understand their experiences. Self-compassion fosters a connection to the broader human experience, reminding you that you're not alone in your struggles.

Strategies for Practicing Self-Compassion

  1. Be mindful of your self-talk: Pay attention to your internal dialogue. Replace self-criticism with words of kindness and understanding. Talk to yourself like you'd talk to a friend who's having a tough day.

  2. Practice mindfulness: Engage in mindfulness techniques such as meditation, deep breathing, or body scans. These practices help you approach your thoughts and feelings without judgment, allowing you to process them more effectively.

  3. Validate your feelings: Remind yourself that your emotions are valid responses to your experiences. Give yourself permission to feel things without attaching labels like "weak" or "overreacting."

  4. Prioritize self-care: Do stuff that makes you feel good—whether it's taking a walk in the park, treating yourself to a delicious meal, or just enjoying a cozy movie night.

  5. Allow room for imperfection: Let go of the need to be perfect or to have all the answers. Trauma recovery isn't a straight line, and that's totally okay.

Self-compassion does not wipe away trauma, but it does make the process of healing from trauma way easier. By being kind to yourself, remembering you're not alone, and embracing your feelings, you equip yourself with an invaluable tool for healing.

Want to learn more about trauma recovery? Get in touch!

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