Self compassion in the face of uncertainty: The potential contribution of a Buddhist concept to the psychosocial support of cancer patients (#610)
Western psychologists have begun to examine self compassion, a construct central to the 2,500 year old tradition of Buddhism. A consistent finding in the newly emerging research literature is that greater self compassion is linked to less anxiety and depression, with zero-order correlations in the range of -.50 to -.60 for depression, and -.60 to -.70 for anxiety. Self compassion has been defined as a multifaceted construct with three essential elements that are exhibited during times of challenge and uncertainty: (1) Self Kindness, extending kindness and understanding to oneself rather than harsh self criticism and judgment, (2) Common Humanity, seeing one’s experiences as part of the larger humanity rather than as separating and isolating; and (3) Mindfulness, holding one’s painful thoughts and feelings in balanced awareness rather than over-identifying with them. There has been considerable attention given in recent years to clinical interventions that focus on the third element, for example, Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) which have demonstrated beneficial outcomes in multiple populations, including cancer populations. To date, the majority of these studies have considered mindfulness as an outcome measure along with other outcomes, rather than as a quality developed during a wider meditative practice. The recent findings on the role of self compassion as a mechanism of change have prompted the author to explore a self compassion based intervention specific to a cancer population. It is proposed that therapy incorporating all of the three components of this construct may enhance our therapeutic approaches to working with patients facing the challenge of cancer.