Giving yourself a hug is not the same as throwing yourself a pity party

 

 

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1.Self-pity entails being immersed in your own emotions and thoughts to the point that you are not connecting with others and their emotions or problems. It feels like you are the only one in the world who has problems and hurts.

In being self -compassionate you practicing kindness towards yourself. It allows you to experience your pain, acknowledge it but also hold space for other’s pain and that comes from the realization that pain and hurt are part of human condition. Feelings of such as hurt, shame, sadness, fear, anger and despair are universal. We all feel them. A connection rather than isolation to others is made. We are thus being compassionate towards others ,as well as, ourselves.

2.Self -pitying feeds, indulges and grows on it’s own negativity. It is a downwards spiral of negative emotions, which lead to avoidance, stagnation and helplessness. It is passively wallowing in the bitterness of your situation, which feels like it is fate and you are a victim. In pitying yourself you do not take actions but wait for others to react  to you due to guilt or empathy and take over.

While in being self- compassionate you are not waiting on others to be compassionate towards you but you offer that compassion to yourself. You comfort yourself with a positive blanket that can perceive the hurt but also the hope. It is motivating, loving and uplifting ,which can lead to more focus and a change for the better. Self-compassion also leads to less negative reactions and resilience. In being self -compassionate you are also taking responsibility and action to help yourself, try harder, find a solution and learn from it as to avoid repeating past mistakes.

3.In pitying yourself you are wallowing, obsessing and consumed by the pain ,suffering and the misfortunes that it starts to define who you are.In being self -compassionate there is more balance between embracing the pain, shortcomings, mistakes and having a healthy dose of self- respect and self -love. The pain and hurt do  not define you. Self-compassion  helps you go beyond dwelling towards acceptance of self, self -care and action taking.

4.The extreme focus on the self, your own thoughts and emotions in self -pitying makes it difficult  for you to be open to alternatives , maybe more balanced perspectives on the situation and come up with different solutions. In self-compassion, on the other hand, there is more willingness and openness to look beyond the self and recognize that others may have other perspectives to offer from their own life experiences and wisdom.

5.Self- compassion is associated with positive interpersonal relationship. The self- compassionate is emotionally connected, accepting and supportive while those are not self compassionate are more detached, controlling, and may even be aggressive within the relationships. Self- compassion was also found to be correlated with positive strengths such as more happiness, optimism, wisdom, curiosity, personal initiative, and emotional intelligence.

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Breines, J. G., & Chen, S. (2012). Self-compassion increases self-improvement motivation.Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin ,38,9,1133 – 1143.

Neff, K. D., & Beretvas, S. N. (2013). The role of self-compassion in romantic relationships. Self and Identity ,12 ,  1,78-98.

Neff, K. D., & Rude, S. S., & Kirkpatrick, K. (2007). An examination of self-compassion in relation to positive psychological functioning and personality traits. Journal of Research in Personality, 41, 908– 916.

Barnard, L. K., & Curry, J. F. (2011). Self-compassion: Conceptualizations, correlates, & interventions. Review of General Psychology, 15, 289–303.

 

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What is a therapeutic relationship?

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Therapeutic relationship is “the extent to which a client and therapist work collaboratively and purposefully and connect emotionally, and is conceptualized as a common, or generic, factor in that it is believed to cut across various treatment approaches” (Gellhaus -Thomas, Werner-Wilson, & Murphy 2005,p.1) .The therapeutic relationship is the bond that develops between the psychologist and client. It is a safe and close relationship based on trust that provides space to express feelings, be heard, valued, understood and enables to practice behaviours and newly acquired aptitudes. A good therapeutic relationship is a necessary and crucial factor that influences the success of the therapy. Each relationship is different but there are common characteristics and themes that build it.

What are the characteristics of the therapeutic relationship?

Genuineness

The psychologist and the client need to feel free to be themselves and genuinely relate to each other. This strengthens the relationship .A therapy session should be  a time in which social facades are not used. Genuineness can be seen in non verbal communications like keeping eye contact, nodding that matches the expressed words or emotions and even in spontaneous reactions and humor. The therapist genuineness is seen in being aware, present, involved, attentive ,responsive and expressive.

Trusting and a non-judgmental attitude

Exploring painful emotions, distressing thoughts and being vulnerable, as well as, motivated and engaging can occur if the client has trust and confidence that there is no threat of rejection , judgment and the  belief that the psychologist has his/her best interest at heart. There is a show of mutual respect.  Clients, who perceive the therapeutic relationship as trustworthy are less likely to be resistant to confront their fears and are open to exploration, new perspectives and change. There is a stronger sense of connection and dedication to the therapeutically process. Trust also nourishes hope ,positive feelings  in addition to feeling respected and valued, which  strengthens the client’s self- esteem.

Empathy and care

 Clients need to see and feel that their psychologist really hears them, values and understands their needs and intentions. Empathy enables the psychologist to do that and thus make the therapeutic environment feel warm, attentive, compassionate and caring. Empathy can be expressed non verbally and verbally by validating responses  and by  being inquisitive and asking relevant questions to better understand the client’s background and perspectives. When the client feels that s/he is the focus of attention and is being engaged in the conversation, it helps and grows a secure and trusted basis of the therapeutic relationships. It promotes analyzation,  reflection, meaning creation,insights and supports clients’ active self-healing efforts.

 Insight and experience

The therapeutic relationship is also a collaborative relationship regarding goals, purpose and tasks.It puts the client in a position of shaping their own treatment plan.  Being that therapy is interactive and each session is different than each session essentially becomes a mutual meeting of the minds, an opportunity of growth and learning for both,the clients and the psychologist. Therapy can thus be a rewarding experience for both sides.

Do you recognize these factors in your own therapeutic relationships?

Do you feel comfortable and can you talk freely with your psychologist?

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Ackerman, S., & Hilsenroth, M. (2003). A review of therapist characteristics and techniques positively impacting the therapeutic alliance. Clinical Psychology Review, 23, 1-33.

Black, S., Hardy, G., Turpin, G., & Parry, G. (2005). Self-reported attachment styles and therapeutic orientation of therapists and their relationship with reported general alliance quality and problems in therapy. Psychology & Psychotherapy: Theory, Research & Practice, 78, 363-377.

Gellhaus-Thomas, S.E., Werner-Wilson, R., & Murphy, M.J. (2005). Influence of therapist and client behaviors on therapy alliance. Contemporary Family Therapy, 27,1,19-35.

Lambert, M., J. & Barley, D. E., (2001). Research Summary on the therapeutic relationship and psychotherapy outcome. Psychotherapy, 38, 4, 357-361.

Martin, D., Garske, J., &Davis, M. (2000). Relation of the therapeutic alliance with other outcome and other variables: a meta-analytic review. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 68, 438-450.

Schnellbacher, J., & Leijssen, M. (2009). The significance of therapist genuineness from the client’s perspective. Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 49,2,207-228.

Sharpley, C.F., Jeffrey, A.M., & Mcmah, T. (2006). Counsellor facial expression and client-perceived rapport. Counselling Psychology Quarterly, 19,4, 343-356.

Sullivan, M., Skovholt, T., & Jennings, L. (2005). Master therapists’ construction of the therapy relationship. Journal of Mental Health Counseling, 27, 48-70.