How Tender Self-Compassion Heals A Wounded Heart

How Tender Self-Compassion Heals A Wounded Heart by Stephanie Philp
How tender self-compassion heals  a broken heart - by Stephanie Philp

A divorce study revelation

In 2011 the University of Arizona conducted a study of 67 female and 38 male divorcees, who had previously been married for more than 13 years. They wanted to know what ameliorated the stress and emotional harm associated with divorce.

Crises, setbacks and challenges

We all have, or will, face crises of one sort or another during our lives. Setbacks and challenges, and the emotions associated with them are a fact of life.

To build resilience in the face of hardships and difficulties, it’s important to recognise that resilience is not related to your ability to be stoic, strong or independent.

It really doesn’t matter how much stiffness there is in your upper lip!crises, setbacks and challenges

Awareness comes first

Awareness and recognition of your emotions is the first step to managing and getting back in control of them. Acknowledging how you feel and engaging with the emotions associated with the crisis is a good first step. Appreciate that however you feel is valid.

Awareness gives you choice

Awareness gives you choice about what to do. This means that, rather than just reacting automatically to circumstances, you can take logical action and feel as if you have some personal power despite the situation not being of your making.


Feelings of kindness, empathy, care and concern are all elements of compassion. While many people can easily feel compassionate towards others, they sometimes struggle with applying the same emotions towards themselves — having self-compassion. Self-compassion involves treating yourself with kindness, care, understanding and forgiveness.

How do you develop self-compassion?

compassionThe point is not to avoid the pain that’s associated with a life-changing event. However, it’s equally important not to allow yourself the luxury of wallowing in it.

Another way of thinking about self-compassion might be to imagine behaving towards yourself the way you’d behave towards someone you were fond of; Someone who had gone through a similar experience. It’s highly unlikely that you’d berate them, verbally abuse them or ridicule them. So don’t do these things to yourself!

Be gentle with yourself, it’ll make your recovery much easier and quicker.

 “You can have compassion for yourself-which is not self-pity. You’re simply recognizing that ‘this is tough, this hurts,’ and bringing the same warmhearted wish for suffering to lessen or end that you would bring to any dear friend grappling with the same pain, upset, or challenges as you.”
— Rick Hanson,

Apply to self

Applying the qualities of kindness, empathy, understanding and care to yourself will enable you to get through the grief of your loss, separation, divorce, or other life-changing event much quicker than self-recrimination ever will. The more you focus on regret and longing the less resilient you’re likely to become.

You could become a ‘martyr’ to the crisis to help you get lots of sympathy. But that won’t get you out of the mire, or help you be resilient. Recognising that you’re overwhelmed or that you don’t have the skills or resources to make an effective change is nothing to be ashamed about. It just shows you’re normal.

Talk to someone

Sometimes, being aware of your own fear or inability to cope in the moment — and actually telling someone about it or asking for help is what makes you resilient. In fact resilient people know when they aren’t coping well and readily ask for help.

Resilient people are not loners

Resilient people usually have a strong network of supportive people they can trust and communicate with, without feeling judged. Often just talking through an issue can give you a new perspective on the crisis, and guide you to possible solutions.

Problems are a part of life

Recognise that unfortunate events and difficult circumstances are just part of the tapestry of life. We all have, or will experience circumstances that we’d rather not experience. Avoid taking on a victim mentality, as this will prevent you from resolving the problem and could make things worse if others feel that they are being blamed.

There’s always something to learn

You can learn something positive from even the most disastrous situation. A crisis can almost always result in growth and development. Learning can help you to both recover more quickly, and become more resilient. Ask yourself these questions to ‘mine’ the crisis for all the juice you can get from it:

  1. What have I learned already? (About myself, the situation, others involved, etc) Tip: You’re looking for the positives here!
  2. What else can I learn?
  3. What strengths or inner resources do I have to help me get through this?
  4. How can I use my strengths and inner resources to get through this?
  5. Who would be a good person to listen and validate how I feel without letting me wallow or judging me?Compassionate girl and rabbit

Later, when you feel you’ve recovered, you may ponder what you’ve learned as a result of what’s happened.

Maybe you’ll decide to do something differently given your new knowledge or even what advice you’d give to someone who found themselves in a similar position to you.

Growth and development

Challenges and setbacks provide you with an opportunity to grow and develop. It’s worthwhile thinking about this before the next challenge or setback knocks you for six and you’re left reeling. By being mindful of your emotions and your behaviours in stressful circumstances, you start to notice your own and other people’s reactions.

Kindness and compassion

By being kind and gentle to your self; according yourself the same levels of compassion you’d give someone else, your recovery from any adverse situation is likely to be quicker.

In the University of Arizona study it was reported that at between three and four months after the divorce, the participants who showed greater levels of self-compassion were more able to overcome the stress and emotional harm associated with divorce than those who didn't.


  • Crises, setbacks and challenges are a normal part of life.
  • Awareness and recognition of your emotions is the first step towards changing them.
  • Awareness gives you choice about what to do.
  • Treat yourself with the same compassion you’d give someone who was going through a similar issue.
  • Self-compassion includes feelings of kindness, empathy, care and concern.
  • Tell someone you can trust - don’t be a loner.
  • Don’t avoid the pain, but don’t wallow in it either.
  • There is always something positive to be learnt from even the most negative experiences.
  • Ask yourself questions to help discover your own resilience.

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