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Attachment & Self-compassion

Attachment & Self-compassion

Sep
11

It is mentioned in the previous article ‘Chinese Style Romantic Relationship’ that how our caregivers respond to our needs in childhood can be critical to our development of attachment style in the future and to how we relate with others in adulthood. If caregivers respond inconsistently ...

It is mentioned in the previous article ‘Chinese Style Romantic Relationship’ that how our caregivers respond to our needs in childhood can be critical to our development of attachment style in the future and to how we relate with others in adulthood. If caregivers respond inconsistently or coldly, children may develop into ‘avoidant attachment’ or ‘anxious attachment’ accordingly. People who are of avoidant attachment tend to have negative views of others, treating others as untrustworthy and feeling uncomfortable with others getting closer to them. On the other hand, people in anxious attachment style tend to have negative views of themselves. They are afraid of being rejected or abandoned, so they would pay more efforts to seek for attention and approval from the significant ones.

It is found in numerous psychological studies that children in these two insecure attachment styles may have difficulty in developing healthy and stable relationship with others and could be more vulnerable to depression as well as anxiety in the future. Meanwhile, they may tend to resist self-compassion because of having inadequate affection and care. They may think that they do not have the right to be kind to themselves, being self-compassionate means being self-indulgent, or they could be afraid of recalling shameful memories. The fear of self-compassion could also worsen their depression or anxiety.

Some psychologists from South Korea conducted a research, studying how fear of self-compassion and self-compassion mediate in the relationship between insecure attachment and individuals’ emotional distress. 473 college students were recruited for the research. They were asked to complete online self-report surveys to assess their attachment styles, fear of self-compassion, self-compassion, depression and anxiety.

The results show that compare with people in secure attachment, people in insecure attachment tend to be less self-compassionate while associate with more depression and anxiety. It is found in previous studies that individuals with higher self-compassion tend to have lower depression and greater happiness. Therefore, it can be deduced that individuals in insecure attachment can be more able to manage depression and anxiety if they can exercise self-kindness and mindfulness, and perceive that their pain and struggle are the same pain and struggle experienced by all humanity, understanding the meaning of self-compassion. Before cultivating higher self-compassion, the most important thing is to correct the wrong attitude toward self-compassion and to learn how we can benefit from being self-compassionate. In fact, it is generally accepted that self-compassion can bring us plenty of advantages, such as enhancing mental well-being and motivating us to make improvements.

Life can’t be perfect, and the unpleasant memories can hardly be erased. Yet, we can still live in a happier and more relaxing way by being kind to our self. We have no reasons to reject it.

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Always be kind, especially to ourselves

Always be kind, especially to ourselves

Aug
31

Self-compassion has been a hot topic for decades in field of psychology. There are numerous psychologists pointed out that self-compassion can bring a significant positive influence to our mental well-being. It is found that individuals with higher self-compassion tend to have higher life satisfacti ...

Self-compassion has been a hot topic for decades in field of psychology. There are numerous psychologists pointed out that self-compassion can bring a significant positive influence to our mental well-being. It is found that individuals with higher self-compassion tend to have higher life satisfaction, be less likely to suffer from depression and anxiety disorders, and have more equanimous reactions to negative events. Moreover, they tend to cope with physical discomfort and even chronical illnesses better. They are also associated positively with optimism, wisdom, initiative, curiosity and agreeableness. The benefits of self-compassion are obvious, but there are still some people prefer treating themselves critically.

In our society, we are expected to have a virtue of being kind to others and critical to ourselves. Parents and teachers have also taught us in this way so that we can both get along well with others and be motivated to achieve. Some people therefore tend to be self-critical and resist self-compassion due to educational and cultural factors. Some research found that individuals who resist self-compassion tend to value stoicism and personal accountability more. They perceive self-compassion as a sign of weakness, self-indulgence and inability to handle setbacks. In 2015, a team of psychologists from the USA, Canada and Germany conducted a research, studying how self-critical individuals perceive self-compassion.

161 participants were recruited from university for the research. First of all, they were asked to complete an assessment about how they would evaluate themselves after reacting in a self-compassionate and self-critical way respectively. They were instructed to read a paragraph and imagine what it would be like if they thought, felt, and behaved in the way that the paragraph described. Half of the participants first imagined responding in a self-compassionate manner, such as to treat themselves in a warm and caring way; telling themselves that failures and setbacks were inevitable and were part of life; not to treat themselves too critically. The other half first imagined responding in a self-critical way, such as to treat themselves in a cold and critical way; telling themselves that failures and setbacks should be avoided; not to treat themselves too kindly.

After each visualization, participants rated how they would perceive themselves on pairs of extreme characteristics, for instance how confident and insecure they would perceive themselves. They were also asked to rate how easy or difficult it was to imagine themselves in the situation as it was described, and to what extent the situation they imagined could describe how they generally approach negative events.

The results found that individuals with lower trait self-compassion saw themselves as less motivated and conscientious when they imagined behaving self-compassionately, whereas individuals with higher trait self-compassion did not share this view that treating themselves kindly would undermine their performance. Researchers explained that although people with lower trait self-compassion did not expect positive outcomes from self-critical behavior, they did tend to perceive self-criticism as a sign of strength and responsibility. It was suspected that they had the belief that negative emotions and self-criticism help to keep people’s behavior in line and that people who do not castigate themselves and feel badly will not be motivated to behave as they should. On the other hand, it was suggested that for people who have not received adequate care and affection from significant others in the past, self-compassion could cause feelings of vulnerability and threat.

It is very normal to pursue success. However, it requires not only appropriate strategies and planning, but also requires us to enhance mental well-being. It is not shameful to be kind to ourselves, but a responsible manner to care about our mental states. We should be kind to both others as well as ourselves. Let’s keep on our life journey in a more relaxed way with greater self-compassion.

Written by Crystal Ho & Dr. Cindy Chan

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Does Facebook make you unhappier?

Does Facebook make you unhappier?

Aug
14

Facebook has been published since 2004 and it immediately has become the most popular online social network in the world. Most people have at least one Facebook account. It is true that Facebook has given us a lot of fun in daily life, but there are also some invisible risks which we should be conce ...

Facebook has been published since 2004 and it immediately has become the most popular online social network in the world. Most people have at least one Facebook account. It is true that Facebook has given us a lot of fun in daily life, but there are also some invisible risks which we should be concerned. In recent years, other than the issues of ‘Facebook addiction’, psychologists are also studying how Facebook can affect our well-being.

Everyone uses Facebook for different reasons. Some people enjoy sharing their status with friends; posting interesting photos, videos and news. They also ‘like’ or comment on others’ posts. Some people, however, only use Facebook to obtain news and knowledges by looking through friends’ posts and news. They seldom share their status proactively or give comments on others’ posts.

Some American psychologists had conducted a research in 2014 and invited 80 university students to participate in it. First of all, participants were asked to rate their affect, loneliness, and life satisfaction before the experiment. Their motivation for using Facebook was also assessed. Then, participants were randomly assigned to ‘active group’ or ‘passive group’. The active group was required to use Facebook proactively in 10 minutes, such as actively sharing posts and commenting on others’ posts. The passive group was asked to use Facebook passively in 10 minutes, i.e. they could only view others’ posts but could not reply. After using Facebook for 10 minutes, participants were asked about their affect, loneliness, how connected to others they felt and how better or worse they thought their life seemed compared to others. At 9 pm on that day, they were required to do the same questionnaire again.

It was found that both groups did not show immediate alteration in moods. However, when they completed the questionnaire again at 9 pm on that day, the passive group showed a significant decline in moods. It implied that using Facebook passively may cause negative moods and this impact could only be observed after a while. Researchers had conducted another similar survey and found out that passive usage of Facebook might lead to envy, and envy made people feel down.

A group of German psychologists had conducted a research with 89 participants. After assessment, 44 participants were found to be suffering depression while the others were not. All participants were asked to look through 4 Facebook profiles. The owners of the profiles were chosen to roughly fall into the age group of the participant. Two of the owners, 1 male and 1 female, had more attractive appearance. Participants were asked to rate for each owner: how attractive they thought the profile owner was, how happy they thought the profile owner was, and how happy they thought the profile owner was compared to themselves. Moreover, participants were asked to indicate how envious and inferior they felt after faced with the profile. Their depressiveness and self-esteem were also measured. The results showed that depressed participants rated any profile owner happier relative to themselves, while non-depressed participants only rated attractive owners happier. Moreover, in general, envy was higher after seeing an attractive profile, and depressed participants were more envious.

Psychologists explained that depressed individuals reported more feelings of inferiority in the social comparison, and inferiority could predict envy substantially. Envy was furthermore correlated with depressive symptoms and negative with self-esteem. Envy is a normal affect, but it may sustain depressive mood.

Facebook is definitely a very useful and interesting social media which helps us interact with friends as well as learn new things. Nevertheless, we should be aware of our usage of Facebook to prevent addiction. Furthermore, we should not compare with others on Facebook. We can have a happier life with more self-acceptance and self-compassion. We do not need to prove it and let others see it on Facebook.

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Be Bright with Self-compassion

Be Bright with Self-compassion

Jun
5

American singer Ariana Grande hosted her concert in Manchester, the UK, on 22 May this year. When it came to the passionate end of the event, a horrifying bomb attack happened, causing 23 died and 62 injured in audience. Ariana Grande felt deeply sorrowful and guilty after the incident. She cancelle ...

American singer Ariana Grande hosted her concert in Manchester, the UK, on 22 May this year. When it came to the passionate end of the event, a horrifying bomb attack happened, causing 23 died and 62 injured in audience. Ariana Grande felt deeply sorrowful and guilty after the incident. She cancelled the following shows in other places and came back to USA immediately with a gaunt and grievous face. The incident came as a violent shock to her. However, Ariana Grande has gathered herself up very soon. She returned to Manchester 2 weeks after the incident, hosting a benefit concert to raise money for the victims and their families.

Ariana Grande is able to overcome the adversity positively and it may be attributed to her self-compassion. Psychologist Kristin Neff defines self-compassion as ‘being open to and moved by one’s own suffering, experiencing feelings of caring and kindness toward oneself, taking an understanding, nonjudgmental attitude one’s inadequacies and failures, and recognizing that one’s own experience is part of the common human experience’.[1] It is also mentioned that self-compassion consists of self-kindness, common humanity and mindfulness.

Psychologists pointed out that people who are self-compassionate tend to be more resilient, optimistic and higher in positive affectivity. When they are confront with negative events, they are still able to react with self-direct understanding and kindness. Oppositely, people who are self-critical tend to have lower self-esteem, to be more depressed and perfectionistic.

Some people think that encouraging self-compassion means to promote self-indulgence, which could undermine personality responsibility for one’s problems. It could also turn an individual into being self-centered, selfish, narcissistic and less motivated to strive for success. However, numerous research show that self-compassion is positively associated with our emotional well-beings through improving life satisfaction, reducing depressive mood and anxiety, and enabling us react to negative events more equanimously. Moreover, it is positively related to optimism, wisdom, initiative, curiosity and agreeableness. Since the self-compassionate individuals do not interpret trying and failing as threatening, they tend to be more motivated to strive for success and to encounter obstacles toward goal progression.

Over self-criticism is not the right track towards success.  It could suffocate us with overloading stress. On the contrary, being self-compassionate can bring us a happy and fruitful life.

 

[1] Neff, K. D. (2003a). The development and validation of a scale to measure self-compassion. Self and Identity, 2, 224.

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Chinese Style Romantic Relationship

Feb
23

Psychologist John Bowlby had taken the lead in studying Attachment Theory since 1950s. He suggested that emotional bond would be formed between an infant and caregiver during the early years of life. It motivates infants to seek proximity to caregivers to protect them from harm. Numerous research fo ...

Psychologist John Bowlby had taken the lead in studying Attachment Theory since 1950s. He suggested that emotional bond would be formed between an infant and caregiver during the early years of life. It motivates infants to seek proximity to caregivers to protect them from harm. Numerous research found that developing a healthy attachment style in childhood could promote long-term romantic bonds between adults, as stable romantic relationships promote shared parental care-giving that favours the survival of human offspring.

Attachment styles can be mainly classified into 3 types. ‘Attachment security’ is always classified as the healthiest one. People in this type show low levels of both anxiety and avoidance. They are more likely to have stable and satisfying romantic relationships.  Another type is ‘attachment anxiety’. People in this type have negative views of themselves. They are afraid of being rejected or abandoned, so they would pay more efforts to increase proximity and closeness to romantic partners. They would show less selectivity when indicating desire to establish contact with speed-dating partners. The third type is ‘attachment avoidance’. People in this type have negative views of others, treating others as untrustworthy and feeling uncomfortable with others getting closer to them. Therefore, they would pay efforts to avoid or reduce romantic intimacy. When they interact with potential partners, they report less romantic interest.

Some research pointed out that attachment anxiety and avoidance may undermine the quality of romantic relationships. Nevertheless, some Australian psychologists conducted a research in 2016 and found that cultural factors could influence the preference of partners in different attachment styles.

In the study, 93 local university students were invited to attend speed-dating activities. 42 of them were of Western ancestry while the other 51 of them were of Chinese ancestry. First of all, the participants completed an online questionnaire that assessed adult attachment. In speed dating, everyone had 3 minutes to interact with each person and they had to give a short evaluation for each of them. Results showed that Chinese women rated men high in attachment anxiety as more attractive than low anxious men.

Scholars explained that people with attachment anxiety have advantages in romantic relationship as they are better able to detect social threats. Although they often need to seek reassurance from their romantic partners, this also reflects that they focus on the needs and reactions of others. In perspective of evolutionary psychology, in general, women provide more resources and bear more risks than men during pregnancy and nurturing children. Therefore, they tend to prefer partners who are more attentive, responsive and willing to interact with them. Moreover, the collectivistic Chinese cultures emphasize inter-dependence, mutual obligation and close connection to family. People with attachment anxiety with these characteristics can be fit in with the cultural values of Chinese women.

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