5 research-informed reasons to separate compassionately

5 research-informed reasons to separate compassionately

I help people separate compassionately.  Compassionate separation is a way of approaching separation with awareness, kindness and empathy.

Compassion is the ability to understand our suffering, or the suffering of others, with kindness and awareness during times of difficulty. It makes us realise we are all vulnerable, and helps us turn towards our feelings rather than away from them, and this has many positive flow on effects. Whilst compassion is a natural tendency, we can also learn to be more compassionate with ourselves and with others.

Why separate compassionately? Here are 5 research-informed reasons.

1 Self-compassion makes you emotionally resilient when relationships end

If we cultivate self-compassion when our relationships end, we are more emotionally resilient and our well-being is enhanced. We still feel the pain of separation, but we avoid getting stuck in negative mental states, punishing ourselves and wallowing in our isolation and loneliness.And the effect is durable, supporting our longer term emotional adjustment.

2 Self-compassion helps you make mindful choices

When you are compassionate with yourself, you become aware of how you are feeling. You acknowledge your feelings gently and don’t judge them harshly. You hold your feelings carefully and mindfully, allowing them to be.

The science shows us that if you foster self-compassion, you experience more positive feelings and fewer negative feelings. You feel better and happier, more connected, less stressed, and less likely to be depressed, anxious and fearful. Self-compassion can help us to soothe and manage our emotions. It can also help us take responsibility for our actions. Both outcomes create space to take in information, think more clearly and make better decisions.

3 Self-compassion helps you develop compassion and empathy for others

Compassion sounds improbable when relationships end and you are grieving or feeling angry or hopeless.

Self-compassion can help us develop compassion or empathy for others. Empathy is understanding and experiencing another person’s feelings. You don’t have to agree with the other person to find a perspective which includes some understanding that they are in their own struggle, just like you. Empathy can help you make less reactive decisions and is especially important where there will be ongoing relationships, like parenting.

4 Self-compassion helps you to parent mindfully

Separation can often compromise parents’ capacity to be there for their kids and to continue to provide them a secure base. Mindful parenting involves bringingcompassion, acceptance and kindness to parenting to be fully present when you interact with your child. Mindful parenting reduces parental stress, improves parental adaptability, develops authoritative and warm parenting and ultimately supports your child’s wellbeing.

5 Self-compassion assists recovery from trauma

The incidence of domestic and family violence is high among people who separate. People who experience violence also commonly suffer trauma. Many who use violence have trauma histories.

Domestic violence survivors who learn self-compassioncan increase resilience and subjective happiness as well as decrease depression, anxiety and stress. Learning mindfulness and self-compassion can support trauma recovery and reduce post-traumatic stress symptoms among survivors of interpersonal trauma. Self-compassion also assists emotional self-regulation and thus may support capacity to engage, empathise, make considered decisions and parent mindfully.

Professional support for compassionate separation

Professional understanding of and support for compassionate separation is still emerging. In the meantime, we can learn and model self-compassion, understand the research in other contexts, and apply simple strategies to support our clients’ emotional regulation.  We can pause, take a deep breath, and use mindfulness to become aware of our own internal emotional process, and compassionately remind ourselves we all struggle at times, especially with dysregulated couples.




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