From Brokenheartedness to Self-Compassion (Part 1)

Brokenheartedness is often the cause, and compulsive sexual behavior is one of the effects. Of course there is much more nuance to this equation; however, healing the heartbreak requires self-compassion to ease the shame, hurt, self-loathing and grief.

I grew up in a family lacking consistent compassion and self-compassion. I do believe there was hidden love along with lots of barriers preventing deeper connection among us. As a result, I became a heat-seeking missile looking for love elsewhere—first with friends and their families and then with anonymous hookups. My efforts toward connection were well-intentioned but they were a misguided attempt toward deeper contact and intimacy.

Mindful self-compassion (MSC) was introduced to me quite recently by my associate, Jen Davis. In the past I heard about its growing popularity but never experienced an up close and personal account of it. Jen attended a retreat with Kristin Neff, one of the developers of MSC which sparked a contagious enthusiasm. I remember a pivotal conversation when she suggested I listen to Chris Germer and Tara Brach, both talented self-compassion teachers, and I began listening to their guided meditations consistently. Before I knew it, my morning MSC ritual evolved into one of my favorite daily tonesetters.

Back in the 90’s I learned about the neuroplasticity of the brain—evidence that you can teach an old dog new tricks. My ingrained family patterns and sexual compulsivity were my well-worn paths that I lived with for the first few decades of my life. In my early 30s I added twelve-step work to my weekly therapy, and new neural pathways were being constructed including self-acceptance, self-compassion and even self-love.

What exactly is Mindful Self-Compassion? Here are the three main components:

  1. Self-kindness versus self-judgment.
  2. A sense of common humanity versus isolation.
  3. Mindfulness versus over-identification with pain.

In Chris Germer’s 6-minute guided meditation entitled Self-Compassion Break, he walks the listener through these three steps. Self-kindness helps normalize your distress related to difficulties in your life and suggests you see this through the lens of compassion and patience. Common humanity refers to the fact that others are also going through similar challenges—you are not alone in your pain. Mindfulness reminds you that you can treat yourself in the same way you would treat a loved one. This practice reminds you that the healing of self is not an isolated moment, class or workshop—it creates new neural pathways over time.

When you develop more compassion for yourself, you’re also paving the way for greater self-acceptance as well as self-love. Deeper connection to self is a cornerstone of sustainable recovery as you turn down the volume on the inner critic and turn up the volume on deeper self-acceptance. In Part Two I will outline action steps and strategies to incorporate self-compassion into your recovery and your updated lifestyle.

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