• Lotte Kjær Jørgensen
4. term, Psychology, Master (Master Programme)
Depression is one of the most prevalent mental health disorders. It often appears as a recurring phenomenon, in which the person affected by the illness is characterized by a persistently negative self-image. This thesis examines how the concept of self-compassion adds something applicable to the existing knowledge regarding conceptualization, treatment and relapse prevention of depression and the negative self-image. The existing knowledge concerning this subject often refers to the field of cognitive theory and therapy along with the concept of self-esteem, which is useful in the treatment of depression, but can be viewed at as having some challenges when working with the self-image. Therefore, this paper firstly looks into and discusses the research area and theory of the cognitive conceptualization of depression and the negative self-image. Secondly, further examinations will be made regarding the new field of self-compassion in relation to theory and research. Finally, these conceptualizations will be the basis for a discussion.
Self-compassion is a relatively new concept in the research field of psychology, and it is related to other third-wave cognitive psychology disciplines, such as mindfulness. It involves a new way of looking at the self, which focuses on activating soothing and safe qualities and involves the individual learning to treat the self with care and compassion instead of being self-critical and self-judgmental in the face of hardships in life. The main findings in the research review in this thesis indicated that both self-esteem and self-compassion constitutes aspects of psychological vulnerability to depression. To date, research on compassion-focused therapy is in its early age, but so far it suggests, that it can be an efficient addition to the traditional cognitive behavioral therapy.
The discussion presented different visions on how self-compassion can add something relevant to the existing knowledge regarding the negative self-image in people dealing with depression, which can be summarized in the following arguments. Firstly it is suggested that self-compassion decreases the threat-focused affect regulation system that produces depression, and is especially relevant in working with the more implicit emotional systems, so that the individual feels a change in the self-image and not simply sees the logic of alternative thoughts. Secondly it is suggested, that working with self-compassion contributes to less resistance to change because the focus is on addressing and acknowledging personal limitations simultaneously with the awareness of the fact that people with negative self-views often have a desire for self-verification, which can override the desire for positive evaluations and self-compassion. Thirdly, the work with self-compassion contributes to a less individualistic realm of understanding where everything is not a distortion of reality, which is assumed to give the person with depression less guilt and a greater willingness to work with the self-image. Furthermore it is suggested, that self-compassion works as a buffer against various difficult circumstances in the late-modern society, such as feelings of inadequacy and comparison, which is especially relevant to people with depression and negative self-images. Because self-compassion is a new psychological concept, it requires time adapting to, since it is contradictory to the values of society and the well-known concept of self-esteem. This thesis suggests that self-compassion may be an efficient supplement when working with the negative self-image in individuals with depression, but it requires further experimental research that examines, how self-compassion contributes to a positive self-image in the long run and prevents relapse of depression.
Publication date28 May 2014
Number of pages80
ID: 198134226