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Human beings are unique in their ability to think consciously about themselves. Because they have a capacity for self-awareness not shared by other animals, people can imagine themselves in the future, anticipate consequences, plan ahead, improve themselves, and perform many other behaviors that are uniquely characteristic of human beings. Yet, despite the obvious advantages of self-reflection, the capacity for self-thought comes at a high price as people's lives are adversely affected and their inner chatter interferes with their success, pollutes their relationships, and undermines their happiness. Indeed, self-relevant thought is responsible for most of the personal and social difficulties that human beings face as individuals and as a species. Among other things, the capacity for self-reflection distorts people's perceptions, leading them to make bad decisions based on faulty information. The self conjures up a great deal of personal suffering in the form of depression, anxiety, anger, envy, and other negative emotions by allowing people to ruminate about the past or imagine the future. Egocentrism and egotism blind people to their own shortcomings, promote self-serving biases, and undermine their relationships with others. The ability to self-reflect also underlies social conflict by leading people to separate themselves into ingroups and outgroups. Ironically, many sources of personal unhappiness — such as addictions, overeating, unsafe sex, infidelity, and domestic violence — are due to people's inability to exert self-control. For those inclined toward religion and spirituality, visionaries throughout history have proclaimed that the egoic self stymies the quest for spiritual fulfillment and leads to immoral behavior.
<p>Five studies investigated the cognitive and emotional processes by which self-compassionate people deal with unpleasant life events. In the various studies, participants reported on negative events in their daily lives, responded to hypothetical scenarios, reacted to interpersonal feedback, rated their or others' videotaped performances in an awkward situation, and reflected on negative personal experiences. Results from Study 1 showed that self-compassion predicted emotional and cognitive reactions to negative events in everyday life, and Study 2 found that self-compassion buffered people against negative self-feelings when imagining distressing social events. In Study 3, self-compassion moderated negative emotions after receiving ambivalent feedback, particularly for participants who were low in self-esteem. Study 4 found that low-self-compassionate people undervalued their videotaped performances relative to observers. Study 5 experimentally induced a self-compassionate perspective and found that self-compassion leads people to acknowledge their role in negative events without feeling overwhelmed with negative emotions. In general, these studies suggest that self-compassion attenuates people's reactions to negative events in ways that are distinct from and, in some cases, more beneficial than self-esteem.</p>