In the moment of suffering, how do you deal with stressful experiences? Have you tried to ignore your experiences and feelings? Do you tend to be very critical of yourself? Have you heard about cultivating self-compassion?

When we take a compassionate stance towards ourselves when dealing with distressing experiences, we are practicing self-compassion. Studies indicated that increased levels of self-compassion are associated with increased psychological well-being.

Self-compassion consists of three pairs of components: self-kindness versus self-judgment, common humanity versus isolation, and mindfulness versus over-identification.

  • Self-kindness is the ability to offer kindness, patience, and understanding rather than being judgmental or harsh to ourselves during times of perceived suffering, failure and inadequacy.
  • Common humanity emphasizes that all human beings are imperfect and may engage in unhealthy behaviors when facing negative life events. When we are able to connect with people with similar experience, it decreased the sense of loneliness or isolation.
  • Mindfulness entails the awareness of the present moment. Rather than worrying about the future or dwelling onto the past, we are able to live in the present moment and be consistent with our values.

During difficult periods, if we are engaging in negative self-judging behaviors and attitudes, it may lead to over-identification with our short-comings. As a result of the over-identification, we may feel isolated because we are unable to understand that everyone goes through this similar process. Through the practice of self-compassion, we learn to acknowledge that life is imperfect when facing life challenges. Instead of ignoring or engaging in rumination of our shortcomings, we approach our personal flaws and shortcomings in a balanced manner during difficult situations. Additionally, we learn to adopt a healthy and positive attitude toward solving problems in life and showing affection to ourselves. When interacting with others, we are able to relate or empathize with the experiences of other people.

Practicing self-compassion can be easy but challenging, especially if you are used to being critical of yourself. Can you think about when you are not critical and when you are able to extend that compassion towards yourself? For instance, having a lower expectation of yourself or allowing yourself to have a break. These small actions, as simple as they may be, help cultivate a sense of self-compassion.

With self-compassion we mindfully accept that the moment is painful, and embrace ourselves with kindness and care in response, remembering that imperfection is part of the shared human experience.” (Neff, 2019)

Written by:
Dr. Ting Huay Ooi
gistered Psychologist
SACAC Counselling


Barnard, L. K., & Curry, J. F. (2011). Self-compassion: Conceptualizations, correlates, & interventions. Review of General Psychology, 15(4), 289-303.

Neff, K. D. (2003). The development and validation of a scale to measure Self-compassion. Self and Identity, 2, 223–250. doi:10.1080/15298860390209035

Neff, K.D. (2019). Tips for Practice. Retrieved from

Neff, K. D., Kirkpatrick, K. L., & Rude, S. S. (2007). Self-compassion and adaptive psychological functioning. Journal of Research in Personality, 41, 139–154. doi:10.1016/j.jrp.2006.03.004

Attached: To Their Screens?

Attachment is a necessity for human life – across the lifespan. Attachment is connection and compassion, it is the relationships with people you trust and who care about you. This blog post explores how screens (including our own) interfere with attachment behaviours and as such can leave children and young people in an attachment void, increasing their peer orientation and peer attachments. Physician Dr. Gabor Maté and Clinical Psychologist Gordon Neufield help put a context around what is biologically required for children and young people, to attach and the challenges for parents “in the digital age”. 

Screens and our reliance on them is one of parents, teachers and all who love and care for children and young people’s biggest concern for them. We are concerned by what our young people tell us, we are concerned by what we see on Netflix (Social Dilemma anyone?), we notice it in ourselves and our addictions to screens, work and social media. We are most concerned by the behavior changes we notice. Parents and professionals are concerned about increased addictive behavior, increased mental health concerns (Anxiety, Depression, suicidality), and decreased adult and intergenerational connection and influence in their young person’s life, and the reality is – it is complex. There is a tremendous amount we do not know about the brain, brain development, there is luck, genetics, the environment, the peer group, maturational factors, school, sibling order; the list could go on. However, we can take an approach of trying to understand, with some empathy and nuance, why do children and young people sometimes find themselves in situations where they are practically strangers to the people who care deeply about them and want to connect, and they are overly connected to their peers – much of which is online?

There is a never-ending round of discussion in any parenting group you would care to join on how, when, and what media we should allow access to for our children. Furthermore, this may not be solely a family decision – children may be required to have a device for school, parents may feel it is important to have a phone for safety and/ or accessibility. It is very much a case that the “horse” has well and truly bolted from the barn – so how can we help make it safer for children and young people, for their brains, their minds, and their emerging sense of self?

Here is a typical parental concern you may hear at any gathering of parents with adolescents: “I don’t feel as though I know them at all anymore”, “they come home from school (or spend the day during home learning) and then they are in their room, are on their phone/ laptop/ device – chatting, doing homework, YouTube, online gaming from the minute they get home until they go to bed. I barely see them for dinner.” These struggles have been normalized through our culture – however, my sense is that it doesn’t have to be this way. In fact, the young people themselves do not like either. They are uncomfortable, scared, lost, and confused and that is why they turn to the screens in a never-ending loop of attempting to connect, to feel safe, and to sometimes numb the painful feelings they are experiencing.

But first – what is the problem if an adolescent is overly focussed on their peers? The problem is that with the never-ending access to screens and expectations young people have of themselves to be constantly available (via Snapchat, Discord, Messenger, etc.) that this can interfere with their primary caregiver attachments and relationships.  Certainly, teens are empathetic, they are kind and thoughtful, they can be fun, delightful, interesting, and intelligent. They however still need an adult, a secure safe trusted caregiver who has wisdom through context, who loves and values them unconditionally, who can help them problem solve, who they are not overly reliant on for their emerging ego development. In other words – we all can benefit from peer relationships, but for a child and a young person, this can become mutually exclusive to the adult caregiver attachment. If at the exact moment when our teenagers need to be held gently, to be contained and celebrated – if they are only left with a culture of fear of exclusion, desperate needs to fit in, to be fulfilling their attachment instinct with their peers rather than a parent or trusted caregiver then we are creating environments that are unsafe for them.

What can we do?

1.) Prioritize family time. Dr. Gordon Neufeld believes that children spend plenty of time with their peers at school. Time outside of school and work (holidays, weekends, etc.) need not to be always socializing with peers. This helps them stay attached to the family and caregivers.

2.) Proximity and connection with all our senses. This means that we adults need to be physically and emotionally available. We as caregivers need to be aware of our own divided attention and screen usage, turn our full attention to them, show and develop an interest in what interests them.

3.) Have shared experiences, both on and off screens. Cultural practices and rites of passage are important for adolescents, it can help anchor them with roots to the community and support emerging identity development.

Gabor Mate and Gordon Neufuld have many resources including “Hold Onto Your Kids” and various lecture series for parents and professionals. 

Written by:
Veronica McKibbin
SACAC Counselling

Gordon Neufeld:
Dr. Gabor Maté :