Early shame and safeness memories, and later depressive symptoms and safe affect: The mediating role of self-compassion

Abstract

Compassion focused therapy (CFT) is a promising treatment for depression, especially where there are features of shame. CFT works to reduce fears of compassion, and develop compassion competencies, to alleviate distress and cultivate safe affect. While the relationship between fears of compassion, early emotional memories and depression is empirically supported, our aim was to explore the role of compassion competencies in these associations. A general population sample of 223 participants completed questionnaires measuring traumatic qualities and centrality of shame memories, early memories of warmth and safeness, compassion for others, from others and self-compassion, and depressive symptoms and safe affect. Results showed that shame memories’ traumatic qualities and centrality correlated positively with depressive symptoms and negatively with safe affect, compassion from others and self-compassion, while early memories of warmth and safeness correlated negatively with depressive symptoms and positively with safe affect and self-compassion. Self-compassion had the strongest correlations with depressive symptoms and safe affect. Path analysis revealed self-compassion as the only significant mediator on associations between early emotional memories, depressive symptoms and safe affect. Clinical implications include support for developing compassion competencies when working with depression and shame, and working directly with early emotional memories themselves.

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Correspondence to Stanley R. Steindl.

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Steindl, S.R., Matos, M. & Creed, A.K. Early shame and safeness memories, and later depressive symptoms and safe affect: The mediating role of self-compassion. Curr Psychol 40, 761–771 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12144-018-9990-8

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Keywords

  • Shame
  • Safeness
  • Self-compassion
  • Depressive symptoms