Practicing Self-Compassion Weakens the Relationship Between Fear of Receiving Compassion and the Desire to Conceal Negative Experiences from Others
Disclosure of personal distress is linked to important interpersonal and intrapersonal benefits. However, people who tend to view self-disclosure as being risky are likely to conceal their feelings and forgo opportunities to receive valuable social support. One such group of people may be those who fear receiving compassion. The current study of 85 female undergraduates investigated (a) whether fear of receiving compassion would predict decreased distress disclosure and (b) whether inducing a self-compassionate mindset could help to temper the association between fear of receiving compassion and perceived risks of revealing one’s distress to others. Participants completed self-report questionnaires to measure trait-like fears of receiving compassion as well as general distress disclosure tendencies. They were then enrolled in a laboratory experiment in which they recalled a personal past negative experience and were randomly assigned to write about it in a self-compassionate, self-esteem enhancing, or non-directive way. Finally, they rated how risky disclosing their experience would feel and disclosed the event in a written letter to another person. At a trait level, results indicated that the more participants feared receiving compassion, the less they tended to disclose. Moreover, self-compassion training—but neither of the comparison conditions—significantly weakened the positive link between fear of receiving compassion and perceived risks of distress disclosure. These novel findings suggest that practicing self-compassion could help to neutralize the maladaptive relationship between fear of receiving compassion and perceived risk of disclosure.
KeywordsSelf-compassion Self-disclosure Distress disclosure Fear of compassion
Special thanks to Ariella Lenton-Brym for her assistance in organizing and collecting the data for this project.
This research was supported by funding from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (first, second, and third authors) and the Canada Research Chairs Program (third author).
Compliance with Ethical Standards
Conflicts of Interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.
- Dindia, K. (2002). Self-disclosure research: knowledge through meta-analysis. In M. Allen, R. W. Preiss, B. M. Gayle, & N. A. Burrell (Eds.), Interpersonal communication research: advances through meta-analysis (pp. 169–185). Mahwah: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar
- Gilbert, P. (Ed.). (2005). Compassion: conceptualization, research, and use in psychotherapy. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
- Houghton, D.J., & Joinson, A.N. (2012, January). Linguistic markers of secrets and sensitive self-disclosure in Twitter. Paper presented at the 45th Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences, Maui, HI.Google Scholar
- IBM Corporation. (2011). IBM SPSS Statistics for Windows, version 20.0. Armonk: IBM Corporation.Google Scholar
- Laurenceau, J. P., Barrett, L. F., & Pietromonaco, P. R. (1998). Intimacy as an interpersonal process: the importance of self-disclosure, partner disclosure, and perceived partner responsiveness in interpersonal exchanges. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 74, 1238–1251.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
- Pennebaker, J. W., Boyd, R. L., Jordan, K., & Blackburn, K. (2015). The development and psychometric properties of LIWC2015. Austin: University of Texas at Austin.Google Scholar
- Tafarodi, R. W., & Milne, A. B. (2006). Decomposing global self-esteem. Journal of Personality, 70, 443–483.Google Scholar
- Ward, M., Doherty, D. T., & Moran, R. (2007). It’s good to talk: distress disclosure and psychological wellbeing. Dublin: Health Research Board.Google Scholar