Does caring for yourself lead to seeking care from others? Investigating the relationship between self-compassion and interpersonal emotion regulation
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The benefits of self-compassion for intrapersonal emotion regulation have been well-documented, but few studies to date have examined how self-compassion might relate to the use of interpersonal strategies that aim to alleviate negative emotional states. Research has shown that self-compassion positively predicts motivations to seek care from others and is associated with decreased feelings of shame – a negative predictor of help-seeking. Such findings suggest that self-compassion could encourage the use of interpersonal emotion regulation in the face of emotional pain. However, highly self-compassionate individuals also tend to experience less distress in relation to negative self-relevant events, and distress is a key motivator for help-seeking. It is therefore possible that highly self-compassionate individuals may only seek others’ support when their level of distress is relatively high and exceeds their capacity to self-soothe. Three studies sought to determine whether self-compassion would predict increased use of interpersonal emotion regulation behaviours (i.e., distress disclosure and social support-seeking), and whether this association would depend on the level of distress experienced such that self-compassion would predict increased use of such behaviours only when distress was relatively high. Study 1 investigated the moderating effects of within-person and between-person levels of distress on the link between self-compassion and the use of social support using daily diary methods. Participants’ average levels of self-compassion over the week predicted increased social support, and this link was stronger among participants who experienced greater distress compared to others on average over the week, and within a participant on days when they experienced more distress than was usual for them. In Study 2, experimental methods were used to test whether a self-compassionate writing exercise would result in greater behavioural disclosure of a self-esteem threatening event relative to two comparison conditions (self-esteem and free writing exercises) and whether this effect would be mediated by decreases in shame. For events that were highly self-esteem threatening, the self-compassion condition resulted in greater disclosure compared to the free writing condition, but not compared to the self-esteem condition. Furthermore, the moderated effect of condition was not mediated by decreases in shame from pre- to post-intervention. Study 3 examined the links between self-reported trait self-compassion, distress, and interpersonal emotion regulation in relation to a recent, standardized rejection experience: being ghosted. Contrary to Studies 1 and 2, no moderating effect of distress on the relationship between self-compassion and interpersonal emotion regulation was found. Through path analysis, self-compassion showed both a direct positive relationship to interpersonal emotion regulation and an indirect negative relationship to interpersonal emotion regulation through decreased distress. Additionally, a multiple mediator analysis indicated that the perceived utility and risk of disclosing distress to close others were implicated in the relationship between self-compassion and interpersonal emotion regulation. The results of the present research suggest a consistent link between trait levels of self-compassion and greater use of interpersonal emotion regulation strategies in naturalistic settings, though this relationship may be somewhat suppressed by self-compassion’s intrapersonal regulatory benefits in decreasing distress. The positive association between self-compassion and interpersonal emotion regulation strategies may largely be accounted for by their perceived utility. Trait and experimentally induced self-compassion may not encourage interpersonal regulatory efforts under conditions where the utility of interpersonal emotion regulation is unclear (e.g., in experimental settings with strangers, when self-esteem threat is low).
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Jessica R. Dupasquier (2020). Does caring for yourself lead to seeking care from others? Investigating the relationship between self-compassion and interpersonal emotion regulation. UWSpace. http://hdl.handle.net/10012/16535