What is MSC?

Kristin Neff and Christopher Germer

Mindful Self-Compassion (MSC) is an empirically-supported 8-week program designed to cultivate the skill of self-compassion. It was developed by Christopher Germer, PhD, a leader in the integration of mindfulness and psychotherapy (www.MindfulSelfCompassion.org) and Kristin Neff, PhD, a pioneering researcher in the field of self-compassion (www.Self-Compassion.org). 

MSC combines the skills of mindfulness and self-compassion to enhance our capacity for emotional wellbeing. Mindfulness is the first step—turning with loving awareness toward difficult experience (thoughts, emotions, and sensations). Self-compassion comes next—bringing loving awareness to ourselves. Together, mindfulness and self-compassion comprise a state of warm, connected, presence during difficult moments in our lives.

Most of us feel compassion when a close friend is struggling. What would it be like to receive the same caring attention from yourself when you needed it most? All that’s required is a shift in attention—recognizing that as a human being, you, too, are a worthy recipient of compassion. Self-compassion involves the capacity to comfort and soothe ourselves, and to motivate ourselves with encouragement, when we suffer, fail, or feel inadequate. Self-compassion is learned in part by connecting with our innate compassion for others, and self-compassion also helps to grow and sustain our compassion for others.

Burgeoning research shows that self-compassion is strongly associated with emotional wellbeing, coping with life challenges, lower levels of anxiety and depression, healthy habits such as diet and exercise, and more satisfying personal relationships. It is an inner strength that enables us to be more fully human—to acknowledge our shortcomings, learn from them, and make necessary changes with an attitude of kindness and self-respect.

Fortunately, self-compassion can be learned by anyone.

What to Expect

In MSC you’ll learn to:

• Practice mindfulness and self-compassion in daily life

• Understand the science of self-compassion

• Handle difficult emotions with greater ease

• Motivate yourself with kindness rather than criticism

• Transform challenging relationships, old and new

• Manage caregiver fatigue

• Practice the art of savoring and self-appreciation

• Teach simple self-compassion skills to others

This program is designed for members of the general public. Meditation experience is not necessary to participate in MSC. All are welcome!

Program activities include short talks, experiential exercises, meditation, group discussion, and home practices.  MSC is an opportunity to explore how we typically respond when difficulties arise in our lives and to learn tools for becoming a warm and supportive companion to ourselves.

The MSC program is a journey—an adventure in self-discovery and self-kindness. Self-compassion has the paradoxical effect of both soothing our emotional distress as well as opening us to the pain that we may have been unconsciously holding inside, often for many years.  Therefore, some difficult emotions are likely to surface during the program as we grow in our capacity to embrace and heal them. MSC teachers are committed to providing an environment of safety, support, privacy, individual responsibility, and a common commitment to developing compassion for oneself and others.

MSC is therapeutic but it’s not therapy. The emphasis of the program is on enhancing emotional resources to meet emotional challenges, old and new. MSC is also not primarily a type of mindfulness training; MSC is mindfulness-based compassion training in which the quality of warmth is emphasized more than awareness itself.

MSC participants are asked to practice mindfulness and self-compassion at home for up to ½ hour per day during the course. In a randomized, controlled study, MSC significantly increased self-compassion, compassion for others, mindfulness, and life satisfaction, as well as decreased depression, anxiety and stress. Improvements were linked to how much a person practiced in their daily lives. For the full-text article, please click here (PDF).

It is recommended, but not required, that participants read the following two books before participating in MSC:

  • Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself by Kristin Neff
  • The Mindful Path to Self-Compassion by Christopher Germer