Self-Compassion and Attachment Priming: Does Security Priming Aid Self-Compassion in Self-Critical Individuals?
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
Embargoed for 18 months from date of publication on ORE.
Reason for embargo
I wish to place an embargo on my thesis to be made universally accessible via ORE, the online institutional repository, for a standard period of 18 months because I wish to publish papers using material that is substantially drawn from my thesis.
Self-compassion is increasingly recognised as beneficial in psychotherapy, but can also be experienced as threatening. Attachment priming has been shown to enhance affiliative behaviours even in those with insecure trait attachment styles, and to decrease arousal and threat sensitivity. The current study investigated (a) associations between self-criticism, self-compassion, fear of self-compassion and trait attachment insecurity, and (b) whether attachment-related security priming could promote state self-compassion and reduce physiological arousal when self-compassion induction was attempted by self-critical individuals. 49 participants with high levels of self-reported self-criticism completed either a “secure” or a “neutral” prime before undertaking a loving-kindness meditation. Participants’ heart rate and skin conductance levels were collected at baseline and during the priming and meditation; participants also self-rated their levels of state self-criticism, state self-compassion and state attachment security at each of these points. Correlational analyses (Spearman’s rho) found positive associations between trait self-criticism and trait attachment insecurity and between trait fear of self-compassion and trait attachment insecurity, although not between low trait self-compassion and trait attachment insecurity. Group and time differences were analysed using a combination of parametric (ANOVA, t-test) and non-parametric tests (Mann-Whitney U-test, Kruskal Wallis, Wilcoxon Signed Rank) as some data were not normally distributed). Attachment priming was shown to significantly enhance state self-compassion and also to significantly increase state attachment security and decrease state attachment avoidance, although not state self-criticism or state attachment anxiety, and to give some reductions in physiological arousal. This benefit, however, did not persist in subsequent exposure to loving-kindness meditation, although individuals not receiving attachment priming also showed some reduction of threat and activation of soothing systems from loving-kindness meditation. These findings suggest that attachment priming and loving-kindness meditation may increase self-compassion for some self-critical people, but there are not necessarily cumulative benefits from combining these practices.