About Fierce Self-Compassion
Dr Kristin Neff, co-developer of the Mindful Self-Compassion training programme published a book in 2021 called Fierce Self-Compassion and more recently has developed a companion training course.
The quintessential question of self-compassion is “What do I need right now?” and more specifically “What do I need to help alleviate my suffering?” The answer to this question changes depending on the circumstances. Sometimes what we need is to accept ourselves in all our human imperfection, to love ourselves as we are in the moment. But that doesn’t mean we necessarily want to stay as we are in the moment. If a herd of cattle is stampeding toward you, it’s not the time for self-acceptance, it’s time for action. Most people think of self-compassion as soft and gentle, but self-compassion can be fierce as well as tender. (If the word ‘fierce’ doesn’t feel comfortable for you we can use alternatives such as ‘strong’ or ‘assertive’.)
Tender self-compassion involves “being with” ourselves in an accepting way: comforting ourselves, reassuring ourselves that we aren’t alone, and being present with our pain. Fierce self-compassion involves “acting in the world” to alleviate suffering. It tends to involve protecting, providing for, and motivating ourselves. Sometimes we need to stand tall and say no, draw boundaries, or fight injustice. Or we may need to say yes to ourselves, to do what’s needed to be happy rather than subordinating our needs to those of others. And if we’re stuck in a bad situation or habits that are harmful, it means doing something different. Not because we’re unacceptable as we are, but because we care.
Watch this short video of Kristin Neff introducing Fierce Self-Compassion
If tender self-compassion is metaphorically like a parent soothing their crying child, fierce self-compassion is like mother bear who ferociously protects her cubs when threatened, or catches fish to feed them, or moves them to a new territory with better resources. Just as tenderness can be turned inward so that we nurture and care for ourselves, the fierce energy of a mother bear can also be turned inward to stand up for ourselves. What’s essential is that like yin and yang, these two faces of self-compassion are balanced and integrated so that we can be whole. When both are present, it creates a caring force that can be used to transform ourselves and the world around us.
What to expect
The FSC course programme includes guided meditation practices, short talks, experiential exercises, discussions small and larger groups, and home practices. The aim is for participants to directly experience a balance of both tender and fierce self-compassion and learn practices that evoke self-compassion in daily life.
This course builds directly on the MSC training so it is only open to those who have already taken MSC (please get in touch if you have taken a similar/equivalent training).
FSC is primarily a compassion training programme rather than mindfulness training like Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) or Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT), although mindfulness is the foundation of self-compassion. FSC is also not psychotherapy insofar as the emphasis of FSC is on building emotional resources rather than addressing old wounds. Positive change occurs naturally as we develop the capacity to be with ourselves in a kinder, more compassionate way.
Some difficult emotions may arise when practicing self-compassion, and as your teacher I am committed to providing a safe, supportive environment for this process to unfold, and to making the journey interesting and enjoyable for everyone.