Fearing Compassion Has No Effect on Physiological Indicators Despite Changes in Psychological Well-Being
Objectives: Research has not yet understood whether fears of compassion prevent effectiveness of compassionate interventions on physical and psychological well-being. This study anticipated higher fears of compassion would lead to greater physiological responses, higher self-criticism and psychological distress whilst reducing social safeness. Design: Independent groups of high and low fears of compassion were allocated using a median split during data collation. Galvanic skin response (GSR) and pulse were the dependent physical variables, and social safeness, self-criticism and psychological symptoms of depression, anxiety and stress were the psychological dependent variables. Method: 60 undergraduate students aged 18-43 were sampled from De Montfort University. A median split resulted in 31 participants in the high fears group and 29 in the low fears group. All participants were asked to read information sheets and sign two consent forms. Participants then completed the Fears of Compassion Scale, the Forms of Self-Criticism/Self-Reassuring Scale, the Social Safeness Scale and the Depression, Anxiety and Stress Scale (DASS). Two compassionate exercises were then administered using audio headsets whilst pulse and GSR were measured using AD instruments. Finally, participants were debriefed, thanked for their time and informed they could withdraw their data up to three days after the experiment. Results: Despite, a non-significant finding on physiological indicators, a significant result was found on psychological indicators of well-being, (F(3,56)= 5.721, p<.01, Wilks Lambda = .765, partial n2= .235). Independent analysis found differences in social safeness (F(1,58)= 14.46, p<.01, partial n2= .20) and DASS (F(1,58)= 6.53, p<.05, partial n2= .101). Social safeness was higher in the low fears of compassion group, 46.87 (SD= 6.06), whilst DASS was greater in the high fears group, 23.34 (SD= 12.91). Conclusions: These findings suggested despite psychological effects from fearing compassion, fears do not have any impact on physical soothing. This suggested compassionate exercises remain effective for reducing physiological factors of distress for those with higher fears of compassion but may hinder improvement in psychological distress.
Citation:Gill, J.K. and Scase, M. (2018) Fearing Compassion Has No Effect on Physiological Indicators Despite Changes in Psychological Well-Being. British Psychological Society Midlands Conference in Birmingham, UK, 3 September 2018.