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SELF Compassion for the Trauma Momma

March 12, 2015

{This article went out in my email newsletter yesterday.  I’ve always tried NOT to duplicate content, so forgive me!  It’s been a while since I’ve posted on the blog!  Forgive me for that too!!  It’s not uncommon for me to take writing breaks and it’s always for the same reason.  When life starts to get reallllly busy, I just cannot get in a brain space to write creatively.  I hope to get back to it because it really is my own form of self-care.  It’s a good litmus test- if I can write creatively I am well inside my window of tolerance!!!  And when I’m not writing regularly, I will give myself compassion!!  Thanks to everyone who has already emailed with lovely comments about how much the article meant to you.  It’s so helpful for me to remember that even a short article can really change someone’s day- and that’s important!!} (PS- as I’m proof-reading this, I’m wondering if I could possibly use any more exclamation points?!??!!!!!!!??!!!!!!)


Compassion {kum – pash – un}– the recognition and CLEAR SEEING of suffering.  Compassion involves feelings of kindness for the person who is suffering so that the desire to help end the suffering will emerge.  Compassion means we recognize that all humans are flawed and we are in this together.  (Kristin Neff, 2011).

Compassion isn’t too hard to find when others are hurting.  My whole job revolves around finding compassion.  Without compassion, I’d sit in my puffy brown therapist chair (it really is brown but it’s not actually that puffy) and stay focused on the myriad of difficult behaviors that walk through my door.  Underneath every single one of those maladaptive behaviors- in both the children and the adults- is suffering.  And through compassion, I can stay focused on that suffering as a framework for the behaviors.  This allows therapy to actually work!  When we ease suffering, we see a shift in maladaptive behaviors.

Sometimes easing suffering is as simple (note I said simple- not easy or painless) as shining a light on the suffering, looking at it together, and staying in a non-judgmental place of compassion.

Why is it so difficult to aim compassion on OURSELVES?

When we extend compassion toward others we don’t see it as a pity party.  It isn’t woe is you.  It isn’t your life is worse than mine.  So why is SELF-compassion so intimidating?  Why do we fear that if we extend compassion to ourselves for our suffering that we are throwing ourselves a pity party? Or that we are ‘letting ourselves off the hook.’ What if you spoke as kindly and gently to yourself as you did to your best friend?

There is suffering in parenting a child with a traumatized background.  You cannot invite that much suffering into your home without that suffering extending to you.  Maybe you are experiencing physical suffering due to an attack on your body or because parenting your child has put a tremendous amount of stress on your body and immune system.    Certainly there’s emotional suffering- including overwhelming grief and loss- for families who care for, parent, love, and commit to the hurting child.

Consider extending yourself some kindness.  Pause for a moment.  Place your hand over your heart, and maybe your other hand on your belly.  Say to yourself “I’m suffering.  This is hard.  I feel this pain.  I offer myself kindness.”

I’ve been learning and reading about self-compassion through the work of Kristin Neff, PhD- who happens to live nearby and works at UT Austin.    Everyone needs self-compassion.  You are no exception.

If you are local enough to Central Texas, please consider joining my colleagues and I for the 2nd Annual CTATC Conference in Austin on April 17- EMPOWER, EMBRACE, EMERGE.  I’ll be speaking even more about self-compassion and how to cultivate kindness toward yourself in order to ease suffering.   CLICK HERE for more information and to register!!!

PPPPPPS Last June I recorded a webinar about Self Compassion for parents of children impacted by trauma.  You can get the recording by   CLICKING HERE!!!


Like what you read here?  To get more trauma momma support, click here to sign up for my monthly newsletter!

Robyn Gobbel, LCSW is a child and family therapist in Austin, Texas specializing in adoption, trauma, and attachment counseling. She is the founder of the Central Texas Attachment & Trauma Center.

EMPOWER, EMBRACE, EMERGE– A Nourishing Conference for Parents & Caregivers in Austin, TX on April 17.  Created just for YOU!!

2 Comments leave one →
  1. March 12, 2015 11:46 am

    Robyn, I was at your talk in Grand Rapids this summer, and count it as one of the BEST sessions of this type that I have experienced. Thank you so much for all you do. HOW I wish you’d come back home to Michigan (I am undoubtedly joining with your parents in that wish). Anyway, I love it when you write. I was getting worried for a while. Thank you!

    • March 13, 2015 9:59 pm

      Thanks Annie! I’m looking at August 8th as a training date this summer! Thanks for your kind words!!

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