Going Through Divorce? Learn Self-Compassion for Best Outcome

As an individual who is currently going through divorce, I know firsthand the emotional distress that divorcees experience. Divorce brings up feelings of loss, sadness, anger, jealousy, grief, guilt, shame, embarrassment, and anxiety (to name but a few!).

How do I survive divorce?

All of these are normal feelings for one muddling through a divorce. While I have struggled at times with my divorce, overall it has gone better than I ever could have imagined. Yes, there have been days filled with depression. There have been moments of hopelessness. There are the occasional bouts of anger. Yet, on the whole, I greatly misjudged just how difficult the experience would be.

Self-Compassion is the Key to an Easier Divorce

Partly, this success is due to my having taught and practiced self-compassion for the past five years.

Self-compassion is basically being kind to yourself when things go badly. However, this is a greatly watered down version of self-compassion.

The goal is to treat yourself with the same type of kindness and compassion that most people extend to loved ones when they fail. When someone else makes a mistake, most people will react with some degree of kindness and understanding. Self-compassion turns down the volume on anger typically associated with huge mistakes while still maintaining your sense of personal responsibility. A 2007 study at Duke University found that ‘inducing self-compassion may disengage the relationship between taking responsibility and experiencing negative affect.’ This allows you to still take full responsibility for your mistakes while minimizing the amount of time that you spend beating yourself up as well as reduced the intensity of those ubiquitous destructive emotions I mentioned earlier.

The way in which you do this is to speak to yourself as if you were a three-year-old child. This allows for mistakes (which is a major path for learning), screw ups, and errors. Self-compassion is related to greater resiliency (the ability to bounce back from difficulty) which every divorcee can use.

New Study on Self-Compassion and Divorce 

A study is coming out this month in Psychological Science on the importance of self-compassion for those in the midst of a divorce. The authors, David Sbarra, Hillary Smith and Matthias Mehl, state ‘Self-compassion can promote resilience and positive outcomes in the face of divorce.’

The study compared self-compassion to other major traits, such as self-esteem, resistance to depression, realistic optimism, or social intelligence. The findings?

Self-Compassion Accurately Predicted Quickest Positive Outcome Following Divorce 

The only trait that consistently predicted positive outcomes following a divorce was self-compassion. That is amazing!

The study involved 105 participants (38 men and 67 women) with an average age of 40. They’d been married, on average, for 13 years and had been divorced for 3-4 months. The researchers had the participants call to mind their ex-spouse and then talk for four minutes about their thoughts and emotions related to the break up. This was done at three time points – initial visit, three months later and six to nine months later.  The researchers looked at the frequency of intrusive unpleasant thoughts, negative emotions related to the divorce and their ex and how well they were getting on with life since the break up.

Those participants with higher levels of self-compassion recovered from divorce faster and were doing better after the nine month period.

Dealing with Divorce Using Self-compassion

Self-compassion, according to my former Cal classmate, Kristin Neff, is a combination of mindfulness (being aware of feelings of jealousy and anger, for example, without getting stuck in them), an awareness of the interconnectedness of humanity (we all suffer at times), and self-kindness.

Self-compassion, in my opinion, is an integral part of positive psychology in the sense that it is rapidly showing itself to be an instrumental tool in any happy, thriving, meaningful life.

To find out more, check out my award-winning self-help book, Guide to Self: The Beginner’s Guide to Managing Emotion and Thought which is currently available for free at www.GuideToSelf.com.

If you are angry about your divorce, please visit my new video blog (vlog) at AngerGeek.com for free tips on how to turn down the volume on anger!

To life, love and laughter,

John Schinnerer, Ph.D.

Founder Guide to Self, Inc.

Award-winning author, award-winning blogger, national speaker, emotion expert

Finding Positivity in Riots Over Mehserle Verdict: Congratulations to Bay Area News Group

My heartfelt congratulations and appreciation to the Oakland Tribune, the Bay Area News Group, Sean Maher and Kristin Bender for the following fantastic report on the riot in Oakland following the Mehserle verdict. This is an impressive and much-needed positive approach to the outrage that followed the reading of the verdict in the Oscar Grant murder trial.

I completely understand the wide range of emotional reactions by individuals who have a stake in this trial.  I support the right to public assembly, protest and free speech.

I do not condone the vandalism and looting that some individuals chose to engage in as a result of the verdict.

Mr. Maher and Ms. Bender showed great courage in reporting this story and finding some positive meaning in an otherwise series of tragic events. 

In chaos, many worked to keep the peace in Oakland
By Sean Maher and Kristin Bender
Oakland Tribune
Posted: 07/09/2010 03:54:44 PM PDT

OAKLAND — Broadway was littered with empty shoe boxes and hangers as a puzzled Tarrell Gamble left his downtown investment banking office Thursday evening.

“I didn’t really understand what was going on,” Gamble said Friday. “When I got closer, I realized people were starting to loot. I didn’t know how long it had been going on, but I started to go over there and kick people out, telling them, ‘Get out, get out, get out.'”

The Foot Locker shoe store at 14th Street and Broadway had its windows smashed and had been looted of high-end sports shoes and T-shirts. Men, including one wearing a handmade Oscar Grant mask, balanced two, three and four boxes of shoes in their arms as they squeezed through a throng of people and out the door of the vandalized store.

More than an hour after the organized — and relatively peaceful — demonstration ended on Broadway, things began heating up and police herded the crowd north on Broadway, away from the City Center. There were plenty of people out to trash the city. [snip]

 But there were peacekeepers out there, too, including a team of 50 civilians in orange vests dispatched by the city to help patrol the streets.

As dozens rushed the Foot Locker, Gamble, 34, stood guard.

He tried to prevent people from entering.

He yelled.

People continued to loot.


Gamble kept his calm.

“It’s the difference between right and wrong,” he said Friday. “At what point do you stand up for what’s right?”

Police arrested 78 people Thursday night and early Friday. More than 1,000 people came to downtown Thursday evening and early Friday.

Most were peaceful, but a small group smashed windows, vandalized or looted 60 to 100 businesses, said Oakland police spokeswoman Holly Joshi.

Of those, at least six stores, including a coin shop, jewelry store, grocery store, and beauty salon, had items stolen, police said.

Gamble was joined at the storefront by Alicia English, a 26-year-old Oakland resident and activist who had attended the demonstration.

“I stood out there,” she said, “trying to stop people, and I said, ‘I refuse to represent my people like this. I’m not here to make my people look ugly. I’m here for Oscar Grant, and if you’re not here for Oscar Grant, you got to go. This is not something he’d want you to do.'”

Geoffrey Pete is an Oakland resident and downtown commercial building owner who said he spent about eight hours in downtown attending the demonstration and talking to more than a dozen young men about staying out of trouble. Some listened. Some nodded and said, “OK, we got you, old-timer, we got you,” said Pete, 59.

“As a business owner in town, I have a responsibility to come down and do everything in my power to (keep) the peace. You can only do what you can do.”

August Mears, an artist who works as an executive assistant at Kaiser, started her peacekeeping days before the Thursday night violence.

Mears used about $500 of her own money and donations from two Oakland businesses to print about 1,100 posters reading “LOVE not Blood for the Streets of Oakland.”

She had done an original oil painting a few years ago for a show and turned it into a poster last week when she heard about the threat of unrest, she said.

The big red heart with yellow wings is simple but the message is powerful, she said. And she hopes some people heard it. “No one thing is a solution to everything,” she said. “But every little bit helps, and those little bits add up. I am trying to do my part.”

For full article, click here.

Have a peaceful weekend!

John Schinnerer, Ph.D.

Guide to Self

Like GPS for your life

Using Sports Psychology To Coach The Heck Out of Your Soccer Team

How to Use the Latest in Sports Psychology to Improve Your Soccer Game
John Schinnerer, Ph.D.
Guide To Self, Inc.

A varsity soccer player heads the ball into the goal to put his team ahead by one. With more than 20 minutes to play, players on the team that is behind start to hang their heads. Their body language, slumped shoulders, a slow walk, and frustrated, angry expressions convey their temporary lack of resiliency. The speed with which they can bounce back from this setback holds the key to their success. Do they give in to their disappointment, let it turn to resignation, and ever-so-slightly decrease their efforts? Or do they use their anger to stoke the fires of competition and redouble their efforts to score and tie the game?

Psychology is beginning to unravel some of the mysteries around sports performance in general and around soccer in particular. In the excitement of the World Cup this year and the upcoming finals game between Spain or Germany and the Dutch, this article discusses three recent findings in sports psychology and how they can be best applied to coaching the beautiful game – soccer.

Focus On Playing to Potential. Take Focus Off of ‘Winning’

Players who make predictions about who will win the upcoming game enjoy the game less than those who do not. By predicting the outcome of the game, it creates the possibility of being incorrect and thus leads to the anticipation of regret. This anticipation of being wrong puts more pressure on the player to perform. As we know, too much pressure can push a player out of the zone (where performance is maximized) and into a subpar performance.

A better approach is that of nonattachment where players do not get overly attached to the idea of winning or losing. Soccer players can control one thing – their own play. By focusing the team on playing to their best individual and team potential, and decreasing focus on winning, the team plays more relaxed, more effective soccer.
Understand Your Players Mindset for Better Penalty Kicks
Another finding shows that some individuals look for potential gains in general and on the soccer field. Other people spend their efforts attempting to thwart negative outcomes. So one group looks to maximize gains, while the other group looks to minimize losses. Soccer coaches can identify this tendency in individual players and use it to fulfill their players’ potential. For example, when preparing players for penalty shootouts, coaches can talk to players who look to maximize gains (usually the forwards and some midfielders) and tell them to focus on scoring. On the other hand, coaches can prep those who seek to minimize losses (usually the fullbacks) by telling them to focus on not missing the shot. These are individualized messages that can run through the shooter’s head while preparing to take the PK which will increase the probability of success during the shootout.

 Use Mirror Neurons to Your Advantage

Soccer players become better simply by watching world class players. There is a ‘mirror system’ in the human brain which responds to actions we watch, such as Cristiano Ronaldo scoring a goal with a heel kick or performing a scissor move. This system in the brain has been shown in brain scan studies to activate when the individual is viewing a sport or activity in which they participate. However, the mirror system does not activate for a dancer watching a soccer player. The mirror system only activates for individuals who have been trained in the particular sport being viewed. We have known for over 50 years that visualization is helpful in improving sports performance (beginning with slalom skiing back in the 1950’s). Science is just discovering that the brain also learns by observing experts. Although no muscle movement takes place in the observer, the brain acts as if the body is replicating the movements being made while watching Ronaldo or Lionel Messi or David Villa. The same pattern of neurons fire when watching Ronaldo perform a bicycle kick as when the player him- or herself does a bicycle kick. The possibility exists that players can hone their skills during injuries by watching professional soccer games, highlights on YouTube of favorite players and attending live games.

There are a number of things that psychology can add to sport in general and soccer in particular. Try incorporating some of these suggestions in your play or coaching and see what results come. Above all, have fun. Soccer is first and foremost a game!

Remember – keep the passion alive for the players!


John Schinnerer, Ph.D.

Positive psychology coach

P.S.   I’m kicking off the launch of my new video blog at drjohnsblog.wordpress.com to teach men emotional management skills in the comfort of their own home. And to make the announcement more exciting, I’m giving away a FREE copy of my award-winning self-help book Guide To Self: The Beginner’s Guide To Managing Emotion and Thought.

It’s all about how to quiet the voices in your head, turn down the volume on negative emotions and turn up the volume on positive emotions and happiness, click here for instant access!

FREE Copy of the Best Self Help Book of the Year!

I’m kicking off the launch of my new video blog at drjohnsblog.wordpress.com. And to make the announcement fun for all, I thought I’d offer a FREE copy of my book Guide To Self: The Beginner’s Guide To Managing Emotion and Thought.

It’s all about how to quiet the voices in your head, turn down the volume on negative emotions and turn up the volume on positive emotions, click here for instant access!

So if you want a free PDF version of some of the latest proven tools to manage your mind, the latest methods to increase your happiness via positive psychology, the greatest tips to manage your anger, check it out! Click here for a fantastic freebie!



Anger Management 101: New Study Shows How Forgiveness and Prayer Can Reduce Rage

Anger Management: How Prayer And Forgiveness Can Reduce Your Rage

John Schinnerer Ph.D.

Guide To Self, Inc.



There was some wild stuff happening on the court where I live recently.  Last Thursday, one of my neighbors accidentally backed her SUV up,

…out of her driveway

…across the street

… into our neighbor’s house

…going 60 mph.

She went through a row of 2-foot tall boulders in the garden, the concrete front step, and several support beams. Her car was completely in the neighbor’s house for a second.  

Panicked, the driver threw the car into drive and

sped out of the house

across the street

into her own garage door,

into the car parked in her garage,

and buckled the side wall.  

Shortly after the sheriff, fire and ambulance arrived; there was a Channel 4 KRON news truck. A Channel 7 news helicopter circled the court taking video footage from the air. Fortunately, no one was badly injured. 

As an interesting aside, it’s speculated that one lady would have died in the accident if it weren’t for a phone call from her church asking her to come down to volunteer for a couple hours. Had she not headed down to the church, she would have been right in the path of the oncoming car, paying bills, where she was shortly before the car exploded into her house.

The house was deemed uninhabitable and repairs are now underway. Yet, the destruction left behind by the accident was quickly followed by dark emotions – embarrassment, guilt, anger, shame, sadness, and dread.  The driver of the car stated yesterday ‘I don’t know if I’ll ever smile again.’  Meanwhile, her neighbor who lost many of her possessions said ‘A house is a thing. It can be replaced.’

All of us have made mistakes at some point in our lives. Nobody is perfect. Everyone has hurt, disappointed or betrayed the trust of someone we love.  That’s the world we live in. That’s what makes us human. We are not perfect. Life is messy and at times unfair. In my experience, this unfairness can lead to feelings of anger, resentment, sadness and anxiety.

One of the best methods I know to turn down the volume on such discomforting emotions is the daily practice of forgiveness. Most of my education on forgiveness has come courtesy of Fred Luskin, the former head of the Stanford Forgiveness Project, and author of Forgive For Good.

This morning I came across a new study from Psychological Science entitled ‘Motivating Change in Relationships: Can Prayer Increase Forgiveness?’ which looked at how prayer impacts our willingness to forgive. Since roughly 90% of Americans report praying at times, Florida State University psychologist Nathaniel Lambert wondered how prayer might impact forgiveness.

Lambert and his colleagues found that simply by praying a single prayer for one’s significant other led to decreased negative feelings after having been wronged. Forgiveness was defined as a decrease in the negative feelings that came up after one has been trespassed against. By the way, forgiveness does not imply that one approves of, or condones, the transgression. It is, simply put, the best way to dump out old, stale anger.

Participants who prayed were found to have fewer thoughts of revenge and less destructive emotions such as anger and resentment. These participants were more likely to forgive (yet not necessarily to forget) and move forward with their lives, unburdened by unproductive anger.

An old friend of mine used to say, for those who are unwilling to forgive prior offenses, ‘pray to be willing to be willing to forgive.’ Many times, this focus on being willing to be willing to forgive gives individuals the ability to forgive acts that were once thought to be unforgiveable.

Given the surprisingly powerful results of a single prayer, the next study Lambert did looked at what prayer might do if continued over a period of time.

In the next study, Lambert asked participants to pray for the well-being of a near and dear friend every day for a month.  On the other side, the control group was asked to merely reflect on the friendship, thinking positive thoughts but not praying specifically. Lambert looked at an additional construct in this study – the degree of selfless concern for other people in general. They found that daily prayer increased concern for others which strengthened the ability to forgive.

When we are getting along with friends and loved ones, the frequency and duration of our positive emotions increases. This bump in positive emotion, such as gratitude, pride, interest and love, makes it easier to think of others as well as ourselves. Positive emotions cause us to come together, to be more social, more open, and more giving.

When things get rocky in a relationship, as they are wont to do, negative emotions enter with greater frequency and intensity. This switches our internal focus to temporary goals that separate and alienate us from others. Temporary goals, such as revenge and meting out punishment, shift our attention from the group to the self.   This attentional shift to the self is difficult to shake as long as the negative emotions are there to fuel it. Prayer seems to shift focus from one’s self back to the group, which allows compassion to grow and resentments to die off.

As far as my neighbors go, a large dose of prayer, forgiveness and self-compassion will help alleviate the feelings of anger and loss. In many situations, forgiveness must take place on several levels to be effective – forgiveness of self, forgiveness of others, allowing others to forgive you, forgiveness of God for His part in allowing unjust situations, and allowing God to forgive you. In this way the rebuilding of relationships can be accelerated to match the speed of the reconstruction of the homes.

For more information on forgiveness, please check out the book, Guide To Self: The Beginner’s Guide To Managing Emotion and Thought or the article, Forgiveness: The Key to Releasing the Pain of Past Mistakes and Betrayals.


Author Bio:

John Schinnerer, Ph.D. is in private practice helping individuals learn happiness by mitigating destructive emotions and fostering constructive emotions. Using positive psychology, he helps clients achieve happy, thriving, meaningful lives. His practice is located in the Danville San Ramon Medical Center at 913 San Ramon Valley Blvd., #280, Danville, California 94526. He graduated summa cum laude from U.C. Berkeley with a Ph.D. in educational psychology. John Schinnerer has been an executive and coach for over 12 years. John Schinnerer is President and Founder of Guide To Self, a company that coaches clients to their potential using the latest in positive psychology, mindfulness and attentional control. John Schinnerer hosted over 200 episodes of Guide To Self Radio, a prime time radio show on positive psychology, in the San Francisco Bay Area.   John Schinnerer’s areas of expertise range from positive psychology, to emotional awareness, to moral development, to music psychology, to sports psychology. He wrote the award-winning, ‘Guide To Self: The Beginner’s Guide To Managing Emotion and Thought,’ which is available at Amazon.com, BarnesAndNoble.com and AuthorHouse.com.  He is currently collaborating with the University of New Zealand in a longitudinal positive psychology study called The International Wellbeing Study (www.wellbeingstudy.com). < -->