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Self-Criticism and Self-Warmth: An Imagery Study Exploring Their Relation to Depression

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When things go wrong for people, those who are self-critical, compared to those who self-reassure, are at increased risk of psychopathology. However, little is known of the internal processes involved in self-criticism and self-reassurance, such as the ease of eliciting critical imagery, and the power, emotion and vividness of self-criticalness and self-reassurance. This study used a self-imagery task to investigate trait self-criticism and trait self-reassurance in relation to the ease and clarity of generating self-critical and self-reassuring images, and the felt power and emotion of self-critical and self-reassuring imagery. We also explored these in relation to depressive symptoms in students. Results suggested that trait self-criticism is associated with ease and clarity in generating hostile and powerful self-critical images, while trait self-reassurance is associated with ease and clarity of generating warm and supportive images of the self. Data analysis using structural equation models also suggests that difficulties in generating self-reassurance and compassionate images about the self with self-directed warmth, may also contribute to depressive symptoms. Thus self-critics may not only suffer for elevated negative feelings about the self but may also struggle to be able to generate self-supportive images and feelings for the self, and these difficulties could be a focus of therapeutic interventions.
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Keywords: DEPRESSION; IMAGERY; SELF-CRITICAL; SELF-REASSURANCE; SOOTHING; WARMTH

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2006-06-01

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  • Journal of Cognitive Psychotherapy is devoted to the advancement of the clinical practice of cognitive psychotherapy. This scholarly journal seeks to merge theory, research, and practice and to develop new techniques by an examination of the clinical implications of theoretical development and research findings.
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