Individual Differences in Responsiveness to Compassion-Focused Imagery
Wright, Jonathan D
University of Kansas
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Interventions involving the intentional use or cultivation of compassion are becoming increasingly more common in the mental health fields. Spiritual and psychological wisdom, and more recently empirical research, has long held that having greater levels of compassion is related to positive mental health traits. Researchers and practitioners are now finding that even in the short term, active practice of compassion and loving-kindness can decrease symptoms of mental illness and increase mental health. At the individual level, however, there is significant variation in how patients react and respond to compassion-based interventions. This study sought to explore those individual differences. Participants drawn from Amazon’s Mechanical Turk (n = 160) were randomly assigned to one of three compassion-focused imagery conditions or a control body scan condition and completed measures of visualization ability and attitudes toward compassion. Imaging ability was found to be significantly positively related to participants’ ability to mindfully engage with the compassionate imagery (β = .28 to .37, p < .01). Fears of compassion was related to less relaxation in response to the compassionate imagery (β = -.38, p < .01). Absorption (β = .28, p < .01) and baseline compassion for others (β = .29, p < .01) were both related to an increased likelihood of future practice following the intervention. This study provides further evidence of the individual-level differences in responses to compassion-focused imagery and suggests that both ability and attitude play an important role in predicting how individuals will respond to these interventions.
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