Going through a divorce without any emotional scars might seem impossible, but University of Arizona researchers say the key is possessing self-compassion.

The researchers interviewed recently divorced people with an average age of 40 who had been married for longer than 13 years. The researchers found that participants with high levels of self-compassion – which an Association for Psychological Science press release defines as “a combination of kindness toward oneself, recognition of common humanity, and the ability to let painful emotions pass”– were recovering more quickly than other participants and were doing better in the following months.

“We’re not interested in the basic statement, ‘People who are coping better today do better nine months from now.’ That doesn’t help anybody,” said researcher David Sbarra. “The surprising part here is that when we look at a bunch of positive characteristics” — such as self-esteem, resistance to depression, optimism or ease with relationships — “this one characteristic — self-compassion — uniquely predicts good outcomes.”

Heather Rudow is a staff writer for Counseling Today. Email her at hrudow@counseling.org.

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