Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Orcutt, Holly K.

Degree Name

Ph.D. (Doctor of Philosophy)

Legacy Department

Department of Psychology


Women college students--Psychology; Women--Physiology; Meditation--Psychological aspects; Compassion--Psychological aspects


Growing evidence supports the clinical utility of self-compassion training to target negative self-evaluation and associated distress. However, some individuals report strong fear and resistance toward self-compassion training, a phenomenon known as fear of self-compassion. The current study utilized an experimental design to examine whether cultivating self-compassion is fear-inducing for college women (N = 50) reporting high and low levels of fear of self-compassion by examining physiological indicators of affect in response to a guided self-compassion exercise. It was hypothesized that engagement with the self-compassion exercise would reveal differential physiological responding between high and low fear of self-compassion groups, where individuals in the low group would display physiological reactivity consistent with parasympathetic nervous system activation (e.g., rest) and those in the high group would display physiological reactivity consistent with sympathetic nervous system activation (e.g., arousal). A series of mixed within- and between-subjects repeated measures ANOVAs were used to examine group differences in heart rate, skin conductance, heart rate variability, and corrugator supercilii electromyography in response to a guided loving-kindness meditation and a guided attention control task. Results for heart rate and skin conductance suggest that participants in the low fear of self-compassion group evidenced a physiologically soothed response to the loving-kindness task, while a similar response was not detected in the high fear of self-compassion group. Participants in the two groups also evidenced different patterns of heart rate variability during the meditation task, though the pattern of results were not consistent with hypotheses. Limitations, clinical implications, and future directions are discussed.


Advisors: Holly K. Orcutt.||Committee members: Julie Crouch; Michelle M. Lilly; Leslie Matuszewich; Katja Wiemer; Kevin D. Wu.||Includes bibliographical references.||Includes illustrations.


vi, 134 pages




Northern Illinois University

Rights Statement

In Copyright

Rights Statement 2

NIU theses are protected by copyright. They may be viewed from Huskie Commons for any purpose, but reproduction or distribution in any format is prohibited without the written permission of the authors.

Media Type