Fears of compassion and happiness in relation to alexithymia, mindfulness, and self-criticism

Psychol Psychother. 2012 Dec;85(4):374-90. doi: 10.1111/j.2044-8341.2011.02046.x. Epub 2011 Nov 8.


Background: There is increasing research to suggest that fears of, and resistances to, affiliative and positive emotions are linked to self-criticism and a range of psychopathologies. It is unclear how these fears and resistances are linked to each other and how these in turn are linked to psychological processes, such as abilities to be mindful and recognize and describe emotions.

Objectives: This research explores the relationship between fears of compassion and happiness in general, with capacities for emotional processing (alexithymia), capacities for mindfulness, and empathic abilities. To advance this research, a new scale was developed to measure general fears of positive feelings - the Fear of Happiness Scale.

Results: The results showed that fears of compassion for self, from others and in particular fear of happiness, were highly linked to different aspects of alexithymia, mindfulness, empathy, self-criticism and depression, anxiety and stress. Especially noteworthy was the very high correlation between fear of happiness and depression (r= .70).

Conclusion: While the development of positive emotions, especially those linked to affiliation and connectedness are increasingly seen as important therapeutic targets, little research has focused on the blocks and fears to positive emotions. This study used newly developed fears of positive affect scales (e.g., compassion and happiness) to explore these aspects and found they were significantly linked to psychopathology variables self-criticism and difficulties such as alexithymia.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Affective Symptoms / psychology*
  • Depression / psychology*
  • Empathy*
  • Factor Analysis, Statistical
  • Fear / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Psychometrics / instrumentation
  • Self-Assessment*