Compassion in Divorce and Greater Good Science Center

Check out this excerpt from Splitopia about self-compassion on the Greater Good Science Center website. Based at the University of California at Berkeley, the Greater Good Science Center offers some of the best research and tools for living a happier, more meaningful life. 

The GGSC sponsors research on well-being, and its website can connect you to inspiring blog posts, helpful podcasts and “Science of Meaningful Life” seminars.  I am so pleased that the GGSC chose to share the research on self-compassion cited in my book, and to let more people know about the work on this topic by Kristin Neff, at University of Texas at Austin and David Sbarra at University of Arizona.

Self-compassion is my first Principle of Parting, both because I was excited by the work of Sbarra on self-compassion in divorce, and because focusing on self-compassion is just the kind of counter-intuitive—but scientifically sound—approach we need more of.  It may seem like so many other things would be more important in divorce—making sure you have enough money, hiring a lawyer or mediator, finding a new place to live.  But as Sbarra’s research shows, and the experience of many confirms, going easy on yourself during a tough time can be the first step to positive recuperation and rebuilding.  It can help you avoid lashing out at your almost-ex in front of your children or making bad decisions driven by fear, anger or a scarcity mentality.

Sbarra’s work was some of the first to investigate positive psychology practices in divorce.  The field of positive psychology more generally is beginning to look at how so-called “happiness research” can help people facing really difficult times, and I’m looking forward to Martin Seligman’s forthcoming book on the new subset of “positive psychotherapy.”

In the meantime, we can probably all benefit from spending time on the Greater Good Science Center’s website.  The “core themes” listed on the website highlight its areas of focus: gratitude, altruism, compassion, empathy, forgiveness, happiness and mindfulness.  I’ve spent many hours listening to the very helpful "Happiness Matters" parenting podcasts by sociologist Christine Carter and registered nurse Rona Renner.  I’m currently thinking about taking the center’s free, 10-week online course on what it means to lead a happy and meaningful life, The Science of Happiness, taught by legendary well-being expert Dacher Keltner and Emiliana Simon-Thomas.

Here’s to a happy and meaningful life for all of us!


 Wendy Paris is the author of Splitopia: Dispatches from Today's Good Divorce and How to Part Well (Simon & Schuster/Atria, 2016).  Splitopia and her work on divorce have been covered by The New York Times, Real Simple, The Washington Post, The New York Post, The Globe & Mail, Psychology Today, The Houston Chronicle,,, Family Law Quarterly, and radio and TV shows nationwide.  She has an MFA in creative nonfiction writing from Columbia University, and is an advocate for family law reform.  She is divorced, and lives in Santa Monica, California, a few blocks from her former husband, with whom she has a warm co-parenting relationship.