Training Our Minds in, with and for Compassion And Introduction to Concepts and Compassion-Focused Exercises

Written by

Paul Gilbert

January 2009


Outline and Background of Research: CFT in the context of a DBT Programme
Compassion focused therapy (CFT) was developed by Paul Gilbert, (1997, 2000, 2007, 2009) for people who are high in shame and self-criticism, and who typically come from harsh backgrounds. These individuals have problems with emotion regulation, can easily perceive others to be critical and rejecting, (hostile external world), and can turn self-disliking and self-critical, (hostile internal world). Under these two types of experienced hostility patients find it extremely difficult to find ways to soothe themselves other than through the use of dugs, self-harm ,dissociation etc. These individuals are likely to say, ‘I can understand the point of your therapy or your cognitive or bahvioural interventions, but I can’t feel it. CFT suggests that in order to feel reassured or have a sense of safeness or be able to soothe oneself when negative emotions are highly aroused one needs the appropriate affect system to be accessible. This affect system evolved in mammals with caring. For the first days of life infants are calmed down through the receipt of care. Caring behaviour calms the threat system. It is this system which many of our patients struggle to access because it’s been poorly developed or patients can be frightened of feelings of warmth and soothing. In addition, change often requires courage and the ability to tolerate negative emotions and painful memories. These are easier to achieve in the context of an experience of internal and external kindness and support. Hence, the main thrust of CFT is to develop the capacity for self-compassion and self-kindness, which stimulates a particular evolved affect and relationship system. Therapy involves clear psychoeducation about evolved motivational and affect regulation systems, and a series of practices and exercises focussed on developing compassionate attention, compassionate thinking, compassionate behaviour and compassionate feeling. Because CFT helps people with shame and self-criticism to engage with various therapy processes - across diagnostic categories. Hence, for example, various cognitive or behavioural or emotion focussed interventions may be utilised, but with compassion development as the focus. Because CFT can be applied to different therapy modalities and can advance those modalities we sought to explore utilising a CFT module (8 weeks), within the context of a dialectical behavioural therapy programme for complex cases.


This is very much an early stage work and builds on the work of Gilbert and Proctor. Dialectical Behaviour Therapy was developed by Marsha Linehan, (1993) to help people with complex emotional difficulties and who self-harm. There is now good research evidence to show this is indeed a helpful approach for these difficulties. Within the Derbyshire Mental Health Services a specialist DBT team now exists and has been running programs for DBT for over two years. Therapists Catherine (and Mathew Littlewood) and other members of the DBT attended a 3 day CFT training course two years ago (2007), and we decided to explore whether introducing an 8 week compassion focused module within the DBT program would be useful to people. Thinking this through and gaining ethics approval took some time but this is the result: An ongoing DBT group were approached to see if they would be interested in a research study that explores the value of compassion focused therapy as one of their modules at the end of the first year. Following discussion clients in this group were interested and agreed to explore CFT and offer their feedback on the value of a compassion focused module. Document 1 (This first document) contains the handouts and psychoeducation aspects and overview of CFT given to participants. We did wonder if this was a bit intense for individuals, but in fact many of them appreciated it and thought it something they could go back to. Document 2 is a write up of how things unfolded, session by session. These seven sessions were written up by Paul (one session was lost to a snow storm). The group wanted to continue with the compassion focussed work and so two further sessions were conducted with Catherine and David. Catherine wrote up the last two sessions. At the beginning of each session the participants were given the write-up of the previous session and asked if this was an accurate record for them. They kept copies of each written session. The group consisted of six female clients, two DBT therapists, (Catherine Parker and David Woods) and the CFT therapist (Paul Gilbert). Each participant also had their own individual therapist.


Training Our Minds in Compassion The Basic Model and Principle
This section offers an outline of a basic approach to thinking about the nature of, and value of developing compassion in our lives. In the next section we will explore some exercises that you can practise to try to stimulate compassionate mind states within yourself. Our first task is to outline the basic model and approach to compassion. This will explore how our brains work and what we mean by compassion. Now of course, compassion training has been around for a long time and especially in Buddhist traditions, but here it is linked to some new ideas about how our brains work. Challenge number

1 - Dealing with our complex brains

I think many of us ‘sort of realise’ that we have a very complex and difficult brain to deal with. For example, we know that much of our suffering occurs because of how we feel in our bodies and in our minds - it's about our emotions and moods. Most of us would rather feel happy than suffer.and yet, even though we know it's our emotions and moods that are a source of our suffering, we can find it very difficult to steer our emotions and moods to feeling happier. Our emotions and moods are not easy to regulate. We recognize that it is difficult to steer our brains and minds in the way that we want to. Now, there are many ways we can deal with this problem. One is just to carry on and hope that things improve. Another is to try to understand our minds better and see if we can train them and cultivate them so that our unpleasant emotions are easier to regulate, and our positive and pleasant emotions more easy to generate. The question is, Can we train our minds so that we have more control over them? The first step on this journey is to understand why our emotions can be so difficult and why this is not our fault. So let's begin to explore these questions. Now, one of the main reasons that we have a difficult and complex brain with a range of powerful emotions and urges is because of the way our brains evolved over many millions of years. In fact we have two different types of brain in our head, (some researchers suggest we have three or four different types of brain!). How is that? Well we have an old brain that evolved many millions of years ago that does very similar things to other animals’ brains. In our old brains we have the capacities for emotions such as anger, anxiety or disgust, joy or fun. Many animals, including for example, rats, horses, monkeys and humans can also feel these emotions. In our old brain we have basic defensive behaviours. We can attack if angry, run away if anxious, become very submissive, or try and hide and cover up. If threatened many animals can also do these things because they also have old brain abilities. If we look at other animals such as rats and monkeys and even some of those who live in the sea such as dolphins, we can see they are motivated to achieve similar things like us. Their social relationships have a lot of similarities to our


own. For example, we can observe them fighting and challenging each other for status and social position, having sexual relationships, forming close friendships and bonds but also having conflicts and making enemies; caring for their children; answering distress calls and clinging to each other when frightened. They are also shown reconciling their conflicts and working together in groups, as in hunting. Sadly, chimpanzees have even been seen to engage in war like behaviour where one group attacks and kills other groups. Taken all together, these are what we call archetypal life patterns - and they work in us too. If you read novels or go to the movies you’ll see that most of what goes on is related to these social patterns -so you will see heroes and villains, conflicts and people fighting with their enemies, sexual politics, family dramas and so on. The fact is that many of our emotions, our tendencies for anger, anxiety, and many of our desires to be loved, cared for and respected, or trying hard to avoid being rejected and criticized - are built into our brains. However, around 2 million years ago the human brain evolved a whole number of abilities for thinking in new ways. We became able to imagine and fantasize things, to think, reason and plan in ways that other animals cannot do. We have a type of consciousness and sense of self that other animals do not have. We can think about the future and the kind of self we want to be, how we want to feel, the life we want - whereas other animals live primarily day to day. We can look back with regrets and ruminate about unhappy things. We can refer to these new abilities as being part of our new brain and mind.. These new brain abilities use our attention, imagination and ability to fantasize, think and reason. Our new brain abilities have made the world what it is today with cultures, science, cars, TV’s, mobile phones and medicine. But, and this is a big but, these new brain abilities can also cause us serious problems and distress. For example, we can reason about conflicts and plan revenges, we can use our intelligence to work out how to build horrible weapons. We can ruminate on how unhappy we are or create in our heads a sense of self as inferior and unloved. Basically, our new brain capacities can be hijacked and directed by old brain passions, desires, threats and fears. Our planning, reasoning, imagining, and ruminating can be directed by the emotions and motives of the old brain. Rather then using our thinking and attention to control unpleasant emotions or help us stimulate positive emotions, the old brain pulls us in the direction of threat-based anxiety and anger and this becomes the focus of our thinking, feeling and imagining. The diagram uses my hand drawn brain to outline this in a straightforward way.


I wanted to be a rock star (well still do actually). ruminations and reasoning can inflame but also be inflamed by emotions and passions. However. We did not choose to be born into a loving. We did not choose our basic temperaments – some of us are born more shy and anxious. We did not choose to be born in our particular town. Muslim or Atheist family. So. We will look at this in our section on ‘understanding emotions’. active or passive than others. we become more interested in winning the approval and acceptance of our peers and taking an interest in certain types of music. into a Christian. and at times. We didn't choose to build them like this! Also of course our brains have also evolved capacities for enjoyment and happiness. taken for granted or rejected.’ We are all in the same boat in a way. Yet. the genes that made us. which is that we all just “find ourselves here”. it just happens inside of us. especially about our bodies. We did not choose to be born. So. beliefs. All of us want to be valued and appreciated and accepted rather than devalued. of course. how our brains evolved. likes and dislikes and sense of ourselves has been built for us not by us. Challenge number 2 . Our imaginations.Just finding ourselves here We start with the reality of all of us. ‘that we exist as a feeling self’ around two to three years old. emotionally overwhelming brain to have to deal with. We can learn how to use our new brain abilities to bring peaceful feelings and organise our minds in new ways. criticised. Emotions seem to intensify. 6 . It's interesting when you think about it like this: much of what goes on in our minds.that much of what goes on in our minds is not our fault.You will see that the arrows go in both directions. This leads us to our second challenge the challenge of how we all just find ourselves here with this difficult. Noting the Changes Growing up We sort of become aware of ‘being here’.when we look at our minds and brains in this way we can see that a lot of what goes on in them has actually been designed for us not by us. We choose none of this. This. So we all just ‘find ourselves here. Some of us will be bright and discover we have talents in sport or music. As we enter adolescence we discover hormones are changing our bodies. If you look around you it is clear that the minds of other people are similar because we are all built in basically the same way. they are simply part of our makeup. others of us less so. desires and interests. and none of us choose any of it. we choose none of these. One thing is clear . in this time in history. Later we want to find partners with whom we can have long-term relationships with the possibility of sharing our genes and having children. nor the kinds of emotions and desires that often operate within us. for caring and peacefulness. is the point of the training but first we need to be clear about what we are trying to do and why. neglectful or abusive family. we become more easily shamed and sensitive. It is not our fault because our capacities for powerful emotions and desires were built by evolution over millions of years. all these will have a profound effect on how we come to experience and feel about ourselves and our core values. it might help us if we learn to train our minds for these. to note this again . clothes or style. and even our values. As we grow up our brains mature quickly and we become capable of understanding new things thanks to the brain changes. into a rich or poor family.

As we grow up then. The fact that we have a brain that has these capacities is absolutely not our fault. We will be looking at this later. and our thoughts and reasoning about our emotions. Our emotions evolved to help us spot things and do something about them. If you want to be good at sports you need to understand the rules of the game. and the situations that might stir them up. and increase helpful and pleasant ones. and this is the big but. (none of our choosing). As we will see. It is absolutely no different with our minds and our brains. We act according to how our feelings direct us. the more we learn about how our brain works and how it was designed then the greater our chances are of learning how to direct or calm these feelings rather than them directing us. But. These are emotions that are linked to feeling successful and achieving our motives and goals or contentment. Our emotions were probably slightly easier to deal with when we lived in close small communities and villages because we felt more secure than we do today. How we attend to our emotions. developing compassion is one road to this. Compassion for self and others helps us deal with many of our more unpleasant feelings such as anxiety and anger. what notes are. Generally these emotions feel unpleasant to us because they’re directing us towards threats and the need to do something. what the scales are. and then practice. as they are designed to be very powerful and can be very tricky to handle. Understanding Motives and Emotions Our basic old brain emotions also cause us real difficulties. However. and even despair.How others treat us and care for us. we also experience emotions that are positively pleasant. anxieties or depression. thus not learning how to cope with the things that frighten us. If we’re angry we may say or do hurtful things. can make a big difference as to how our brain grows and how we learn to cope with this difficult brain that evolution has given us. and our brains and minds are shaped by those around us. and how we learn to deal with these unfolding experiences. for example: 7 . and our vulnerabilities to things like anger. we have emotions that are focused on threats to ourselves and goals and efforts for self-protective behaviors. we are gradually discovering that our minds have all kinds of feelings and passions which sometimes take control over us. Generally if things are going well we feel positive emotions but if they are not then we can feel unpleasant emotions To help us understand this we can look at the types of the emotions we have and what they are designed to help us think and do. the key moves and tactics and then practice. This will help us to create a sense of well-being and to flourish. practice is the key. So. Emotions often give us intermediate feedback on how our motives of doing. The point is that if we inherit a range of difficult emotions and desires. if we’re anxious we may try to avoid things or behave very submissively. If you want to play a musical instrument you need to learn about your instrument. as we’ll see shortly. can do much to calm us down or make things worse for us. it may help us if we can learn about our brains and minds. We can then learn how to train our minds in order to maximize the chances of understanding and coping with our unpleasant emotions. For example.

In us humans it can be triggered when we are frustrated. anxiety. He might have gone quiet or felt a little depressed and ruminated on the fact that his weight is unattractive. Consider the particular things in your life that trigger anger for you. He shames Sue because he has been shamed. and he’s struggling to control his eating. At night he might ruminate about struggling with his weight and how bad he feels about it. Maybe we want to shout. our thoughts (the things we dwell on and go over and over in our minds). swear. * Anxiety is another very important and basic defensive emotion and is focused on threats. again we see that this important emotion of anxiety can direct our bodily feelings and emotions. He has a flush of anger and says “well given your cooking.* Anger many animals can experience anger in various ways which helps them cope with various challenges. our thoughts (and the things we dwell on and go over and 8 . (‘I’ll show them…. such as anger. So we see that this important emotion of anger can direct our bodily feelings and emotions.. Again. our thoughts (and the things we dwell on and go over and over in our minds) and urge us to behave in certain kinds of ways. or if someone is unfair to us or puts us down. Our minds do this very easily and without a lot of thought. and can urge us to behave in certain kinds of ways. And of course both the angry defensive and the depressive response are possible. We can have a sense of shame if we think others look down on us or see us as inferior in some way. * Shame is usually a blend of other emotions. it gives us a sense of urgency. Sometimes we express shame with anger and criticism of others. and disgust.’). our thoughts (and the things we dwell on and go over and over in our minds) and urge us to behave in certain kinds of ways. * Disgust makes us want to expel noxious substances or turn away from them.. or try to get our own back. Disgust feels different from anxiety and anger. It will also make us want to behave and do things in certain kinds of way. do something about it. John could have responded differently. our attention. Disgust was originally designed to keep us away from toxic substances. Sue makes a critical comment about John eating too many chips and putting on weight. it helps them put more effort into things. Spend a moment considering your own thoughts when you become angry. our minds focus on and attend to things that annoy us. When anxiety gets going it pulls our thinking to focus on dangers and threats. ‘sort it out’. Typically shame makes us want to run away. It is an emotion that is specifically linked to a sense of ourselves. defend themselves or create a ‘don’t mess with me’ reputation in the mind of others. When disgust blends with anger we can have contempt. we all have our buttons that can be pushed. (‘how could they …how dare they … how bad they are…. For example. our attention. or even be aggressive. like anger. Anger can also make us want to retaliate against another person if he or she has upset us or upset someone we love. Anger makes us want to approach the problem. When anger gets going our bodies feel a certain kind of way. prompting us to do something. We have certain types of thoughts that go with anger. something we want is blocked. our attention. Anxiety can make us want to run away and keep ourselves safe and out of harm’s way. Our facial expressions of disgust differ from anger and anxiety.almost like a whirlpool. So again we see that shame can direct our bodily feelings and emotions. it is part of our brain quickly shifting to self-defense. For example. our attention.’). there will probably be certain things in your life that tend to make you anxious. So anger is an old emotion. or withdraw. or we see an injustice. So. or close down and be submissive in order to avoid rejection. and is commonly linked to bodily things. So again we see that this important emotion can direct our bodily feelings and emotions. Shame is also linked to how we think and feel about ourselves. can you blame me!” This automatic response is linked to an underlying emotional sensitivity about his weight because he himself feels bad about his weight. Notice how anger pulls on all those aspects in you in certain ways .

Both might then apologize. in shame we withdraw and feel fear. Ideally they might then think about how to tackle the problem together. acknowledging that their comments were in the heat of the moment. whereas in guilt it's about our behavior/actions and how we can repair any hurt we might have caused -we do not see ourselves as bad but we want to make amends for our behaviors. or you may be invited to a party with your friends.over in our minds) and urge us to behave in certain kinds of ways. Positive emotions direct us to things that are helpful to us. and what satisfied us 9 . * Guilt makes us wary of exploiting or harming others. For example if we have an argument with someone then me might feel angry (because of what they have done). the system can go into overdrive. In shame the focus of our attention is on ourselves (as a bad. If something major happens. The downside however is that if we constantly seek excitement. In guilt we reach out with our hearts and feel sorrow. Such amazing things don't often happen of course but smaller things do. your body may feel accelerated. We find that our pleasant feelings may evaporate if we are not achieving. or someone you have wanted to date accepts your invitation. It is common to have many different emotions at the some time. such as you win a lottery and become a millionaire. and prompts us to try and repair the relationship if we do. * Emotions about emotions: Things can be even more tricky because we can have emotions about our emotions. The mixed and conflicting emotions can be confusing. this can lead us into wanting more and more. We generally feel excited about something we want to do or achieve. People often confuse shame with guilt. our attention. anxious in case the argument escalates out of hand. our thoughts (and the things we dwell on and go over and over in our minds) and urge us to behave in certain kinds of ways. and sad because we would really like to have a nice relationship and we feel a loss of the bond. Sue might reflect that John was hurt by her comment and John might reflect that he had been unkind to Sue. or anger or ashamed of giving into temptation. We find the goal posts for pleasure keep moving. disgust or anger. We are not simply a ‘one thing’ person. You might have racing thoughts. I have written more about them in my books on the Compassionate Mind and also Overcoming Depression. or you win some money. Learning to be kind an understanding of ourselves. If you're interested. for example. you’re very excited and you might have trouble sleeping. succeeding or feeling praised and valued. We can also have a buzz of pleasure when we do achieve it. think and want to act in different ways. but guilt is much more about wanting to avoid hurting others and being prepared to make amends if we do. or ashamed of losing our temper. We might become anxious of getting anger. We can even get these feelings if (say) our child does well or our beloved football team wins the championship. or become dependent to feel good on the feelings linked to achieving or praise. What about positive emotions? What functions do they have? * Excitement. unattractive or flawed person) and what other people think about us. or angry if we get anxious. We are multi-coloured. This is an emotion that is energizing and directs us towards certain things. * Different part of our selves: So it is a useful idea to recognize that there are different parts to ourselves that can feel. The key point is that again we see that guilt can direct our bodily feelings and emotions. So. Small buzzes of pleasure can come from small achievements. and that our brains can be hard to fathom– can be help and stop the self-attacking that can make things even more difficult to sort out. These are guilt responses.

they are part of our self protection system. Without caution it's the emotion system leading to dissatisfaction. How we think about things. disgust shame or guilt. it's not an emotion that Western societies focus on very much. you 10 . This allows us to rest.000 question here is: are you thinking your emotions or are your emotions thinking for you? If we are honest we often get caught up in an emotion and the emotion directs our thinking. the interpretations and meanings we put on to things that happened to us. Contentment helps us stop driving ourselves and wanting all the time. shifting our attention and re-focusing on things that are helpful. The problem is. like anger or anxiety etc. then. toning down the threat system. have certain functions.years ago may longer do so. Emotions. fear. but as we’ll see shortly it’s key to well-being. These emotions are part of our being. So because of how our brains have evolved we can suffer various painful states of mind . Now. what is the train of your thinking? How does your thinking differ if you are angry or anxious or in love?” Now the $64.there are many good reasons for feeling bad. can also stir and inflame our emotions. We sometimes call threatening self-protective emotions (of anxiety or anger) negative or bad. Also. the things that come up from your memory. But remember we did not choose to have these potentials in us. these positive emotions ideally work best when they are in balance as we will see. this can help us experience the important positive feelings of safeness and openness to those around us. We live in a world which stresses the importance of happiness and feeling good. The emotion says ‘think this’. Interestingly. Sometimes we haven't learnt how to try to stand back and not get caught up in the whirlpool and dragged into the emotion. we will find they are easier to deal with. even if they are unpleasant and painful to us. and think about each other when we are not currently in sight. ‘fret about that’ and we simply do. in that positive emotions can direct our bodily feelings and emotions. rather they have been building and evolving over many millions of years. These feelings help us build bonds. But we might also choose to use our new brain abilities to help us calm down . When we feel cared about. * Contentment is a very different positive emotion to that of excitement. Imagine what a person would be like who did not have the capacity to feel anger. innate potentials to switch into them. Once we start to befriend them.. Leaning to be sensitive and caring of ourselves can also help us feel more positively in the world. they have evolved as part of our human nature. However. ‘dwell on this’. this puts us in the wrong frame of mind for dealing with them. These are not negative emotions simply because they feel bad. there will probably be certain things in your life that tend to trigger positive emotions in you. Or put it this way . each of them operates in the way that other emotions do. Some Key Questions for us to Ponder Now look at the list of emotions and think of each emotion and ask yourself: “What does your body want to do if this emotion is aroused in you? How does this or that emotion direct your attention.because we have normal. our attention. * Love and affection are emotions that indicate positive relationships between people and tell our brain that we are safe . but of course it is also a two-way street. It gives us a sense of being at peace and of well-being. our thoughts (and the things we dwell on and go over and over in our minds) and urge us to behave in certain kinds of ways.

which is naturally very unpleasant. After week or two. We might have learned to share these feelings or to keep a stiff upper lip. Consider too that if someone we love dies. why we feel things are the way they are. When my daughter was young she was interested in dogs. Body memory can give rise to what we call our ‘gut reactions’ to things. It is not our fault that our body experiences nausea at the sight or the smell of beer a few days after we felt sick from drinking some. of course. Also when we do start thinking. with its associated sleep problems. as if to say ‘don’t drink – remember this feeling. pining. and there are genetic and developmental differences among us that affect just how easily or intensely these emotions can be triggered in each one of us. we all have the potential for aggressive. in most of us. Your face shimmers with disgust and you say ‘no thanks. the smell makes me feel sick’. After that she was more anxious about dogs. you are feeling better and get invited to another party. we can be frightened of spiders even if we ‘know’ they are not dangerous. Many of the things that make us anxious we may know in our hearts are not that frightening. but there is. so it was a leaned anxiety and operated by flushing anxiety rapidly through her body. We call it conditioning. and then one day at a party you have the drink and you are very ill. Even if our logical minds tell us that we were just unlucky to have drunk a bad pint previously. don't always agree. anger and feelings of emptiness. It is learning a helpful balancing of our emotions that counts. that is nausea. vengeful fantasies and attitudes: if someone harmed your child. we can find ourselves in a deep state of grief.’ So we can call this body memory because it's so automatic. Indeed this is very common. indeed important. Your body remembers and flushes you with the same feelings you had. If large dogs approached she’d have an automatic anxious feeling (keep in mind this did not happen until the experience of the dog jumping up at her).can be led astray by some of these claims because they don’t also tell you that feeling bad is at times a normal. frightening her. As you enter the room someone puts a pint of beer in your hands and you smell the hops. We can be frightened at the movies even if we ‘know’ they are just acting. also feeling anxious or angry can flush though us before we have had a chance to think much about what is happening to us. and. Imagine that you enjoy your beer or wine. What do you think happens in your body? Just the sight or smell of it can stimulate the same feelings. sometimes our thoughts and feelings. we all have the potential for feeling anxious. we don't necessarily examine exactly the evidence for it. Anxiety about failing your exam may make you study hard or anxiety about certain areas of the town will keep you away from them. your inner desire for revenge could be intense. The way our bodies learn to react quickly and emotionally to things is of course complex but once again we can see that emotional learning is not our fault. a potential grief state of mind. we can still have the feelings again. When we respond with gut reactions to certain things we can just assume things are the way we feel about them. Emotional learning and body memories Our brains and bodies are set up to learn how to respond emotionally to things. If we learn to be compassionate and recognize that our feelings are coming from our emotional brains. So. and in the long term can be good for you. and we can treat them with 11 . part of life. crying. As another example. All these possible states of feeling are in our genetic blueprint. Then one day one jumped up at her.

we cut ourselves off from possible sources of good things. his or her brain is simply repeating feelings from memory and adopting the attitudes of others . They are the way the body has learnt to try to protect itself. Or they may ruminate on feelings of resentment.those others might be very unfair or angry people themselves! The Problems with Protection and Safety strategies. we can also develop fears in situations that are actually dangerous or hurtful and harmful. If this happens repeatedly that programming will become more fixed. This is because safety learning tends to use the same strategies in a variety of situations.compassion. Another key emotion that follows on from the sense of ‘no rescue’ is feeling very alone. Our emotions can be overwhelming at times because of things in the past. To cope with these complex feelings the person might react in an angry way or withdrew. ‘stupid’). they may stop us learning new ways of dealing with difficult situations. That is. They are very understandable and often rapidly activated. Note too that we can also learn to treat ourselves unkindly.back can come a sense of shame. or even self-harm. These are like body memories with feelings flushing through the person because of their original experiences. For example. Note too that the child cannot just runaway or escape. because the body remembers how they used to be overwhelmed by the parent if they tried to fight back in the past. As a result. A child who is often told off for making mistakes and called stupid may well. But the child wasn't born like that. The child experiences the parent as threatening and dangerous. So what do you think happens later in life when the child. It is tragic and sad.g. they have a huge disadvantage – they can have unforeseen and undesired consequences. feelings of entrapment and aloneness/no rescue. threats that can be linked to our early experiences and ways in which we learnt to try to protect ourselves. competitive or dominant parents may become very submissive. This also is a type of emotional learning. selfblaming or aggressive. imagine a child’s parent is often angry and calls them stupid. However. a sense of entrapment and aloneness. so that in that moment the child may feel trapped and no one will rescue them . They may even become aggressive themselves. is criticized? They may well have a flash of these difficult emotions inside . ashamed or distrusting because of the way people have treated us or reacted to us. who is now an adult. So. and these emotions will be associated with the words the parent uses (e. We call these protective or safety behaviors and strategies. but also to learn to act against them sometimes.. For example. are all emotional experiences being programmed into the child's brain. In conflict situations they back down. there will be arousal of panic/fearful emotions within the child. children who have aggressive. fear. However. So that is absolutely not our fault because usually they just developed in us without much thought on our part. because of our tendencies to be submissive. this can move us forward and we can retrain ourselves. they have a flush of feeling stupid and can tell themselves they are stupid. over time. As we go through life we actually develop all kinds of ways of picking up on. but not their fault. As we will see we have to make the decision to do that though. But we can see that that is not their fault. So there can be many areas in our lives where we have learnt to be frightened. For example. Again. They may even ‘know’ in their heads that they are not stupid but still feel it because of the emotional memories. this is not 12 . These feelings may be overwhelming and complex. and responding to. develop that reaction to themselves if they make mistakes.

If we practice compassion we can even change our brains. rather than fighting with them or trying to avoid them. values and beliefs and that we have. body memories. Before this though I'm going to show you how compassion may really help you deal with complex emotions and your sense of yourself. So in the exercise section this is what we will be exploring. The point is that we can find our minds reacting quickly to things and this is not our fault. So what can we do? We can learn to step back from our first reactions and learn to think about them in different ways. 13 . Learning to stop and really notice and attend to what is going though our minds is a first step to having more control. Leaning how to be compassionate to our feelings. We can develop the habit of learning to stop before acting on first reactions. with the emotions. This is supported by important.our fault. recent and exciting research. It turns out that we have systems in our brain that make compassion possible and by developing compassion we can organize our minds in new ways. is the next step. Learning compassion is a way of coping with the challenge of just finding ourselves here.

various desires and lusts. 14 . but when you feel differently a different pattern and array will be activated. (and things are more complex of course). to help us think about how our emotions interact and why and how compassion can affect and dampen other emotions I'm going to outline a model that admittedly is quite simplistic. one pattern of ‘an array of many millions of brain cells’ will light up in your brain. Below I outline three interacting systems in Diagram 1. Now. For example. excitement. if you are in a good mood you are more likely to cope with minor frustrations than if you are in a bad mood. We also looked at how different feelings direct our attention. Three Types of Driven. we may be able to take more control over the ‘brain patterns’ that emerge in us. pursuing. Incentive/resource focused Wanting. desires and urges such as anger. of course. when we work on the exercises in Part 11. So let us look briefly at each of these in turn. As we will see. but thinking in terms of these three systems can offer a helpful framework for exploring how our brain gives rise to different feelings. Our experiences of emotions and desires emerge from the patterns they create in our brains and bodies. fear. excited. If you are having one type of thought or feeling. This is a simplified view of what are. multi-component and complex systems in our brains. vitality . but this simplicity is actually very helpful too. However what we did not look at is how feelings interact. thinking and behaviour in different ways. I'm going to explain how compassion can help balance some of our emotions.The Three Circles Model: The Interactions Between Different Types of Emotion We have looked at the types of feelings we can have and what they were designed to do. and compassion.

because the activation 15 . Indeed. Imagine our ancestors leave their cave and go searching for food. Although it is a source of painful and difficult feelings. motivate and encourage us to seek out things and resources that we (and those we love and care about) will need in order to survive and prosper. You threat system is your basic ‘fall back system’ – the easiest of all to feel and trigger. People who take certain drugs can over stimulate this system and suffer bad come downs later. This means that unless we work at being cool and rational we can go on to the defensive very quickly. to self-protect. Now. So the strange thing is we’re all very sensitive to threats and our brains can overestimate threats and dangers because that's how they are designed to work. our friends or our group. People with manic depression can have problems with this system too. That’s your threat-protection system kicking in Better safe than sorry Now. Also. (e. your mind will be racing and you may want to party all the time: the drive-excitement system gets out of balance. Its effect will be to activate us to run or fight. Those ancestors who opted for the better safe than sorry approach survived. an important point is that the basic threat system does not think much. They hear sounds behind them and decide to run away. we can have feelings of excitement and pleasure. It will also be activated if there are threats to people we love. pass an exam.g. or inhibit us so that we freeze or submit. friendships. and running was unnecessary. or get to go out with a desired person. Incentive and Resource-seeking System (alias the drive-excitement system) The function of this system is to give us positive feelings that guide. food. but they survived. (getting anxious or angry).g. If we win a competition. That principle saved our ancestors. These feelings will ripple through our bodies alerting us and urging us to take action against the threat. anxiety. and so on). the nausea that can sweep though us. we have seen that we can very easily learn to become anxious or angry. This helps direct our thinking and behaviour. We are motivated and pleasured by seeking out. keep in mind that it evolved as a protection system. but the main thing to be aware of is that it gives us our bodily feeling. they may have got anxious and run away when they didn't need to. The bottom line is that our threat protection emotions are easy to activate and can be difficult to soothe and that's because they were designed for protection. but it could have been a lion or a snake. or if we feel disgust. the racing heart. kind of overexcited. In fact. places to live. That's right . because of how our brains have been designed.our brains are designed to protect us rather than to always be cool and rational. This is not say they can’t cause our serious difficulties 2. 9 times out of 10 those sounds could have been made by birds or a rabbit. or stop doing things. it simply reacts because it operates on a ‘better safe that sorry’ principle. Threat and Self-protection System The function of this is to pick up on threats quickly and then give us bursts of feelings such as anxiety. There are many brain areas that make up our threat and protection system. we might feel emotions in our bodies before we consciously realise we are having a feeling. disgust).1. anger. If someone jumps in front of you when you are driving there is an immediate flush of anxiety through your body.. you might be surprised to learn that our brain gives more priority to dealing with threats than with pleasurable things. So we need to see them as at times over eager or over developed protection systems rather then ‘something bad or wrong’ with us.e. anger or disgust. consuming and achieving nice things (e. If you win the lottery and become a millionaire you might feel so energised that it may be difficult to sleep. comforts. i.

which helps to restore our balance. or when others seem kind to you. If over stimulated. Soothing and Contentment System This system enables us to bring a certain soothing. Substances in our brain called endorphins are important for the peaceful. You can explore for yourself what contentedness or kindness is like by simply remembering what your body feels like when you are content or when you feel kindness for yourself. the threat system kicks in with anxiety or frustration-anger. and. they can be content. When you feel safe and content. winning something you want. This system is primarily an activating and ‘go get’ system. calm sense of well-being. We will refer to this as the ‘drive and excitement system’ for short and to help us keep in mind it’s focus on activated positive feelings and motives. not striving or wanting. not wanting or striving. 3. and how you behave when you're excited. as they are pleasurable and we will seek these things out. A substance in our brain called dopamine is important for our drives. These feelings of soothing from kindness and support help us feel safe and work through brain systems similar to those that produce peaceful feelings associated with fulfilment and contentment. feeling calmer inside and connected to others. in depression people can lose some of the feelings that this system provides. When people practice meditation and ‘slowing down’ these are the feelings they report. thinking and feeling. and behaviour. even your football team winning a game. is that it is also linked to affection and kindness. what do you tend to and think about? How do you 16 . (along with the endorphins). and don’t need to achieve or do anything (they have sufficient or enough). For example. gives us feelings of well-being that flow from feeling loved. wanted and safe with others. what you attend to. passing an exam. Affection and kindness from others helps soothe us adults too when we’re distressed. These are also released when we feel kindness. This hormone. Affection and kindness: What complicates this system. It is also different from just low threat. even mildly so. As for our basic emotions this system guides our attention. energy or desire. so enjoy and keep seeking them. As I have noted. When balanced with the other two systems it guides us towards important life goals. Imagine what life might be like without it: you’d have little motivation. when a baby or child is distressed the love of the parent soothes and calms the infant. and think about. When blocks to our wants and goals become ‘a threat’. it can also drive us to wanting ‘more and more’ and to ‘frustration and disappointment’. lots of things can give a flush of dopamine: falling in love. These are cues to what we call ‘social success’ and from an evolutionary point of view such cues indicate things are going well and are good for you. quiescence and peacefulness to the self. but is of great importance for our exploration of compassion. though. You can explore this for yourself by simply remembering what your body feels like when you're excited. excitement or ‘striving and succeeding’ feeling of the driveexcitement system. When we feel soothed we have feelings of safeness in our everyday lives. an inner peacefulness that is a quite different positive feeling from the hyped-up. Contentment is a form of being happy with the way things are and feeling safe. indeed. When animals aren’t defending themselves against threats and problems.can shift between too high to too low. There is also a hormone called oxytocin which links to our feelings of social safeness and affiliation. which can be associated with boredom or a kind of emptiness.

making anxiety and anger easy to feel. This is important because we going to be developing the compassionate part of you or the compassion pattern within you -.and this means practicing.and this can then be useful for dealing with more difficult aspects of ourselves. We will look at this again when we come to mindfulness and think about a minds as like a spotlight or a boat on the sea. or being upset over the break up or los of a relationship. and a falling out of love part or pattern that can think. Mood states. So your compassion self is a part of you or a pattern within you that we want try to develop through practice -. their threat and self-protection system is very highly developed. Our moods can be affected by many things – for example changes in hormones over a menstrual cycle. So. For some people who have psychological difficulties. feel and want to act a certain way. feel and want to act a certain way. As we will see trying to be understanding an compassionate about our moods can be helpful. but their soothing system is less well developed because they’ve never had a chance to develop it. Moods then are like patterns of our emotions. compassionate mind training is like a phsysiotherapy for the mind. The Many Parts of You If you have in following the above you will see that we are made up of many different bits and pieces this means that there are different paths to ourselves or different patterns within ourselves. feelings and thoughts in our minds. We will see that sometimes if our minds are in an anxious pattern or an angry pattern. We will explore how to use certain exercises to try and help us develop that system. a falling in love part all pattern that can think. even mildly? Okay some of use might struggle here so we might need to use our imagination to sort of guess how that might feel – but have a go. we can try to deliberately try to focus on creating a compassion pattern – rather than just let the angry or anxious patent run the show. feel and want to act a certain way. So for example there is an angry part that can think. I will refer to it as a soothing and contentment system. So it's useful to think about ourselves as a collection of different parts or patterns within our minds. an anxious part that can think. In different moods different emotions can come to the fore – so sometimes we can just wake up feeling irritable or anxious. feel and want to act a certain way. Our moods are related to different patterns of brain chemicals.behave when you're safe and content. This system is going to be a focus in our compassion training because it is helpful to our sense of well-being. Although some patents tend to get more regularly activated and can be more intense than others it's helpful to think of all of what goes in him on in our minds as linked to different parts of ourselves in different patents and not to ever identify with any particular one. or feeling exhausted and run down. You'll compassion itself will think feel and want to act in specific ways that can counteract more angry or anxious patterns 17 . One last thing.

• Self-protection emotions are easy to develop and learn and can link to body and emotional memories and understandable safety strategies such as avoidance. • The kind of genes we inherit. So much of what goes on in our mind and brains is not our fault. doing and acquiring things. these feelings – especially if we see that will have harmful consequence to us and are not really conducive for our well being. and backgrounds we come from shape our brains. growing. can stop us from learning. closing down or submission. and kindness from people and ourselves. • We did not choose these but just have to do the best we can as we discover them within ourselves. developing and balancing our emotions. the other is linked to contentment. aggressiveness. trying as best we can to deal with complex emotions and desires. understanding and taking responsibility to try as best we can to feel more in control and at peace with is linked to achieving. feeling safe. • All of us just find ourselves here. • Many of the unpleasant emotions. Being kind and supportive can help develop these systems. • We have two types of positive emotion . 18 . and not act out . existing with our brains that have been designed and built for us. • Compassionate Mind Training helps us to understand how our threat and self-protection system are working and how to develop a kinder and more soothing approach to our minds. our beliefs and values. to being curious about how our minds work. • In Compassionate Mind Training we shift from blaming and criticizing ourselves. emotions and needs. especially the big two of anger and anxiety.Key Messages • Our brains evolved over millions of years and have a range of complex desires. however. As we will see becoming more aware of what ‘arises’ in our minds and leaning how to refocus on other emotions and can help us notice. • Our basic self-protection and safety strategies. are actually designed for dealing with threats and self-protection. or self dislike.

defines it as ‘a sensitivity to the suffering of self and others with a deep wish and commitment to relieve the suffering’. sensitivity does not mean we just react to things. One way we can think about compassion (and there are various ways) is to see that it is made up of different aspects of our minds. * The fifth aspect is called empathy and this is about how we come to understand and think about our feelings and our thoughts. or try to run away from them. For example. Sympathy is an emotional reaction to our and other people’s emotions and states – it is that immediate wince if we see someone fall over heavily or cut themselves. tolerant. We can also find that when we are able to face our feelings we can be more reflective . For example. hide from or suppress them. compassion requires us to be emotionally open to ours and others’ suffering. become familiar with. Sympathy can also operate when we are moved and take joy from the flourishing and well-being of others. The attributes and qualities of compassion *The first attribute and quality of compassion involves making a decision to try to be compassionate. So a key aspect of compassion is learning how to tolerate and come to terms with. We become openhearted. so that things can make sense to us.What is Compassion? Developing compassion can be a way of bringing our emotions into a helpful balance that increases our sense of well-being. We also need to become sensitive to our genuine needs. Indeed. sometimes sad. This doesn't mean of course that we don't wish to change our feelings for things. This means that we are emotionally touched. but when we are compassionate we can learn to be open. who is the head of Tibetan Buddhism.and this helps us develop and show empathy. we are to be motivated to (want to) have a go at becoming more compassionate. It's difficult to be self-compassionate if we are completely insensitive to our pain. angry or anxious and sometimes joyful. to see this as desirable. if criticism upsets us we might say we’re ‘sensitive to criticism’ but really we mean we are ‘vulnerable to reacting in a certain way’. I distinguish between attributes and skills. wants or needs. * Third. curious. But we are unlikely to do that through criticism. we may well do. the Dalai Lama. In other words. we can only be truly open to feelings if we can tolerate them. for other people or even ourselves. We can recognize that the compassionate self is a self worth ‘feeding’ and working to develop. to try to 19 . Sensitive means ‘openness and ability to notice and attend in certain ways’. upset. running away or suppressing our feelings. accepting of and kind to our feelings. So we need to think about what compassion is because this is what's going to help us balance our systems and also stimulate that soothing system we mentioned above. sometimes we are critical of our feelings. we make an effort to train our minds to become sensitive to our feelings and thoughts. * Fourth. rather we have to face them openly and kindly. and less frightened of our feelings. So we learn to notice our thoughts and feelings as they arise. However. Now. moved and sympathetic to suffering. explorative and wanting to know why we feel what we feel or why we think what we think. However. * Second. compassion can be defined in many ways. We have a variety of feelings. When we have empathy for others we make an effort to think about things from their point of view.

The next skill is compassionate reasoning or thinking. for example. Rather. a preparedness to be giving to self and others that which is conducive to our and their well-being. We do each of these with the feelings of warmth. or difficulty?” Do not become confused with the idea that compassionate thinking is simply ‘being nice’. We don't judge them. So. In showing empathy we have to do some work. disappointments. so still much training for me I guess! The Skills of Compassion So what about the skills of compassion? Well. Although I try to develop my compassion my beloved wife still tells me I am becoming a grumpy old man. and at times thinking about difficult thoughts or painful or difficult. learning to think and reason in a compassionate and helpful way. for example. and learning to behave in a rational and compassionate way. recognizing if you need a rest. to really ask ourselves the question “what is a helpful way for me to think about this problem. All of these are engaged with the feelings of warmth and a genuine desire to relieve suffering and increase our growth and flourishing. When we behave compassionately to others we try to do things that will help them overcome suffering and/or to flourish. even aggressive. Of course. So can we practice deliberately choosing to refocus our reasoning helpfully. 20 . For example if somebody hurts you but you realize that they were under enormous stress then you don’t take it personally and you forgive them: you are showing kind empathy. compassionate behavior also links to openness and generosity. we learn to notice but not act on our feelings. what we listen to. The depressed mind. what we look at. or you need the support of others and to ask for help. support and kindness. we can ask and attend to the half empty part or the half full part. can you redirect your attention to something that is helpful? So the attention is very important. step by step. with a glass of water that is half empty. they involve learning to direct our attention in a compassionate and helpful way. Our third skill is learning how to behave compassionately. Sometimes compassionate behavior can mean being nice to yourself. we become more aware of thoughts and feelings but from an observational point of view. or just treating yourself kindly with something relaxing or fun. can be filled with condemning and critical thoughts of self or others. what we remember and how we do those things. Remember these abilities can be developed in small stages. our relationships and situations in a way that is compassionate and helpful? When we ruminate on our anxiety.understand that they may think and feel differently from us. nor try to suppress them or push them out of our minds. Consider attention: Attention is what we direct our focus to. When something negative happens or you are unhappy with yourself. avoid or run away from them. Giving this up is linked to becoming kind and mindful. moving us forward in our life's journey. our anger or aspects of depression this will lock in these feelings. that is in ways which we identify will be helpful to us and help us with our suffering. situation. Thinking things through compassionately is being honest. feelings and dilemmas. Can we train our minds to focus on reasoning and thinking about ourselves. * Sixth is the important attribute of non-condemning and put-down judging.

We might have to wait for that system to get going a bit. Sometimes warmth is hard to muster. Genuine compassionate helpfulness. It’s compassionate because although taking what might seem like an easier short term path. So the best steps here are to practice compassionate attention. curious and open. We may try to be kind to our children even if we are in bad moods and don’t feel like it! Nonetheless an important element of all of the above. thinking and behavior aspects. They may say they can feel kindness for others but cannot feel it for themselves. Warmth and kindness Now as we have repeatedly noted it is our intentions that are important – even if we do not have certain feelings. Genuine compassionate helpfulness thinks about other people as well as us. (e. Sometimes compassionate behavior is about acting against anxiety or depression or basic prejudice and doing things even though we don't want to.g. We know that when we are depressed those feeling systems may not be working quite so well. When we are compassionate to others it is sometimes being assertive and clear and helping them face things that is important for their development. might give us temporary relief. not in the selfish me-just-me way. however. but of course we do this kindly and without malice. is never submissive or simply gives in to what other people want and then leaves us feeling resentful or very needy for their approval. So compassionate behavior can be tough! Life is often not easy. both attributes and skills. This is where some people can begin to struggle. so it's only natural if we struggle with the warmth feelings. So we can intend and try to be kind an compassionate even if we do not feel it – feelings can come later – with practice. Don't worry too much about that as it is not uncommon. and allow the feeling aspects to come with time. The key issue for everything really is learning to focus on what is helpful for you and others. 21 . Learning to be assertive or say ‘no’ can actually be very compassionate. avoiding doing anything). is to try to cultivate and generate feelings of warmth and kindness. Compassion has to be wise.Compassionate behavior can also help us develop courage to do things that may be blocking us. it doesn't take us anywhere. because you will find that is not helpful and other people will lose interest in you. thoughtful.

why we feel what we feel. Also. depressed or distressed Compassionate Attributes Compassionate Skills 1. There is logic behind it and as we go through the exercises you will see how these attributes and skills can be used to help ourselves. but now put together in a circle for you. Compassionate behaviour often needs courage. We show them like this to help us see that each aspect in the outer circle can be used to help develop an attribute on the inner circle. Developing a motivation to be caring towards self and others – reduce suffering and flourish. Developing an accepting. Developing sympathy.g. 22 . if we focus on trying to develop an attribute e. then we can do this with training our attention. Developing mindful attention and using our attention to bring to mind helpful compassionate images and/or a sense of self. thinking and behaviour. 6. Learning to deliberately focus our 1. Learning to think and reason. 2. how our thoughts are as they are – reflective functioning. 2. 3. noncondemning. If you only have a very vague idea about the sorts of compassionate skills we are going to develop that's fine. attention on things that are helpful and bring a balanced perspective.. 3. to become more sensitive or more tolerant to our emotions or those of others. looking at the evidence and bring a balanced perspective. 5. So here are the ideas. styles of thinking and behaviour that arise when we are angry. 4. Learning to plan and engage in behaviours that act to relieve distress. moved and emotionally in tune with our feelings. memories or situations (including positive emotions). Writing down and reflecting on our styles of thinking and reasoning. reduces safety behaviours and moves us (and others) forward to our (or their) life goals – to flourish.Compassionate attributes and compassionate skills are used to counteract the feelings. use our rational mind. distresses and needs for growth. Developing abilities to tolerate rather than avoid difficult feelings. Developing our insight and understanding of how our mind works. anxious. So don't try and learn it all or remember it all. Developing sensitivity to our feelings and needs of self and others (different from vulnerability). Don't worry if this seems a bit of a handful and too many things to think about. and non-submissive orientation to ourselves and others.

Multi-Modal Com Warmth Attention SKI A Sensitivity Care for well-being C Feeling Non-Judge 23 .

• Studies show that there are areas of our brain that light up when we are kind to ourselves or others. and that too can seem overwhelming or frightening. This depicts a brain . Let's look at this together. spend a moment really thinking about that. so you just close your eyes and you just imagine a wonderful meal. but now suppose that you’re very hungry but maybe it is late at night and you can't get any food. images and memories can have powerful effects on systems in our brains look at Diagram 2. those images that you deliberately create in your mind can also send messages to parts of your brain that send messages to your body so that your mouth will water and again your stomach 24 .How will Teaching Myself to be Compassionate Help Me? Researches all over the world are now looking into the important physical and mental health benefits of developing compassion and mindfulness. your stomach acids get going and you get the tummy rumbles. To help you explore how our thoughts. Let’s start and use examples that I commonly use and have discussed on my Overcoming Depression talks with your therapist C. As we will see though. Fear of Compassion? Research is also showing that some people find kindness and compassion difficult. So. • For over 2. Sometimes. Well. have a look at Diagram 2 below and then follow it though with me. research is showing that if we focus on developing compassion and kindness for ourselves and others this really does help settle our feelings. What happens in your body then? Again. How do our thought and images affect our minds and brains? Our thoughts and images can have very powerful effects on our brains and bodily systems. They believe they don't deserve it.okay it was drawn by me so it is not a great picture. It will show us how external things and our imagination of external things can work in a very similar way. Imagine that you are very hungry and you see a lovely meal.500 years Buddhists have argued strongly that life has much suffering in it and developing compassion is a way to help us through difficulties. increasingly. especially humans. It can feel so strange because they are not used to it. What happens in your body? The sight of the meal will stimulate an area of your brain that will send messages to your body so that your mouth will start to water. these fears and difficulties are not uncommon but we can work through these difficulties stepby-step. We are biologically made to be very receptive to care and kindness. this puts us in touch with sadness. or are even frightened by it. or others are kind to us. Spend a moment really thinking about that. that it wouldn’t help them. Okay. when we start to develop kindness. So. that it’s weak and woolly. • Studies of evolution have also shown that many animals.D. but will do the job I hope. are evolved to need and respond to the care of others.

angry and down. and here is the point . (always pointing out and dwelling on your mistakes or things you are unhappy with or telling you that you are no good and there is no point in you trying anything. this may stimulate an area of your brain that affects your body. upset and unhappy because those threat emotion systems in your brain have been triggered. images and fantasies affect our brains Okay. we know that. you can just imagine something sexy and that can affect your body. be sure you don't get meals and sex mixed up as did Hannibal Lecter!). So if you are constantly putting yourself down this can also activate your stress systems and trigger the emotional systems in your brain that lead to feeling anxious. Their unpleasantness will make you feel anxious. as we have suggested. which will release hormones into your body. The images that you deliberately create in your mind. or if they’re being angry with you). will stimulate your physiology and body systems. yet that image is capable of stimulating those physiological systems in your body that make your saliva flow. You wouldn’t not be surprised by that would you? However. (Incidentally. then. Diagram 2: How our thoughts. So. If the criticism is harsh and constant it may make you feel depressed. Spend a moment and really think about that because this insight will link to other ideas to come. leading to arousal. and your thinking. That’s right.acids will get going. of course. Remember though. But equally. Now. it’s only an image that you’ve created in your mind. our own thoughts can affect parts of Meal Me 25 . this time that there is no actual meal. How do you feel if people criticise you? How does it feel in your body? Spend a moment thinking about this. even if you’re in the house alone. The reason for this is that the image alone can stimulate physiological systems in your brain in an area called the pituitary. the point of this story is. this will affect your stress systems and your stress hormone cortisol will increase. If someone is bullying you. Let’s turn this around and think of a more ‘depression linked’ example. let's look at another example. that thoughts and images are very powerful ways of stimulating things in our brains and our body. Spend a moment and think about that. something that all of us have come across: You see something sexy on TV.our own thoughts and images can do the same.

or that the thought of a lovely meal will stimulate your eating system. my colleagues and I. Whoever had a feeling of joy. we can think about how our own thoughts and images might be able to stimulate the kindness and soothing system. supportive and encouraging. If we can learn to be kind and supportive.our brain that give rise to more stressful and unpleasant feelings. there are many reasons for becoming self-critical. This is no different from saying that sexual thoughts and feelings will stimulate your sexual system..and never stop to think if they are accurate or reasonable. compassionate 26 . In our frustration we then criticize ourselves and take our frustration out on ourselves. from being criticised?! If we develop a self-critical style then we are constantly stimulating our threat system and will understandably feel constantly threatened! Self-criticism then stimulates the threat system. All of this is very understandable. When it does not work out as we would like this can frighten us because we might think we have let ourselves down or others will be rejecting of us. with the first type of teacher. This is one reason why it is helpful to learn how to engage with compassionate attention. This will help us cope with stress and set backs. Learning to spot self-criticism and learning what to do about it will be a key issue. Using exactly the same idea. and helps you see what you do right and how you can build on those good things. you have a teacher who is very gentle and warm. Or consider that you are learning a new skill and struggling. and indeed will do much better. However. there is someone who cares about you. makes you feel you're holding up the class. because we are giving ourselves threat signals that affect our brains. So. with researchers at the University of Aston. have just explored what happens in people's brains when they are selfcritical. It really is the case that we stimulate threat systems in our brain. happiness. and encourages you with warmth and genuine care – how does that feel? Maybe you could spend some time thinking about this right now. The Power of Self-Kindness We have spent some time looking at the three emotion regulation systems and we explored a system in the brain that helps to soothe and calm us when things are hard or we are frightened – we called this a soothing system. In the normal course of events we feel soothed when others are kind and understanding. contentment or well-being. Compare this to a teacher who is clearly irritated by you. understands how hard it is. It can certainly tone down positive feelings. and focuses on your deficits. but not helpful. We have a system in our brains that can respond to those behaviours from others. maybe other people seem to be getting the hang of it easier than you. It may also be that we are trying very hard to reach a certain standard or achieve something or present ourselves in a certain way. suppose that when things are hard for you and you are struggling. to send ourselves helpful messages when things are hard for us. We don’t stop to think whether they were genuinely interested in our welfare and really cared and wanted to help us – in fact they may just have been rather stressed and irritable people who were critical of everyone. of how imagining a meal can stimulate sensations and feelings in our bodies that are linked to eating. pays careful attention to where your difficulties are. One common reason for becoming selfcritical is because others have been critical of us in the past and we simply take their views as accurate. In fact. The more self-critical we are the more those systems are stimulated. Most of us are going to prefer. we are more likely to stimulate those parts of our brain that respond to kindness. We just go along with their criticisms of us – as one often does as a child . Now.

beginning to become self-compassionate can seem like a threat to them. it is not a question of deserve. However. These people believe that either they or others simply don't deserve it. Self-esteem.thinking. For example. they can even be frightened to give up their sense of being inadequate or bad in some way. For example you might want to learn the piano or guitar. and my own.self-compassion. if you feel like this but keep an open mind you can practice switching to self-kindness each day and see how things go. Dr Neff’s work. Your feelings may take awhile follow. Self-compassion on the other hand is about focusing on our similarities and shared humanity with others. This is the same with kindness. compassionate imagery and compassionate feeling. It is simply a question of treating our brain wisely and feeding it appropriately. Self-esteem often focuses on how well we are doing in comparison to others and this is why low self-esteem is often linked to feeling inferior. on the other Dr Kristen Neff has been a leading researcher in this field and you can read more about her work and findings at www. This is no different really to. Some people feel that self-kindness. So don't worry if your feelings rather drag behind your intentions. To show how powerful focusing on kindness can be consider the following. I hope you can see that by understanding that our brains have been designed by evolution to need and to respond positively to kindness. has shown there are important differences between self-compassion and self-esteem. tends to be associated with doing well and achieving. compassionate behavior. Our research indicates that when some people first start to be kind to their selves they can feel it as rather strange or threatening. “All over the world. Your intention and efforts to become compassionate is what counts There is now a lot of evidence that self-compassion and self-kindness are associated with well-being and being able to cope with life’s stresses. going wrong and you are having a hard time. We will be looking at this as we go through the book because some people find this a bit tricky. who also struggle as we do. wanting kindness or even making every effort to be kind and gentle to one self is a weakness or an indulgence. understanding that our body needs certain vitamins and a balanced diet. They have to work through these ‘fears’ to start training their minds in self-kindness. Bear in mind all the time that this is about helping you rebalance systems in your brain. millions of people are working for the betterment of others. Self-esteem is more linked to our drive-achievement system. Now focus on this idea. It is not an issue of deserve. one simply does it because it's sensible. For some people who are very self-critical. self-compassion is important when things are difficult. So then. and judging ourselves in comparison to others. We might have to behave compassionately before we start feeling much. Just spend a minute and recall all of the wonderful charities that exist in the world for helping people in poverty. It is not a self-indulgence any more than training your body to be fit and healthy is a self-indulgence. it's not a question of whether you deserve to give your body vitamins or not. or children. The key thing here is your intention and desire to become more compassionate.” 27 . or the sick and disadvantaged. but it might take some practice before you start the feel the music you're playing. say. it’s an issue of understanding how our mind works and then practicing how to feed it things to help it work optimally.

It is not that one is true and one is not. See in your mind people actually engaging in those actions of reaching out to others and really wanting others to be free of suffering.therefore you have to cultivate it. maybe a gentle smile. In our training and it's going to being students learn to focus on those things that are likely to make your brain operates in a way that gives you feelings of calmness acceptance and well-being. You can see that what you focus your mind on has a major impact on what you feel. positive feelings and well-being won't emerge on their own. it is where we choose to put our focus. Do that for just a second or two and notice what happens to your mood. on the helpful or the unhelpful. It's like a garden really. This means we need to stand back and think of how we would like to train our minds. that will shape our brains in particular ways. Hold that expression for about one minute. Note your mood and what happens in this focus.Allow yourself to have a compassionate facial expression. Chances are from no fault of your own but your protection system tends to run the show and it's much easier to create feelings of anxiety and or depression and feel a bit lost in them. Now contrast this by thinking that “all over the world today people are engaging in cruel and horrible acts to each other”. Really try to focus on this as an actual reality in the world today. Compassionate mind training it's about cultivating things in our minds that are likely to be helpful to us. That feeling you might have just had earlier goes away. as you do this. 28 . If you leave it to grow by itself it will grow but weeds will grow up to and it won't necessarily look as you would like it to .

Mindfulness is a way of “paying attention to the present moment’ without judgment”. The power of the spotlight can light up many different things. consider water. picking it up bit by bit and that's fine. enjoying the day and just being in that moment. it can contain poison or medicine but also is just water. and some ideas about compassion and the different elements of compassion. Just go at your own pace. an area of dirty carpet. Practicing mindfulness is a way of practicing directing our attention.Section Two Compassion: The Exercises Preparing for Compassionate Exercises So. a picture on the wall. not what it contains. and argument you might have had.gosh that is a lot isn't it! However. where we are. That might seem quite a lot to take in but don't worry. When you first come to learn to drive a car there are the gears to think about and the pedals and the steering and the indicating and the handbrake and the wing mirrors . Consider that we are a point of consciousness moving through time. what we should have or dinner. but the spotlight is not the thing it lights up. Consciousness is interesting to think about for a number of reasons. Your consciousness does not exist in the moment just gone or in the moment to come. Or. It is like a spotlight. Or consider a boat on the sea that can sail in calm waters or in storms -but the boat is not the water. a plant. only now. 29 . how we could sort out financial problems. In contrast we could be walking and our head is full of other things. a book on the table. So we are living in our inner creations not in those moment that is surrounding us. So for example when walking down the street we are mindful when our mind is focused on our walking. we have now looked at our basic model. Mindfulness Developing mindfulness is very useful to helping us with our compassionate exercises. So don't be put off at all if at first you think there's a bit too much here. just take a step at a time and practice. with practice you gently get the hang of it and it becomes smooth.

(the wander off thoughts). the colour and texture of the fruit beneath the skin. notice the effect that you have on the apple. gently bring your focus back to it. Don’t rush. by smell and texture and by taste. there's no judgement. Next. you're not judging the apple. Mindfulness is also about clarity of observation and attention. take a bite of the apple. that is the key to mindfulness. you will experience different sensations again. you will suddenly have sensations from that part of the body. if I ask you to concentrate and 'attend' to the big toe on your left foot. and exploring all aspects of the activity to the full. you have explored the apple visually. our attention would have been awakened. Don't worry if this seems a little tricky because we will practice as we go. Take time to really observe. Our minds are constantly distracted. your mind would probably have wandered: ‘This isn't a good apple – where did I buy it? I ought to eat more fruit. but we can pull back from these and regain (and reside in) an awareness of simply being conscious. Now focus on your sense of taste and what the apple feels like in your mouth. feeling the texture in your mouth. damn. spend time just observing. Now. without mindfulness. pay attention to the sensations of swallowing. Once again. our attention would have been focused again. If you had dropped the apple. It is learning how to be in that mechanism. take a knife and peel it or cut into it. You can choose to give your attention a particular focus. Mindfulness is important because most of our lives are spent doing one thing and thinking about something else and we're never fully in the moment. Then. Really focus on the taste.We can think of our minds like this and try to reside in the ‘spotlight’ in the nature of consciousness notice what the spotlight lights up but not be carried away by it or identify with the ‘thing it lights up’. biting into an apple. you would have been able to hear what it sounded like – but you don’t need to do that today! In this interaction. I just cut my finger!’ In mindfulness we learn to notice the distraction. noticing how the juice is stimulating your salivary glands and how the saliva feels in your mouth. Next. As you chew. you're simply exploring its properties. chew slowly. So our attention can be thought of as a spotlight that can be moved around. In this exploration. Take driving. sometimes our consciousness will be filled with different feelings of anger or anxiety or unpleasant memories (we had sailing on stormy waters). for example. When your mind wanders from your focus on the apple. say a group of naked motorbike riders flashed past us. Actually I don’t like apples … Oh. look at the apple and note all of its colours and textures. or if the driver in front of us suddenly put on their brake lights. Or we are like the boat. For instance. (as it most likely will). If you performed this activity. This is not 30 . If I now switch your attention to the top of your head. We can get home and realize that we can't actually remember how we got there. in the attention. by touch and feel. and gently and kindly bring our minds back on task and focus. because our minds were full of 101 other things. and hold it in your hand and feel the quality of its skin. This is mindful attention – being in the activity rather than distracted from it by other thoughts. As you swallow. suppose you're going to eat an apple. For example. How would you do this mindfully? First. there's only your experience of your interaction with the apple. If something unexpected happened. notice how the apple becomes mushier. So. Mindfulness is a way of understanding 'attention'.

When our mind wanders we learn to note the distraction and gently and kindly re-focus the attention. 31 . so you cannot do this right or wrong. and also if we’re upset. This will become a focus around which we will do some compassionfocused exercises later. Just notice these thoughts and kindly and gently bring your mind back to the focus of your attention. but distractions. call them your 'judging and evaluative thoughts’. You are not trying to achieve anything. simply notice them. some would say essential for more advanced development. our minds can feel chaotic with thoughts and feelings swirling around us. we learn to rest it and simply observe our thoughts and feelings as best we can. When we first try mindfulness. These thoughts are common and understandable. Of course seeking out practiced teachers is very helpful. we feel like a pinball! This is typical but is not a problem that must be fixed or something done about. If we are learning to swim we learn how to rest upon the water. The most important thing here is simply to practise the breathing without worrying if you're doing it example of savouring the moment though. Learning how to breathe We're now going to use the same idea of mindfully peeling and eating an apple. It may be distressing and undesirable but it is not a problem. but this time concentrate on our breathing. Mindfulness is paying attention in a specific way and acknowledging the distractions. smile compassionately to yourself and bring your attention back to the task. If they arise in your mind. to make our strokes .the water is not a problem to be solved. There is a key thing to note here. It really does not matter if your mind wanders 100 or 1000 times because all you're trying to do is notice this and return your attention. it's about being brought to alertness for a specific reason. So if we find our minds rushing and difficult as we practice. If you have thoughts of “I'm not doing this right” or “I should be able to focus better than this” or “my mind seems impossible to focus” note that this is typical of the thoughts we will have practicing this. Mindfulness is about being in the moment.

with the rhythm within your body that is soothing and calming to you. Sometimes it’s useful to focus on the point just inside the nose where the air enters. so you get the idea of it. Now we can spend 30 seconds or so just focusing on our breathing. the area underneath your ribs. your mind might have wandered off. Feel your diaphragm. It is like you are checking in. linking up. Just notice your breathing and play an experiment with your breathing. for you. your attention may have been 32 . The first one is called ‘mindful relaxing’ and involves learning how to pay attention in a gentle and kind way. Once you are familiar with this you can do the exercise sitting down. So find somewhere to sit comfortably. just noticing the breath coming down into the diaphragm. So. however. in through your mouth and out from your nose. now that you are sitting comfortably. seems to be your own soothing. You may have had thoughts like “What’s this about? Will this help me? Did I do my job correctly yesterday?” You may have heard various things outside the room. comforting rhythm. It is. Just focus on that for 30 seconds…………………………………………. your diaphragm lifting and then the air moving out.Exercise: Mindful Breathing and Relaxing There are many aspects to resting mind and body so I’m going to take you through a few key and simple relaxing exercises. although it was only 30 seconds. through your nose. lying down or even standing up and walking. As you breathe try to allow the air to come down into your diaphragm – that’s just at the bottom of your ribcage in the upside down ‘V’. What did you notice? You may have noticed that actually. move as you breathe in and out. Okay.. Breathe a little faster or a little slower until you find a breathing pattern that. place both feet flat on the floor about shoulder’s width apart and rest your hands on your legs. Now what we can do is just gently focus on our breathing. preferable to do it sitting down to begin with.

When you first do this kind of breathing focusing. don’t get angry with it. Notice and return. That’s it. The point about this is that our minds are indeed very unruly and the more you practise this short breathing exercise and the longer you can extend it. All that matters is that you notice and then. the more you will then notice how much our mind simply bobs about all over the place. 33 . but some days it will be easier than others. Notice the distractions and return your attention to your breathing. with kindness and gentility bring your attention back to focus on your breathing. natural. and then returning to the focus on your breathing. with gentility and kindness bring your attention back to the breathing. Now if you practise that ‘attention and return’. and to be expected. You are not trying to force your mind to clear itself of thoughts. All you are doing in this exercise is noticing that your mind wanders. ‘attention and return’.drawn to the postman pushing letters through the box. You are not trying to achieve anything. So it is ‘notice and return’ and each time it wanders that’s fine. It may become easier. Remember you are not trying to relax as such. or a thousand thoughts. with gentility and kindness you may find that your mind will bounce around less and less. the exercise is simply an exercise where we learn to focus attention. In other words. The key thing is the mindful attention to the process rather than the result. We can explain that this is a bit like sleeping. to the best of your ability. just kindly bring it back to the focus of your breathing. it can be quite surprising just how much your mind does shift from one thing to another. All you are doing is allowing yourself to notice when your mind wanders and then. that doesn’t matter at all. or whatever. where we try to create the conditions that will help sleep but if we focus too much on whether we are ‘asleep or going to sleep’ this makes sleep more difficult. If you have a hundred thoughts. So we need to train the mind and the only thing that is important in this training is not to try to create anything. You are not trying to create a state of relaxation. This is all very normal.

one that we feel comfortable in and could find soothing and calming.Compassion Focused Imagery Work We're going to try some imagery but before we do a few words of caution Some people take to imagery and others don't. Few of us can create Polaroid images in our minds. The key thing is not to worry about that but just to notice when your mind has wandered and to bring it back to the task at hand. The important thing really is to be playful here and curious. We’re going to start with thinking about a place. Powerful shafts of light caress the ground with brightness. Your place may be a beautiful beach with a crystal blue sea 34 . To begin with. But your intention is to try and that's the important thing. in the first imagery exercise we are going to try and create a safe place in our minds. You're lying all to go straight to the next bit which is developing the capacitive self -see below. it is useful to start by sitting or lying down comfortably and going through your soothing breathing rhythm and a short relaxation exercise. because if you are depressed those might be difficult feelings to generate. Imagine a wind gently on your face and a sense of the light dancing in front of you. Sometimes we need to practice imagery. If you're one of those who struggle a bit then remember that it's your intention to develop more compassion that's important and not the feeling or the image particularly. Then. and closing our eyes and imagine what we've just seen. calmness and I say ‘ if it could’. a place we want to be. I The place may be a beautiful wood where the leaves of the trees dance gently in the breeze. We can do this for example by looking at say a bowl of fruit or flowers in a vase. Second people often think they have to create clearer images whereas the images may be very fleeting hazy for only felt. Remember it is the act of trying that is important feelings may follow later. is the important thing. It takes practice and training to be able to maintain attention on task. try out different things and see what works for you. The act of trying. and the sense of it being the sort of place you would like to be. Wandering mind another problem people have is that their mind wanders all over the place particularly if they're agitated autocrats -that is very common. If you don't like the breathing exercise then just sit quietly for a few moments. So do remember that when you begin to do this work your mind is likely to wander and indeed you might not be able to hold it on task for more than a couple of seconds. allow your mind to focus on and create a place that seems as if it could give you the feeling of safeness. Okay with these two ideas in mind let's think about some imagery work together and see how it goes. imagine a smell of woodiness or sweetness of the air. Hear the rustle of the leaves on the trees. Creating a safe place Now.

These examples are only suggestions and yours might be different to these. So. hearing and any other sensory aspect. to give you some chill out time. Then. imagine your compassionate colour surrounding you. It would help if you can create a facial expression of kindness on your own face as you do this exercise. Your safe place may be by a log fire where you can hear the crackle of the logs burning and the smell of wood smoke. Now. When you bring your safe place to mind allow your body to relax. feeling. listening to her own intuitive wisdom. When you become stressed or upset you can practise your soothing breathing rhythm for a few minutes and then imagine yourself in this place in your mind. You can hear the gentle hushing of the waves on the sand. sense the light dancing in diamond spectacles on the water. Compassion Colour In using compassionate imagery I have found that sometimes people like to start off with imagining a compassionate colour. Explore your feelings when you imagine this place is happy with you being there. what you can imagine seeing. created by you so the place itself takes joy in you being here. You are trying to stimulate a particular kind of brain system through your imagery. As this happens try to focus on this colour as having wisdom. imagine this entering through your heart area and slowly through your body. Keep in mind that we are using our imagery not to escape or avoid but to help us practice bringing soothing to our minds. Some key Exercises Compassion focused exercises and imagery are designed to try and create feelings of kindness and compassion in you. strength and warmth/kindness with a key quality of total kindness. 35 . Under foot is soft. allow it to have a soft smile of pleasure at being there. or a colour that conveys some sense of warmth and kindness. Imagine the sun on your face. but the key focus is on a feeling of safeness for you. So she began to think about her compassion colours as helping her with different things. allowing yourself to settle down. Think about your facial expression. engage in your soothing breathing rhythm and when ready imagine a colour that you associate with compassion. white. such as using our memory and also our imagination. We can do this in a number of ways. which is good. Spend a few moments on that. These are examples of possible pleasant places that will bring a sense of pleasure to you. fine sand that is silky to the touch. It helps your attention if you practice focusing on each of your senses. Allow yourself to feel how your safe place has pleasure in you being here. One person noted that when they used compassion to help them face up to difficult decisions their chosen colour became stronger. This person was good at experimenting and seeing what worked for her. Usually these colours are pastel rather than dark. It is also useful to imagine that as this is your own unique safe place.stretching out to the horizon where it meets the ice blue sky. Keep in mind too that these exercises are for you to try out and see what happens inside you when you do them. imagine the soft sand under your feet as your toes dig into it and feel a light breeze gently touch your face.

thoughts and experiences that are focused on compassion to your self. • Compassion flowing out from you to others: In these exercises we focus on the feelings in our body when we fill our minds with compassionate feelings for other people. Accept our feelings for what they are – rather than try to avoid them or let them become intolerable. imaging and feeling which are about things we feel threatened about and are anxious or angry about. that our choice of focus can have an impact on our bodily feelings. Life is often very difficult and learning how to generate self compassion can be very helpful during these times. tolerant of our feelings. (compassionate behaviour). we have established the principle. The key skills to develop are learning to direct our attention in compassionate ways. 2. just as if you were learning to play golf or the piano for the first time. it would take a little time for your body and mind to come around to things and orientate yourself to the nature of the task. Not live in them with rumination. So we have to learn how to: 1. understanding and non-judgmental. Compassion is about kindness of course. When we do that we will then be further stimulating our threat. • Compassion flowing into you: In these exercises we focus our minds on opening up to the kindness of others.Compassion focused exercises can be orientated in four main ways: • Developing the inner compassionate self: In these exercises we will be focusing on creating a sense of a compassionate self. particularly to help us with our emotions. and generating compassionate feeling. We can see how powerful our thoughts and feelings create reactions in our bodies by using some simple examples. as I have mentioned. It is with this basic idea that we can learn to practise generating states of mind that are conducive to our well-being. 36 . such as learning to be caring to ourselves. This is to open the mind and stimulate areas of our brain that are responsive to the kindness of others. For example. sensitive to our distress. then. anger and anxiety systems. acting in compassionate ways. Before we look at each of these in detail we now need to explore what compassion actually is. All of these will be enhanced with practice. This is probably one of the strongest examples that shows us what a powerful effect deliberately creating certain images can have on our physiology. Be able to be compassionate and understanding to them. but is also more than just kindness. So. just like actors do if they are trying to get into a role. people commonly use their fantasies and images to increase sexual arousal. • Compassion to yourself: This is linked to developing feelings. Remember that you can find out what we mean by compassion by looking at the section called “What is compassion?” We can briefly recall that compassion involves a number of attributes. 3. generating and practising compassionate thinking. It is so easy for us to be trapped and caught in cycles of thinking.

it may help us to become calmer and more at peace with our feelings. within yourself. Developing the Compassionate Self The different parts of you You might remember the early we spent about there being different pots of you. joyful or of course compassionate. Developing the compassionate self and the compassionate pattern within ourselves -can be key to help us deal with some of the other feelings and patterns that arise in us that unpleasant or difficult. So the first exercise can be practiced playfully but also with intent . So. This might be a character that is angry. what you would try to do would be to create those experiences within yourself. try to be or become that character – live it from the inside. the postures and the general bearing of the character. practice driving. However. So harnessing your compassion pattern is harnessing your wisdom maturity and genuine desire to be helpful. the tone of voice of the character. feels and wants to act in a certain way. taking control over and deliberately enabling oneself to move into emotion and feeling systems that are conducive to well-being. Another way to think of this is using acting techniques. It is not easy. for example. Now. or if you want to become a good gardener you would practice gardening. To do this you might pay attention to the way this character thinks and sees the world. There are many ways in which this can be done and there are many traditions that use these kinds of techniques. Because of the way our brains are built it will help us to become kinder and have a greater sense of well-being.learning to practice being a compassionate person. what do we want to become within ourselves? You see .Compassion focused work is a way of shifting.thoughout much of life we never stop and think about this. These might be just small seeds or glimmers of a possible self but by working with them they can grow. Each is a potential in us until we choose to cultivate this aspect of ourselves The key then is to think about what we want to practice. a helpful place to start is to focus on developing the sense of compassion within oneself. you might pay attention to key elements of a character. in certain schools of Buddhism suggest that the seeds of many types of self exist within ‘one self’ and it is how we nurture and focus on them that’s important. we just have to decide to and then put in the time to practice. of course. but with practice and dedication it can happen. we don't think that we can deliberately practice becoming a certain type of person. Here we are suggesting that if you choose to develop your inner compassionate self this can help you in many ways. So to some extent we have to experiment. If you were an actor learning to act. but it can also help us develop courage to face these then have to tolerate them and deal with them. or anxious parts or a ‘being in love’ or a falling outof love pattern’. practice playing an instrument. if you want to be a musician. re-directing. Compassion can have a soothing quality on our anger and anxiety. but we can. happy. anxious. the kinds of 37 . So. depressed. there are many different compassionate-self-developing exercises and for any one person it's not always clear as to which are the best exercises to start with. or if you want to be a good driver. There is an angry part that thinks. We have many hundreds. For example. perhaps thousands of different potential patents within ourselves. as a keen actor. to enable one’s mind to do this.

this is the part of us we want to feed. and work through them steadily and slowly. Try to create a facial expression of compassion. it doesn’t matter if you feel you have these qualities or not. more dominant or powerful. thinking about your tone of voice and the kind of things you’d say or the kind of things you’d do or want to do. just like if we were trying to play a piano . Great warmth and kindness. Remember. Regular practice will help.things they say and the way they say them. Spend one minute. Compassionate people will actually have four key qualities relating to: • Wisdom derived from personal experiences and gaining insight into the nature of things and life’s difficulties. Okay. Now consider all the key qualities you think make up a very compassionate person. just imagine that you have them. Pay attention to your body as you bring this part of you to the fore. • • • Strength. Once you have spent some time thinking about what qualities you would like to have as a compassionate person then • Allow yourself to focus on each of those compassion qualities. A very useful thing to do is also to imagine yourself expanding as if your wisdom is making you bigger. on each quality. thinking about your pleasure in being able to be kind. Now you may want to practice focusing on each of these and imagine having these qualities. in a mature sort of way. • • • Imagine yourself expanding as if you are becoming more powerful. (even slightly). When you feel that your body has slowed down. and you are ready for your practice. List them in your mind. Never condemning or being judgemental. maybe a slight smile or maybe a different expression to suit you. that is recently calm and wise and wanting to help. 38 . longer if you can. This is very typical of what happens. • Find somewhere where you can sit quietly and will not be disturbed and focus on your soothing breathing rhythm. • Spend one minute. then allow yourself to imagine that you are a very deeply compassionate person. as in fortitude and courage. • Think of all the qualities that you would ideally have as that compassionate person. You may even think of yourself as older. See in your mind yourself having them. noting what they feel like and any effect this has on your body. so the character we are going to become is a compassionate one. mature and wise.we’d be all fingers and thumbs. more if you are able. Maybe take a minute or so. more if you are able. Notice how each quality can affect your body differently. Spend a moment just feeling this expansion and warmth in your body. Remember that you may just get glimmers of things because your mind wanders or you can't really focus. You at your best another way you can access and practice your compassion itself is to spend a moment and remind yourself of a time when you felt compassionate. nurture and develop.

we can learn to focus our compassionate self. . After all. We. Focusing your compassionate self When you feel you have practiced this a little. Later we might try compassionate thinking and compassionate behaviour to help us even further with our anxiety. try to spend a few minutes practicing becoming your compassionate self. gently and kindly. like all other animals. bring a compassionate expression to your face. There maybe a part of you that's also self-critical about being angry. We can start by learning what I call ‘compassion under the duvet’. Even two minutes a day. you have the capacity for wisdom and strength. and send compassionate feelings out to that anxious self. Whenever you up aware of it. You can do exactly the same for your angry self. You can also practice when you stand at the bus stop or just lying in the bath. As this happens notice what happens to the image of your anxious self. how often do we lay in the warmth of a bath and not really notice because our mind is wandering over all kinds of things – mostly worries or things we need to do! Which is not very relaxing! You may then find you’ll want to practice for longer periods of time or even perhaps find places where you can train more. remember inside you. When you can feel that expanding and growing inside of you. accept and feel compassion for your anxious self. especially if you've argued with people or shouted. but our lives are busy and so we have to find time to fit our practice into our everyday life. focus on your real desire to be wise and compassionate. then imagine you can see your anxious self in front of you. Imagine giving as much compassion and understanding is that anxious parts needs. then just break contact with image of you as anxious for a moment. Just sit and feel compassion. Suppose you're very anxious about something. It might change or even move away – go with whatever feels right for you. For now you are not trying to do anything other than experience compassion and acceptance for your anxiety. even sitting in the meeting usual soothing breathing and focus on becoming the widest compassionate calm mature self. rather our brains are designed for it to be easily 39 . Compassion under the duvet Ideally you would practice this each day. that's not our fault. However. can have an effect. note the feelings rushing through them. Try to surround that anxious self in compassion and understanding of the torment of anxiety. you begin to be able to tolerate. This when you wake up in the morning. Look at his or her facial expression. Sometimes connecting with the memory of how we have felt can be very useful for getting us in touch with this compassionate part of ourselves. As you lay in bed. if practiced every day. If you feel you are becoming anxious or being pulled into the anxiety. So we can treat these feelings with compassion. imagining that in a sense of relative calm. Sit quietly and engage in your breathing and then imagine yourself as a compassionate person. You are your best. So. Now refocus on your breathing and the sense of being that expanding wise and strong compassionate self. You may want to imagine what happens to the anxious part when it actually has all of the understanding and support it needs. are capable of being very anxious because of how our brains are.So that you can think of your compassion itself is you at your best. the key thing here is to recognize that anger is very rarely a choice. When you make contact with that part of you again then you can reengage with the anxious self.

so it's not our fault. By being compassionate to it we learn to understand this. Now just try to feel compassionate to your critical self. Indeed. We commit ourselves to the desire to be in better control of our anger in the future. Your kindness to others In this exercise we are going to imagine kindness and compassion flowing from you to others. If you were caring for a child yourself would you treat them like that? If not then how would you like to treat a child? So compassionately recognise as a child you listened to and may have believed those hurtful things but you now recognise that that was unfair and hurtful and you do not want to continue this same unkind process. this is part of the threat system). It’s mother’s of father voice in our heads. an animal). With all these exercises try to do them daily in your own way. try and recall a time when you felt very kind and caring towards someone. Once we give up self-blame and being angry with ourselves for being angry then we can open ourselves to a compassionate resolution.aroused and become intense (sadly). Compassion Flowing Out Imagining Compassion for Others It is also useful to develop feelings of compassion for others. That means we can take responsibility and if we have been unkind apologize or make amends.but just to get a sense of it. This is going to be easier if we learn to be compassionate with ourselves. So you can use “becoming the compassionate self and looking at the part of the self is struggling” for any of your emotions that you find difficult. Again. It can come over us quickly especially if we are stressed or depressed . Memories can be a good place to begin to try to stimulate these brain systems that we’re interested in. focus on your breathing and re-establish a sense of your compassionate self.. Now there are many ways we can begin to experience the feelings of compassion for others.e. Consider the feelings that are being directed at you from the critical self. Don't force yourself to do them though – experiment. but nevertheless it is a useful exercise. threat or frustration – i. then pull back. be curious. researchers have found that practicing trying to generate feelings of compassion can actually change the way our brains work. The compassionate action here is realise that this type of selfcriticism has come for someone else who may have lacked compassion and their hurtful things were not in your best interests. (or if you prefer. recognizing where this comes from (usually a sense of fear. Suppose you are having difficulty with your self-critical self. Try 40 . If some things seem unhelpful to you then try other things. if you feel you're being pulled into the critical self or it's too powerful. When that's okay for you. Sit quietly where you won't be disturbed and focus on your breathing. Sometimes we feel that the critical self is an echo of someone who was hurtful to us in some way. you can then activate your compassionate self and imagine your critical self. This can be difficult if you are angry or frightened by others. One way is to start with memories. Working with this aspect of self-criticism may need the help of a therapist rather than on your own. rooting yourself back into that sense of self. Probably not for too long .

more if you are able. just gently and kindly bring it back to your task. When you have finished the exercise you might want to make some notes about how this felt in your body. you have in mind. the feelings of expansion. more if you are able. May you be free of suffering.not to chose a time when that person. or even a plant. When you have them in mind focus on feeling and directing towards them three basic feelings and thoughts: • • • May you be well. thinking about your pleasure in being able to be kind. Focusing the compassionate self on others We can move on to focusing and directing our compassionate self. Note this real genuine desire for this other person to be free of suffering and to flourish. To practice this important exercise find a time and place when you can sit quietly without being disturbed. take time and allow yourself to focus on desires and wishes you create in yourself for the other person/animal/plant. friend. but your body will be responding straightaway. Be gentle. (or animal). The idea is to focus on the feelings of kindness.g. Like getting fit – it may take some visits to the gym or training before you consciously notice feeling different. Don’t worry if nothing much happens at a conscious level – the act of having a go is the important thing. the tone of voice. Now just focus on your feelings of kindness in general. Okay. Some days this will be easier than others – even just the slightest glimmer can be a start. • Pay attention to your body as you remember your feelings of kindness. parent or child) or an animal. thinking about your tone of voice and the kind of things you said or the kind of things you did or wanted to do. Now try to create a sense of being a compassionate person. • Spend a moment just feeling this expansion and warmth in your body. as best you can. May you be happy. Try to notice any feelings you have in yourself and your body that emerge from this focusing exercise. (or animal). was very distressed because then you are likely to focus on that distress.and the feelings may follow on behind. and do give yourself time to practice and get the hang of these exercises. • Spend one minute. the feelings of warmth. then you might try filling your mind with compassion with “the strong desire for your friends and people you 41 . a partner. calmer. wiser and more mature. Now focus and bring to mind someone you care about (e. Maybe picture them smiling at you and sharing these feelings. • Imagine yourself expanding as if you are becoming more powerful. and able to help that person. • Spend one minute. that’s tricky if you are thinking of a plant. Expanding these feelings When you feel able. Keep in mind that it is your behaviour and intentions that are important . Spend time focusing on this genuine desire of yours for ‘the other’. the wisdom in your voice and in your behaviour. but imagine the plant as ‘happy’ to receive your compassionate wishes. Remember to be mindful in the sense that if your mind wanders that is not a problem. Now bring to mind a time when you felt compassionate towards the person.

Try it and see how it works for you. and feel yourself expanding as you remember the joyfulness of that event. When we feel warmth for others. Imagine them progressing out of the suffering. Then. Over time you may expand this to practicing taking joy from the flourishing of others. Sometimes people like to have an exercise where they focus on sending compassion to all living things fairly early on in their practice. before developing compassionate focusing for others. tired or cold. Do that for about one minute until you feel ready to engage in the imagery. Now try and remember a time when you were very pleased for someone’s success or happiness. Try to feel the joy and well-being in them. Spend two or three minutes just sitting with that memory. not to feel alone. Bring them to mind and imagine what they are struggling with. when ready. We don’t want to feel defeated by the pain in the world. just gently bring it back on task. then really wish for them to find a way to be free from the suffering. taking joy from hearing about good things. Compassion Flowing in to You Remembering others being kind to you These may be exercises that you would prefer to do first. but energized by a desire to help. So this is why we are doing the self-compassion at this point in our exercise cycle .know to be free of suffering and to flourish. some people find self-compassion more difficult than developing compassion for others. let your image fade and maybe write some notes. Focus on your wish for them not to suffer. Imagining facial expressions and the well-being of others can be quite powerful in affecting our feelings. For example it may be someone you know. or a homeless person you have seen on the streets. seeing them do well has made you very happy. Notice how this joyfulness feels in your body. it is not just a reaction to distress but also occurs when good things happen.but there is nothing hard and soft about this. (and ourselves). Being joyful in other people’s flourishing. focus on your facial expressions.” You might see them in your mind glowing with well-being. Again the focus here is not to be dragged down by the suffering in the world but rather focus on the feelings of wanting to be a source for helping others. This may be someone close to you in your family. In this exercise we are going to focus on creating what is called sympathetic joy. Another aspect of this practice might be to imagine someone who is suffering in some way. This may only be fleeting and your mind will wander on and off – no worries. Find a place where you won’t be distracted and you can sit comfortably and engage in your soothing rhythm breathing. If you wish and feel able you can extend this exercise to include as many others as you like until you get to all living things. which is joyfulness in the flourishing and well-being of others. Allow yourself to smile. Recall in your mind their facial expressions. As you do this. 42 . In my experience though.

Remember to keep your facial expression as compassionate as you can. Now this may bring up some issues for you linked to resistance or fears of compassion coming into you or for you. prepare for your compassionate imagery by allowing your body posture to become compassionate. because you will then focus on the distress. • Then focus on the feeling of the emotion in the person. You may want to “play around” with facial expressions and see which one fits for you. For the moment let’s just go over the exercises and then we can see how they are working for you later. Spend one minute on that. The question is: What do we want to train our minds for? Where do we want to exist in the patterns we can create in our minds? Where do we want to hold the spotlight of our consciousness? 43 . To demonstrate this consider what would happen if you focused on how other people have been unkind to you or you have shown anger for them? You would clearly create very different feelings inside yourself. As you feel your body slowing down. what they really felt for you at this moment. Allow that experience of gratitude and joy in being helped to grow. Feel it slightly expanding around you. This might involve a slight smile or relaxed posture. bring to mind a memory of a time when someone was kind to you. When we do that we block out nicer memories. or see their face breaking into a smile. It would help if you were able to create a compassionate expression on your face and a body posture which gives you the sense of kindness. or the head on one side. When you feel ready. Spend one minute exploring the facial expressions of the person who was kind to you. The funny thing is that because we don't really pay attention to what goes on in our minds we can allow ourselves to exist in places where we only spend time on how other people have been unkind or threatening to us. make some notes on how you felt and how you experienced it in your body. The point of the exercise is to focus on feelings of kindness. Focus on that for one minute. • Now focus on the whole experience.In these exercises we are going to imagine compassion flowing into oneself. come out of your exercise. Focus on important sensory qualities of your memory in the following way: • Just focus on the kinds of things this person said and the tone of their voice. recall that for all of these exercises try to find somewhere where you can sit comfortably and not be disturbed. You may note that bringing these memories to mind may create feelings inside of you even if they are just glimmers. maybe whether they touched you or helped you in other ways. When you are ready. and notice your sense of gratitude and pleasure at being helped. and your feelings. gently let the memory fade. Spend a few minutes with that memory. Create your compassionate facial expression. Now. Engage in your soothing rhythm breathing for a minute or so or until you can just feel your body slowing down. This causes us to spend time stimulating our threat system. I will address those later. This memory shouldn’t be of a time when you were very distressed. Sometimes it helps if you see they are moving towards you. Now try and recall a time when someone was very kind to you. but it is a gentle facial expression.

44 .We are now going to look at how we can use imagery and fantasy to create feelings of compassion flowing into ourselves.

So the next exercises are going to explore how you might stimulate your mind to generate compassion flowing in. When you do these exercises it would not be surprising if you have thoughts about ‘not deserving’ or that you can't do it. or it may even feel a bit frightening. or to feel valued and just cared for? It will help.Generating Compassion Through Fantasy So far we have established the power of our minds. 45 . imagining something sexy could get us aroused. understood and validated. Don't worry about that. For example. Buddhists spend many hours meditating on the compassionate Buddha and feeling compassion flowing from the Buddha into the heart of the self. Your threat system can be quite active and at first can block these feelings. From the day we are born the care and affection of others has a big impact on our well-being. it's typical. To the best of your ability just practice the exercise in any way you can and see what happens. I shall be addressing some of the problems with developing compassion at the end of this section. There is now research showing that if we practice focusing our minds on certain things we can indeed stimulate our brains in certain ways. if you imagine that your compassionate image was at one time like you and hence struggled with all the same things as you. but this time to create certain images to stimulate soothing feelings and brain systems in us. and the fact that we can use fantasies to stimulate various aspects of our brain systems. The act of thinking about what it is that would make your ideal compassion image ‘ideal for you’ is important for the exercise. This has been used in many spiritual traditions. They understand your problems from the inside and not just as some distant being. this has a major impact on our brain. Are you wanting protection. One reason is that our minds have evolved to respond to the kindness of others. You would not say to yourself that you didn't deserve to be fit. But we can also learn to stimulate these systems with our thoughts and fantasies. or if you want to play the piano you didn't deserve to play the piano. Our brain feels safe in the world. In these exercises we will ask you to imagine your ideal compassion image. So keep this in mind when you are thinking about training your mind. There are many reasons why we want to focus on compassion flowing into us. One way is to create fantasy images of a compassionate other relating to the self. valued. So we can use the same ideas (of the power of our fantasies). When we feel cared for. Research has shown that even people who are atheists could still benefit from imagining being loved in this way. Look at the brain picture shown earlier – the one with the ‘meal’ on it. People who believe in God can imagine God loving them. So it helps if you could you think about what you really want from the feeling compassion from another. Recall that simply imagining a meal could start our saliva and stomach acids going.

it truly understands you and the struggles we go through in life. . Remind yourself that this is your place and it delights in you being here. the focus. You can imagine your image being created out of a mist in front of you for example. They include. There are many versions of this exercise but this is one that seems to help people that we have worked with. .Creating a Compassionate Image For Your Self In our next exercise we are going to focus on receiving compassion. it understands your struggles and accepts you as you are. begin there. These are superhuman – complete and perfect compassionate qualities that are there for you to experience. in this practice it is important that you try to give your image certain qualities. care and openness . experiencing compassion coming into you. 46 . surrounding you and penetrating right through you. often with feelings coming later). for you to work with and develop.A deep commitment to you – to help you cope with and relieve your suffering. the intention. (you can have more than one if you wish. In Buddhist practice the student imagines a clear blue sky from which various images emerge. This may now be the place where you wish to create and meet your compassionate image. First.Warmth conveyed by kindness. enduring it with us. and take joy in your happiness. the wish to experience these things that’s important.Acceptance – it is never judgemental or critical. there are many ways to start this exercise. bring to mind your place. We also stress the importance of intention and effort above that of emotion more now. Whatever image comes to mind or you choose to work with. So it is the desire. note that it is your creation and therefore your own personal ideal . . However. Each aspect can be a focus. engage with your soothing breathing rhythm and compassionate expression on your face. the sights. whereas in fact these might be quite a long time in the coming. The image may be walking towards you along the beach – or wherever you are.Wisdom gained through experience .what you would really like from feeling cared for/about. You can go straight into it if you wish but here is a way that some people prefer. These will include Whatever form your imagery takes we would like you to imagine that this ideal compassionate mind has certain qualities. (A Note – these have been slightly changed due to improvement in delivery and the need to include a focus on a ‘commitment to the person’. the feel.Strength of mind – it can not become overwhelmed by our pain or distress. the sounds. This is because patients can get hung up on trying to create emotions of warmth. gentleness. and they can change over time). . but remains present. Now. This exercise is to help you build up a compassionate image. Please don’t worry about remembering all of these qualities and emotions because you will be guided through them again when we do the imagery. Which ever way seems to work for you.

I want somebody real to care for me’. So try not to see it as an ‘either all’. sea or light)? • What colours and sounds are associated with the qualities of wisdom. to be male or female (or non-human looking e. and/or to be able to deal with the difficulties. That is of course very understandable and even doing this exercise could make you feel a little sad. There is probably nothing that you can feel or do or imagine that another human hasn't done at some point. That's because it's related to our brain design. While it may indeed be desirable to find people who are caring.. you might have thought. trying the make the best of our minds and lives. So here the practice is to imagine another mind wishing for you to flourish. strength. and to flourish. It has passed the wisdom and 47 . an animal. It understands that our minds are difficult. Being Understood and Known you can imagine that your compassionate image understands the difficulty and complexity of being a human being. Imagine that they have the following deep desires for you: • • • That you be well That you be happy That you be free of suffering The key to the exercise is not the visual clarity. The point is that you remember that what we are trying to tackle is your own attitudes towards yourself.g. that emotions can run riot in us and this is not our fault. Indeed some people don't really see their images in any clear way at all. Here are some questions that might help you build an image: • Would you want your caring/nurturing image to feel/look/seem old or young. Now focus on the idea that your compassionate ideal is looking at you with great warmth.So in each box below think of these qualities (wisdom. and the compassion you'd like other people to give to you. strength. rather than self-criticism. but as quite different processes between the compassion you give to yourself. warmth and non-judgement) and imagine what they would look. living as we do. Now. ‘ yes but this is not real. sound or feel like. or the mind wanders. particularly feelings of shame or self-criticism. Practice experiencing what it's like to focus on the feeling that another mind really values you and cares about you unconditionally. just gently bring it back to the breathing and practice compassionately accepting this. Your compassionate image knows that you are working with the brain that you didn't design. If nothing comes to mind. warmth and non-judgement? One of the key experiences is that your image really wants for you to be free of suffering. The key to the exercise is the focus and practice on the feeling of compassion coming into you. It knows that we all just find ourselves here. it's also very desirable that you create these feelings within you -so that you gradually learn to focus on compassion for yourself.

understanding therefore can perfectly understand and fully accept you -and one for you to be free from suffering and to be happy. But compassion is not a ‘fair weather friend. Compassion to nice things is not really compassion! So glad she could practice of allowing yourself to feel compassion flowing in for all of you. at the point of difficulty. 48 . This is important because sometimes we have thoughts like “ Sure.’ Compassion matters at the point of suffering. but if my compassionate image you this or that about me knew about my feelings my fantasies of thoughts or things that I've done then maybe he wouldn't be compassionate.

compassionate image? You might have different feeling if you change the gender of your image – this can rise interestfears worthy of exploring 49 . compassionate image to relate to you? How would like to relate to your ideal caring. compassionate image to look/appear – visual qualities? How would you like your ideal caring. e. tone of voice? What other sensory qualities can you give to it? How would you like your ideal caring.g. compassionate image to sound.Worksheet for building your compassionate image Your absolute ideal in every way How would you like your ideal caring.

learning how to create feelings of compassion. To help us we can ask ourselves some questions: • • • Is this thinking helpful to me? Would I think like this if I weren't upset? Would I teach a child or friend to thinks like this? If not. thoughts. Compassion thinking requires us to think in a balanced way so that we are not too biased or emotionally controlled in our thinking. And we can contrast this with what happens if the threat system takes control. So when we're angry we think in angry ways. fair and balanced approach. Then our attention. Thr Key Tar Our emotions can direct our thinking is in many ways. learning how to think compassionately. with practice you may find this will come Imagery Fantasy Ima Fan 50 . we can see compassion as directing many of the ways in which we think she'll enact. and when we’re anxious we’ll think in anxious ways. how would I like to teach and to think about these things? How might I think about this when I am at my compassionate best? Attention • • The key point really is trying to be mindful of your thoughts and see how they can be pooled in certain ways. and of course. You can see this in the circles below. learning how to behave compassionately (which will help ourselves and others flourish and improve). behavioural urges and feelings will be linked to anger or anxiety etc.The Skills of Compassion Compassionate Attention. according to your feelings. If you look back to your section on “what is compassion” you will see that we talked about the skills of compassion in terms of learning how to pay attention compassionately. Thinking. Behaviour and Feeling In our groups we will be exploring the use of imagery to develop feelings and ideas of compassion. but if you stand back and observe your thoughts with the intention of trying to find a compassionate. So.

thinking about this sense those parts of yourself. Adopt a kindly facial expression. . remembering you at your best .for you. try to allow yourself to understand and accept your distress.. we offer our strength and support. but from the perspective of the compassionate part of ourselves. Now try to feel your compassionate self. Remember. Spend at least one minute. we try to be warm and not judgemental or condemning. it does not matter if you actually feel you are like this. Everything is orientated for that -the behaviours and our intentions. One way is to take your pen and paper and then spend a some moments engaged with your soothing breathing rhythm. Imagine you are a compassionate person who is wise. In this exercise we are going to write about difficulties. kind. only the effort of trying – it is the practice that helps. but re-focus your attention and simply observe what happens as you write. longer if possible. but focus on the ideal you would like to be. There are different ways you can write this your calmest. we try to use our personal experiences of life wisely. As you write your letter. Spend time feeling and gently exploring what those qualities are like when you focus on them. Consider your general manner. feel yourself expanding slightly and feel stronger. If thoughts of ‘am I doing it right?’ or ‘I can’t get much feeling here’ arise.’ 51 . Compassionate Letter Writing Keep in mind that all the exercises and work that we are compassionate mind -that pattern within ourselves that courage to face up to the difficult things and/or so self peacefulness. tone of voice. We know that life can be hard. So there's nothing magic in this and we will do various exercises together using your own wisdom and understanding of compassionate thinking. just take a few breaths and try to sense and feel that wise. Try to feel the kindness in your face before moving on. There is no right or wrong. Don’t worry if this is difficult. at your wisest –at your most caring. warm and understanding. I feel distressed. Imagine yourself as you would ideally like to be in terms of being mature and powerfully compassionate. This is the part of you that will write the letter. your letter might start with: ‘I am sad. doing is to develop a will help us find the acceptance and self way we think. just do the best you can – have a go. We are training our minds.. try to create as much emotional warmth and understanding as you can. or in a pattern of trying to help a friend or someone we care for. as best you can. our Learning to think and reason compassionately can sometimes be helped along by writing letters to ourselves. Next move into you compassion self. just note or observe these thoughts as normal comments our minds like to make. So we try to write this kind of letter from a compassionate point of view. and the feelings that come with your ‘caring compassion self. As you focus on it. Think about the qualities you would like your compassionate self to have. my distress is understandable because…. Now. When we are in a compassionate frame of mind (even just slightly). understanding compassionate part of you arise in you. For example. You are practising writing these letters from your compassionate side. It you intentions this is important –feelings may follow with practice. As you write.

In this letter we are going to refer to ‘you’ rather than ‘I’. you could read this letter and substitute ‘I’ for ‘you’. ‘You must see these things as the ups and downs of life’ This is important in compassionate writing. let’s note an important point. Sometimes we just get to the point of shutdown. and imagining a dialogue with them. So. my compassionate image might say something like: ‘Hi Paul. . but over time try to use ‘I’. There has to be a real appreciation for your suffering. Then. about lying in bed feeling depressed. An example Here’s a letter from someone we’ll call Sally. don’t we. Given this. . your letter might point out that as we become stressed or depressed. we can try and step to the side of the distress and write and focus on how best to cope. and what they will say to you. Before looking at this letter. So we can write: ‘It might be helpful to consider. as well as re-focusing your attention on what is helpful for you. Some people like to write their letters like that. perhaps you could continue with ‘I would like me to know that……’ For example. There have been times before when things have seemed dark but they pass and you have shown a lot of courage in dealing with this very tricky brain that is so tough at times. the last few days have been tough. a real appreciation for your struggle and a real appreciation for your efforts at getting through. Isn’t it typical of life that problems arrive in groups rather than individually. our depression or a distress state can come with a powerful set of thoughts and feelings – so how you see things right now may be the depression view on things. See what works for you. . You don’t want your compassionate letters to seem as if they are written by some smart bod who is giving you lots of advice. Gosh. as if writing to someone else.Note the reasons. It doesn’t issue instructions such as. The compassion is a kind of arm round your shoulders. . . Hang in there because you are good at seeing these as the ups and downs of life. Last few days have been tough for you so no wonder you want to hide away in bed. So. ‘Good morning Sally.’ A second way of doing this is to imagine your compassionate image writing to you. You will note that the letter points to my strengths and my abilities. and the thought of taking on things 52 . .’ If we are mindful we can see our consciousness like a boat riding on this storm -but we are not the storm – we can observe the arising of the feeling in us as part of our brain design. It’s understandable why you’re feeling a bit down because . . Realizing your distress makes sense. So you have developed abilities for getting through this and tolerating the painful things . for example. If we stand back for a minute lkets see what happened if we take a wider view and we were taking to a friend – how we would .

understanding and caring permeates the whole letter. and develop a compassionate and balanced way of working with them. You’ve shown a lot of courage in the past in pushing yourself to do things that you find difficult. The letters should not offer advice or tell you what you should or shouldn’t do. Tough. Guides to letter writing When you have written your first few compassionate letters. so let’s get up. Also you often feel better if you get up. What about a cup of tea? You often like that first cup of tea. At other times it is useful to actually use a pen and paper and write to yourself. I guess the thing now is to work out what helps overwhelming. . • • • • • • • It expresses concern and genuine caring.’ So you see the point here: it’s about understanding. go through them with an open mind and think whether they actually capture compassion for you. A genuine sense of warmth. Lie in bed if you think that it can help can we develop compassionate behaviour. but the support to act on it. difficulties and dilemmas. but watch out for critical Sally who could be critical about this. tough as it is. It is not the advice you need. It helps you think about the behaviour you may need to adopt in order to get better. and are not very good at writing compassionate letters. then see if you can spot the following qualities in your letter. being helpful. Their letters tend to be rather full of finger-wagging advice. It helps you become more understanding and reflective of your feelings. . • Depressed people can struggle with this to begin with. It is sensitive to your distress and needs. The point of these letters is not just to focus on difficult feelings but to help you reflect on your feelings and thoughts. having a really caring focus. Now you might write this one ‘in your head – imgine a realy kind an understanding apert talking with you. It is non-judgemental/non-condemning. be open with them. If they do. of course. You know you have been trying real hard but have felt exhausted through not fault of your own I mean you haven’t put your feet up with a gin and tonic and the daily paper. Compassionate Behaviour okay so we have been looking at our thoughts how we can use imagery and how we can write to ourselves what about behaviour . but let’s try . It helps you to face your feelings and become more tolerant of them. Okay. but at the same time working on what we need to do to help ourselves. As frequently mentioned it our intentions and our behaviours matter even if we don't always have the feelings to go 53 . It is sympathetic and responds emotionally to your distress. move around a bit and get going and then see how we feel. So we have to work at this and practise.

eat too much . Remember that there will be times when you’re angry or frustrated and don't want to carry through on your commitment to looking after yourself properly. We will be practicing examples of this in our group. Of course. we might drink. but. and your successes. to the best of your ability. People with agoraphobia will learn how to face anxiety and to go a little further each day. Be prepared for steps forward and steps backward. Compassionate behaviour is doing things to help ourselves and/or others to deal with suffering or it can be helpful to think about this over the long term. then allow yourself to settle and rekindle your commitment. to keep notes of your practice.sometimes we are not clear . your personal observations. no matter how small. In some therapies a discussion is used to think about your values and deciding on what it is you really want to work for . If we’re honest. For example. 54 . It can also be useful. what you're compassionate wise mind says. which can be helpful in the long term. for some people that’s much more intense than for others. Sometimes it takes us a while to think about and make a commitment to behave in ways that are genuinely in our best interests. Commitment It is important to find ways you can commit yourself to compassionate behaviour. learning how to face up to and deal with certain emotions. flourish and improve. but this is not really in our best interests. however. because that's the normal way change processes go. In our group you will be keeping files and records of the notes from each session. but if we can learn to focus on behaviour that would help us and others. take drugs.all very understandable. People often keep diaries to think and write about their thoughts. This is understandable of course. One way is to create an image in your mind of how you would like to be and focus on that when you have to engage with difficult things. Practice Diaries Practice diaries are a way to keep notes about some of the exercises you will try. you need to notice and be compassionate to your anger and frustration. when we are upset we may do lots of things that might give us temporary relief.with them. especially if they’re down. For example. The chances are though. and also of some of the practices that we have done. to really focus on the advantages of it. when things calm down we could be disappointed in ourselves. If the desire is to give up on any commitment you've made. We'll have these battles with ourselves from time to time. and can help you see how you are getting on.

that there is a yearning inside us for reconnection. This is a misunderstanding of compassion. If possible. other people can be much more resistant. notice other feelings creeping in. smile compassionately and bring the attention back to exactly what it is you want to focus on. Depressed people can struggle with anger. Only go with things you feel comfortable with. One day after working on a watch that he was struggling with he found his frustration mounting. then stay with the processes that you find tolerable and build up from there. If these beliefs are strongly held they can get in the way of practice. For example. However. the ability to acknowledge that we have great anger or rage can itself be a compassionate thing to do because it’s taking ourselves seriously and with honesty. but to find a way to fight back. to stand up for themselves or even get their own back on people who have hurt them! Sometimes this anger is just a desire to be acknowledged and appreciated. and Blocks to. and sometimes people are frightened of their anger. cared about and want to feel connected to others. they may see it as a weakness. Another major block to compassion can be anger. This is because it touches an inner wisdom. but to practice anyway. For some people kindness begins to touch them in a deep way and can make them sad and even tearful. If you had a weak muscle in your leg. Here you need to just keep your focus on the feelings of kindness. So let’s build these qualities. and then if you decide if you don’t want to use them. tells a story of how he used to like to fix watches. doing compassion exercises can actually make them feel a bit ashamed of their anger because they feel if they are compassionate they shouldn’t feel angry. for such folk. If you find them a bit much for you then you may prefer to work first with the safe place imagery in ‘becoming the compassionate self’. So. So feelings of kindness and horribleness are kind of mixed up together. Compassion Some people recognize that they are simply not used to this compassionate way of thinking and it seems odd to them. always trying to create ‘kindness and helpfulness in our thinking’ is key. just stay with these feelings and mindfully allow them to come through. However. they may feel they do not deserve to be compassionate. you wouldn’t tell yourself you don’t deserve to have a stronger muscle. which is that many of us wish to be cared for. you cannot make a choice of being non self-compassionate unless you also have the ability to be self-compassionate. In fact. and that too can sometimes block compassion. This means that as they begin to feel kindness they can also have the feelings of horribleness come back as well. (the head of the Buddhist community and renowned for his compassion). The Dalai Lama.Fear of. or a self-indulgence. Again if these seem like a key problem for you. One way around this is to simply note these beliefs as common. However. that’s up to you. Some people are unsure about kindness because parents could be kind one day but horrible the next. or even selfishness. perhaps as a result of injury. Think about it like physiotherapy. or even admitting they have anger. and that depression is such an isolating experience. I have certainly met many depressed people who have thoughts that it’s not compassion they want to develop. until he picked up a hammer and smashed the watch to pieces! It’s not so much whether or 55 . but they can understand it’s value and the importance of practice.

the anxious self. So who ever told you compassion was a weakness or a simple option has misled you I'm afraid. it’s how we acknowledge it. see it as how. It’s far from it. These can also be affected by our background bodily states -. through kindness. our attitudes to it and how we express it that’s important. that it’s a soft and easy we've always been on the defensive. Recognizing how painful rage can be is compassionate. And of course powerful emotional memories can be triggered in us that affect our bodies. It's tough work but if we commit ourselves to that journey we might gain some benefits from it.. Compassion is about honesty and developing courage. you rather than think of compassion as something fluffy.not we have frustration. which is not always easy. Compassionate mind training gives us an opportunity to choose to try to develop different patterns within our brains and minds and therefore have a different sense of ourselves and find inner peace. 56 . Within us are different patterns and potential states of mind. If you suffer from agoraphobia the compassionate approach is not to give up and sit in front of the television eating chocolate. Summary Okay so in summary then we can see that we have a very difficult brain because of the way it has evolved over many millions of years. the excited self. as nice as that might be for a short time. So. There is the angry self. the proud self ashamed self -. easy or soft. Compassion helps us to develop the courage we need to develop in order to confront and work with things we might be avoiding. which is why we need compassion for it. The compassionate approach is to acknowledge that you are going to have to work with your anxiety and to practice getting out more and more each day. Coming to terms with the fact that anger rumination is harmful to us is compassionate. we can learn to face the powerful anxieties and rages. If we come from difficult backgrounds some of the states of mind we typically experience are rooted in anxiety and anger – because we haven't had the chance to develop other patterns . Compassion is not about trying to soothe everything or sweep things under the carpet! We have a very difficult brain and anger can be powerful. Sometimes people think that the compassionate approach is letting them off the hook. There is nothing soft or weak about this journey and sometimes it can move us in deep ways. the difficulties and tragedies of our lives and gradually find some peace within.all coming with slightly different emotions ways of thinking and desires to behave. learning what to do about our anger is compassionate. anger or rage. the ‘wanting to be loved self’.whether we're exhausted or have a physical problem.

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful