Developing Compassion

4 Feb

One of the most intrusive and problematic features of experiencing depression and anxiety is that when we suffer these unhealthy emotions we tend to develop low self-esteem, and to put ourselves down in more generalized ways.
‘I’m a complete loser’, ‘I’m a failure’ or just simply, ‘I’m no good’.

These thinking patterns become repetitive and increasingly destructive as we use this kind of self-talk to ‘beat ourselves up’ and to literally bully ourselves. Often the things we say to ourselves are overly harsh and critical, and when spoken out loud sound vindictive and mean-spirited.

If you imagine saying these things to another person, you can hear how vicious is their intent and meaning. If you were to say these things to another person in the work place you would rightly be accused of bullying and victimization.

Yet, in the midst of depression or a severely anxious state, when we say these things to ourselves, silently or even out loud, we don’t seem to develop and awareness of, or recognize any kind of double-standard at work.

Over recent years much research has been carried out into the subject of compassion. When we think of compassion we usually think of an attitude, which we adopt in relation to another person. We associate caring, kindness, understanding and tolerance, with compassion. Science, as well as spiritual teaching, and even religious doctrine, has long understood the value of extending compassion to others.

34262050 leaf in sunlight

Down through the millennia ‘the golden rule’, “treat others as you would be treated yourself” has been a by-word for compassion. However, in recent years the research has focused more on ‘self-compassion’ and it has been observed that the brains of those who focus on developing self-compassion experience a measurable change in neural activity and connectivity within the brain.

In short, the brain functions better, in terms of general goal-pursuit, and individuals increase their experience of emotional wellbeing, and generalized mental health. In other words, if we can learn techniques, which accentuate and increase ability in extending self-compassion, kindness, and understanding to ourselves, a measurable improvement in mental and emotional functioning results. This has to be worthy of our interest.

Compassion Focused Therapy (CFT), developed and refined by Paul Gilbert (The Compassionate Mind, 2009), has enjoyed a great focus of interest in recent years, and has been researched by neurological and psychotherapeutic scientific outcome studies, in an attempt to measure improvement in a variety of areas, and the results are very encouraging.

If you are interested in finding out more about this topic, look out for a forthcoming Master Class designed for both therapists who work in any therapeutic tradition and wish to extend their skill set in their work with clients, or for those who might be interested in the subject from a self-development perspective at http://www.cbttherapies.org.uk

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