I have been practising Compassion Focused Therapy (CFT) for a number of years and have seen the benefits it brings. In this article, I will explain what compassion is, what compassion focused therapy is and how it is basically used within CBT.
What is Compassion and Compassion Focused Therapy?
Compassion is made up of 5 components: courage, wisdom, kindness, warmth and being non judgemental. At the heart of compassion is the courage to deal with difficulties and strong emotions.
Compassion is growing in popularity. Brene Brown frequently writes about it in her books and even has a Netflix documentary on it called the Call to Courage. The truth is that compassion isn’t new and is often integrated naturally within many different therapies and in the everyday acts we do. However, if we take some time to really explore it, it can make a real difference to our life. We can use it to help us move forward during difficult times and reduce our suffering.
Can compassion be taught?
To be honest, most of us have it in us, in bucket loads, but we might really struggle to be compassionate towards certain people who have hurt us and be non self critical to ourselves. Compassion and compassion focused therapy helps us to turn our compassion for others to ourselves.
Below are some myths about compassion:
I don’t deserve compassion.
The idea of compassion is to give you the strength to move on through difficult times. You may not think you deserve kindness and warmth and being non judgemental towards yourself but can you do it just to reach your end goal?
It sounds soft and fluffy to me.
Compassion is not soft and fluffy at all, in fact it’s a pretty tough form of therapy and it can be pretty uncomfortable. Imagine a firefighter saving someone’s life in a fire. When they go into a fire, are they sometimes scared, uncertain of what might happen, do they show courage? Do they show wisdom and make decisions and prioritise with sometimes heart breaking consequences? Do they judge others and criticise in that moment, do they show kindness and warmth? Are they soft and fluffy?
What’s the point of being compassionate to myself? It will only be taken away from me again.
The interesting thing about compassion is that there are no bad effects. It doesn’t go away like self esteem. In fact, it’s a buffer against the tough times. If you practise it on a regular basis, then it becomes more like second nature. Even, if you practice it now and again, it can really help.
If I’m compassionate to myself, then I will become vulnerable and be taken advantage of.
Compassion can’t change your personality, you won’t do things you don’t want to do. However, being non judgemental, kind, courageous and warm towards yourself (and maybe to others too) can help you become more assertive. It can help you make steps to set boundaries which maybe you felt you couldn’t before. It might also help you to speak out too.
Compassion is courage
Many of us experience blame and shame in our lives and there maybe particular incidents that affect us deeply. We might also blame and shame ourselves. Moving on from that can be incredibly hard (cue the courageousness and wisdom). Compassion is about moving on from this, maybe through forgiveness (either towards yourself or from someone else). The phrase ‘it’s not your fault, it’s not their fault, it’s your responsibility,’ refers to accepting what they have or you have done, then not allowing yourself to suffer anymore. You have probably suffered more than anyone, so it’s time to get some closure.
Pretty tough eh?
How does Compassion Focused Therapy Work?
With its foundations in neuroscience and Buddhism, compassion works to bring your nervous system back to its resting state. Mindfulness is a great starting point to help you do that. We initially learn ways to ground you in the present moment. In Compassion Focused Therapy, we also use visualisation to help explore your emotions that are getting in the way of your recovery.
Compassion helps you to create and develop your ideal compassionate self and then practice it on yourself. We use it to ‘talk’ to your other emotions of anger, shame, guilt, anxiety and sadness so that it acts as a mediator and help you get closure and move on. This You tube clip illustrates how it works (change the voices, to your thoughts!)
I know how to answer logically to my feelings in therapy, but I still feel anxious or down anyway.
I usually use compassion focused therapy as a starting point in therapy before moving on to using Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. However, it can also be used if you find certain things in CBT particularly hard to complete and you find you have very strong emotions getting in the way that logic won’t resolve.
Want to find out more?
Why not check out these websites and books:
If you think compassion focused therapy would be helpful to you or you’d like to find out more about it, why not give me a call on 0161 8831156 or make an enquiry on this website using our Contact Us page.