March 2015 Research Update

Every month, we scour the scientific literature for interesting studies that have practical implications for therapists working with shame, self-criticism, or compassion. Below are a few of our favorites for this month:

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Feeling the impact of self-criticism

People who are chronically self-critical often become numb to the effects of their self-criticism.

Through closely attending to the emotional reaction to self-criticism, people can begin to feel the real impact of this way of relating to oneself. Doing chair work where the critical side is enacted can sometimes begin to elicit the emotional reactions of shame, hurt, helplessness, or sadness that are created by a harsh way of being with oneself. At this stage it's often useful to support the client in developing a sense for the harm being created by self-criticism.  This handout I created (adapted from emotion-focused therapy) can help clients to explore this in their daily life. It guides them to pause, feel, and explore the impact of self-criticism as it occurs in their life. 

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March 2015 Tool of the Month: The Self-Compassion Break

Each month we highlight some practical resources for therapists interested in compassion. We don’t go into great depth about what we find, but encourage you to check them out if you think they’re interesting.

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Healing Betrayal Trauma with Compassion

Last week, The Compassionate Mind Foundation listserv discussed the issue of working compassionately with a client experiencing feelings of betrayal, anger, and shame in her relationship with her parents. This client seemed to be experiencing a pattern typical of survivors of betrayal trauma in which, when she allowed herself to experience any anger toward her parents, the anger would always be followed by beliefs that she was betraying her parents with her anger, and then she would feel shame.

Dr. Russell Kolts chimed in with some clinical wisdom worth sharing about how he would bring compassion to this situation. Here is some of what he said:

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February 2015 Research Update

Every month, we scour the scientific literature for interesting studies that have practical implications for therapists working with shame, self-criticism, or compassion. Below are a few of our favorites for this month:

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Self-Critic Job Description Exercise

Here is an idea for an exercise to help clients defuse from their self-critic. This exercise could also help to assess the workability of listening to the critic. What is the fundamental objective of the critic? Is it actually effective at meeting that objective? Is the critic's objective aligned with the client's values? 

We have created a self-critic job description handout if you would like to try this exercise with your own clients.

Here is an example using my own self-critic.

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February 2015 Compassion Tool of the Month: Wisdom and Love Meditation

Each month we highlight some practical resources for therapists interested in compassion. We don’t go into great depth about what we find, but encourage you to check them out if you think they’re interesting.

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Crazy Monkey Mind

Do you have any clients coming to see you because their minds tend to run away with them? Or rather, because your client tends to run away with their mind? The mind says, "You are doing everything wrong!" and your client says, "Yes, let's think about that all day." The mind says, "I don't think you should work on that project today. You really want cookies" and your client says, "Okay." Alternatively, your client might say, "Why would I listen to you? You are a terrible, broken mind!" 

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January 2015 Research Update

Every month, we scour the scientific literature for interesting studies that have practical implications for therapists working with shame, self-criticism, or compassion. Below are a few of our favorites for this month:

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Finding Compassion in Nature

When I was little, there was a tree in the backyard of my family’s home. It had three knots in the perfect eyes and nose configuration and a groove in just the right place for a mouth. It was Mr. Tree. Often, when I was feeling sad or hurt I would go outside and sit beneath Mr. Tree or climb up into one of his branches and somehow feel soothed.

Nature imagery (or actual nature!) is often a good place to start with clients for whom compassion from humans can feel too threatening. On the other hand, some people may more easily access soothing feelings using human, animal, or spiritual imagery. It is probably best to start with whatever works and help the client to build their compassion repertoires from there.

Here is a poem I wrote about a compassionate tree that can hold the unwanted parts of a person’s experience. You can work with clients to write about or draw their own soothing image holding their own experience.

 

Why me?
Bushy green canopy
I can’t feel this. It’s too big.
Shimmering drops of dew
Confusion, anger, fear, shame
Plenty of room on sturdy branches
Urges to escape this pain escape this self
Stretching on and on, touching the sky
and the earth where you belong
There is room for you right here. There is room for all of it.
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