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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January 2015 Compassion Tool of the Month: Measuring Self-Criticism and Self-Reassurance

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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Compassion in Psychotherapy Research Update: December 2014

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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Eyes On Compassion

At our most recent monthly ACT peer consultation group meeting, a group member, Yael Schweitzer, led an exercise that fostered feelings of both discomfort and connection in group members. Although it wasn’t presented as a compassion exercise, I think it was. I wrote this Eyes on Compassion script based on my experience in the group.

This is a twist on the classic “Eyes on” exercise from Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. This exercise can be done in a group, with group members pairing up. It can also be done in couple therapy with the therapist guiding the exercise for the two members of the couple, or it can be done in individual therapy with the therapist simultaneously guiding the exercise and participating in it.

The exercise is likely to generate discomfort, so it provides the opportunity to practice compassion even in the presence of discomfort. The exercise takes about 10 minutes.

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The role of self-talk in ACT with compassion

It's great to see some readers of this blog/website start to respond! One of our readers (who chose to remain anonymous but agreed to let me post this) asked a great question about ACT and compassion interventions. I wanted to share my response publicly so that others might benefit (assuming there's something useful in there). If you are not already pretty well versed in ACT, this post might be too heavy in theory and you might want to skip it. However, if you already know something about ACT, you might find it interesting. Here's an excerpt from the email she sent:

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Miles O'Brien on life after losing an arm

Stories really ground me. I find I can be touched by stories in ways that surpass almost any other form of expression. I save up stories for hard days. For days when I crave connection, motivation, love. Stories of redemption, of imperfect people finding restoration or the unexpected in the hearts of others or in themselves. They lift me up, sustain me. This story by a New York Times reporter about losing an arm was one of those. I especially liked the ending, about how learning to depend on others led to this highly self-critical man allowing love into his heart for the first time.  I especially like the ending:

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The Burn of Shame

I feel the burn of shame even as I write this.Dalais_chariot_web.jpg

I have a 19 year old dog, Dalai. I love this dog, I mean really love this dog. She's the best dog in the world. Some of you know what I mean; you may also have the best dog in the world. But this best dog in the world is 19. She’s getting dementia, has arthritis and neuropathic pain. It takes her 15 minutes to walk one block. She’s on more drugs than my grandmother was before she died. This dog has two bionic knees from a surgery she had 12 years ago. Her knees are actually good…not like her hips. She’s got cataracts and doesn’t hear well anymore (unless it’s the sound of the treat jar opening in which case she still seems to have supersonic hearing).

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First post to ACT with Compassion

Alrighty then. This is the start of what I hope will be an interesting journey. 

While I've been working on developing treatments for self-criticism, shame, and stigma for over a decade, I haven't felt ready to go public with what I've learned until now. There's still a lot to learn, but I also feel like I have something to add to the conversation. This website is my attempt to do just that. I've already created a variety of materials that I use in therapy with my clients in a daily basis. I've provided a variety of trainings on this topic and even created videos that relate to working with highly self-critical clients. Now, it's time to do the work to get myself increasingly organized and get this stuff out for public consumption. This blog post is a declaration of that. 

I'm making a commitment. Over the ensuing weeks, you're going to see more and more materials relating to self-compassion, shame, and self-criticism coming out on this website. I'll post about my stuff, but also link to the other great resources on the web created by other authors. My goal is to empower those therapists out there who are working with clients in these difficult moments where they feel so broken, damaged, and alone. 

My hope is that together we may bring kindness, compassion, and warmth to those who feel small, weak, and cast aside by life. 

If you want to learn about new information as it comes out, sign up for the site here.

P.S. The first material, with some homework handouts and guidelines for using homework has already been posted.

 

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