This month’s tool: Guided meditations for highly self-critical and shame-prone clients
We have updated our resource page with some of our favorite meditations that we find useful in working with shame-prone and self-critical clients. Often, people who are highly self-critical and shame-prone tend to spend a lot of time with emotion systems related to threat activated, or alternatively spend time feeling overwhelmed in response to their internal judgment. Their threat system may be chronically over activated, while their social safety system under activated. The social safety system signals to the person that it is safe to relax and explore, because the person is supported by their tribe or otherwise safe and experiencing a relative lack of aversive stimulation. Lovingkindness and compassion meditations can be very valuable for stimulating the social-safety systems of people who are highly shame-prone and self-critical.
For clients who are willing to engage in a daily meditation practice, we highly recommend encouraging them to do so. Once clients become familiar with cultivating lovingkindness and compassion, you can guide them to apply what they have learned before, during, and/or after situations that trigger shame and self-criticism.
For clients who are not willing to engage in a daily practice, they will still benefit from a formal practice on occasion, or using an informal practice like the self-compassion break as they go about their normal day.
Meditation recordings for highly self-critical and shame prone clients
Files from ACTWithCompassion.com
We have put together a series of lovingkindness meditations specifically with highly self-critical and shame-prone clients in mind. Traditional lovingkindness sequences often start with lovingkindness for the self, but for highly self-critical and shame-prone clients, starting with the self may be too difficult and could trigger overwhelming self-criticism at first. This sequence starts with LKM for someone it is easy to feel warmth towards and works up to the self.
- Lovingkindness for a friend (script in Word format)
- Lovingkindness for a friend and stranger (script in Word format)
- Lovingkindness for a friend and for yourself (script in Word format)
- Lovingkindness for a friend and a difficult person (who may also be yourself!) (script in Word format)
Other meditations relating to compassion
- Lovingkindness meditation (10 minutes)
- Brief compassion meditation (10 minutes)
- Longer compassion meditation (22 minutes)
Dr. Kristen Neff
- Affectionate Breathing (21 minutes)
- Compassionate Body Scan (24 minutes)
- Loving-Kindness Meditation (20 minutes)
- Noting Your Emotions (18 minutes)
- Soften, Soothe, Allow: Working with Emotions in the Body (15 minutes)
- Self-Compassion Break (5 minutes). The self-compassion break is a favorite among clients (and us too!) because it is so brief and can be practiced informally anytime, anywhere by placing a hand on one’s heart and offering phrases of kindness. You can download the script here or view it on Dr. Neff's website.
Dr. Tara Brach
- Tonglen or Compassion Practice. Tonglen is a form of practice that involves breathing in difficult emotions, and breathing out kindness and relief. Here is a description of Tonglen by Pema Chodron.
Mindful Self-Compassion website by Dr. Christopher Germer has a wonderful range of mindfulness and compassion-focused meditations available for free listening or download.
Barbara Fredrickson has several guided meditations focusing on loving-kindness.
Wildmind.org has a self-guided course for learning lovingkindess meditation that includes a variety of exercise. It provides a nice overview of how to practice and guides on many aspects of establishing an effective practice.
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