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.
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:Read more
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:Read more
I feel the burn of shame even as I write this.
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).Read more
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.
Posted by · January 30, 2021 11:04 AM · 3 reactions
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