This is a world where we all are constantly judged, criticized, put down, evaluated, and rated based on our socioeconomic status.
Our notion of happiness is linked with the parameters of success and achievement — that’s how we perceive happiness. If you haven’t achieved anything worthwhile (as per society’s standard), you won’t be called a “successful person”. We presume we can reach the level of happiness only if we have proper standing in society. We equate happiness with success. And this hampers our self-esteem.
However, research says that if we treat ourselves and others with kindness, we are more likely to feel happy and overcome any setbacks that life offers.
So, how about showing some kindness to yourself and to others? Does it take a lot? Well, nothing more than a decision. You simply need to decide to cultivate compassion in your day-to-day activities. Compassion is not only an act of kindness, it’s a lifestyle!
Compassion-focused therapy: history and its origins
CFT is a compassionate-mind approach. It’s about equipping our minds with an idea of compassion for solving various mental health problems. This therapy incorporates techniques that help us develop considerate thoughts and habits. By conducting various exercises, the therapist cultivates a pattern in the client’s brain that helps him or her focus on positive feelings.
Compassion-focused therapy was first developed by Dr. Paul Gilbert in response to the inadequacy of traditional therapy, especially for those people who were flooded with the emotions of shame and self-criticism.
CFT has not evolved from a single approach. In fact, it encompasses several theories within it — evolutionary theory, psychology, neuroscience, and Buddhist psychology among others.
CFT emphasizes developing compassion and most importantly, self-compassion as it can treat many issues, such as anxiety, depression, and others.
Need for Compassion-focused therapy
Why does it happen that we’re not able to solve our problems despite having solutions?
Because sometimes logical and intellectual understanding of a problem does not help us. It is during those times that we need CFT. For example, on an intellectual level, we may know that we are loved and cared for. However, we may not feel the same on the emotional plane. And if our emotional level rejects anything, it becomes hard to form a positive belief.
So, CFT helps to address the gap between “thinking” and “feeling”.
Who can benefit from Compassion-focused therapy?
CFT establishes positive traits in human beings, such as self-acceptance, self-confidence, kindness, and a compassionate mindset. It enables us to address self-critical behavioral issues.
A compassionate mind approach can help people who need assistance in the following areas of concern:
- Emotions of shame and guilt
- Developing self-confidence
- Overcoming anger issues
- Fighting anxiety and depression
Six attributes of compassion
Dr. Paul Gilbert has come up with six qualities of compassion.
- Care for well-being
This attribute is about developing a commitment to care for your well-being and doing good for others. For example, let us assume — you know that public speaking can help to boost your self-confidence, but you’re hesitant to try it because you’re fearful. What should you do then? You need to care for yourself and do what is in your best interests.
Taking yourself or others out of an unfortunate situation is called care for well-being. It’s about making a commitment to improving your position.
Nonjudgmentalism is about being aware that human beings differ from each other in terms of their lifestyles, thoughts, values, principles, or habits. Being judgemental about yourself and others is associated with feelings of criticism.
Being non-judgmental is one of the most crucial attributes of a compassionate mind.
Sympathy is the emotion of understanding and connection. You can sympathize with yourself or with others if you can connect yourself with the feelings of pain.
The big difference in the attribute of empathy and sympathy is that — when you empathize with someone, you put yourself in his or her shoes and then feel the pain the person is going through. Empathy has the power to connect you with people and with yourself on a much deeper and more intense level.
In order to develop empathy, we must have an open-minded curiosity and a genuine desire to know what we feel and why we feel that way. Empathy begins only when we have a genuine interest in understanding somebody’s problems.
- Distress tolerance
Distress tolerance means feeling all your suppressed emotions. No matter how difficult emotions you’re experiencing, you must not push them away. Rather, acknowledge them!
Developing compassionate tolerance is the primary focus. Tolerance is our ability to accept emotions that come to us. It’s about coming to terms with our feelings and not fighting any longer.
- Sensitivity to distress
Sensitivity to distress means noticing that you or others are going through a tough period. It means to take action when you see someone injured on a road. It means recognizing your troublesome emotions and tackling them instead of suppressing them.
We have the impression that it’s better to ignore our pain and go through life with whatever comes our way. However, we need to understand that it’s important we train our minds to be receptive to our feelings, emotional needs, and thoughts.