Compassion and Shame

cat in bikini jpeg

“Ooh, what will others think of my body in this bikini??!”

Unlike other mammals, humans have ‘tricky’ minds.  Our newer ‘thinking mind’ (pre-frontal cortex), has the ability to ruminate, plan, self-monitor and imagine. It has the tendency to beat us up about not feeling good enough, fluent enough, sounding male or female enough, speaking clearly enough, hitting the top notes easily enough… The ‘not enough’ problem…

These sorts of critical thoughts come round again and again and can lead to anger, anxiety, worry or shame, resulting in avoiding talking, talking less, avoiding situations and not going for what is important in life.

Chilli, my cat on holiday in the picture (kindly drawn by my 11 year-old son), shares the older reptilian part of his brain with us: the amygdala and limbic system. This part of our mind ensures that we keep ourselves safe and procreating: avoiding harm, seeking food, care, status and sex.  It is the seat of our emotions: sadness, anger, anxiety and happiness.  It catalyses us into fleeing from danger, to fight or seek comfort.   It has evolved to keep our species alive very successfully.

Humans have evolved to possess a very high functioning, but extremely ‘tricky’ mind.  Our brain makes us feel, do and think in ways that are sometimes costly to our emotional and physical wellbeing.  We can’t help how our mind has evolved. We cannot change our inherited genetics, and we cannot change where and when we were born, nor who we were brought up by and surrounded with in our childhood.  Try this thought experiment: imagine how you would be today as a person if you were brought up by your next-door neighbours, or the mafia.

The science of the human mind means that there is a lot that is not our fault about the way we think, feel and behave. However, there are ways to alleviate suffering and move towards a preferred, richer life.  To talk, speak and communicate more easily wherever and whenever you want.

One way is through Compassion.  Compassion as defined by the researcher and Clinical Psychologist Paul Gilbert, at the Compassionate Mind Foundation, is “a sensitivity to the suffering of self and others (and its causes) with a commitment to try to relieve it and prevent it”. This requires courage, strength and wisdom. Compassion Focused Therapy is an evolutionary, attachment based therapy approach developed by the team at the Compassionate Mind Foundation. Its aim is to help develop less shameful and critical thinking, feelings or behaviours.

Therapy includes:

  • Psychoeducation – Why do we have such ‘tricky minds’ and how does my ‘tricky mind’ make me feel and behave the way I do
  • Soothing breathing rhythm – to physiologically bring your parasympathetic calming nervous system on line.
  • Imagery work and compassionate letter writing – to develop a compassionate self
  • Reasoning skills training – to explore the critical and shameful thoughts we have
  • Behaviour change – Experimenting with your behaviour and trying out new things
  • Developing attention and exploring feelings and sensations.

I have trained with the Compassionate Mind Foundation and I can explore the therapy techniques with you to develop a strong, wise and compassionate self to feel more confidence communicating. 



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s