In an earlier interview, Christopher Germer, Ph.D. recently he explored us why compassion receives so much attention and how to cure the personal devaluation which is so prevalent in our culture. Christopher Germer, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist, conducts its trade skill practice in Arlington, Massachusetts and author of the recent book The Mindful Path to Self-Compassion: Freeing Yourself from Destructive Thoughts and Emotions (The Mindful Path to Self-pity: getting rid of the thoughts and emotions Destructive). He is a founding member of the Institute for Meditation and Psychotherapy (Institute for Meditation and Psychotherapy), clinical instructor in psychology at Harvard Medical School and co-editor of the book Mindfulness and Psychotherapy (Mindfulness and Psychotherapy). Christopher also conducts workshops on the art and science of self-pity attentive (Mindful Self-compassion).
Today Christopher shares with us the radical notion of accepting our difficult emotions, tells us about the neuroscience behind this process and provides some tips.
Elisha: You suggested something radical in your book, which is the practice of accepting our difficult emotions and even to respond to them with compassion. Can you give us a practical example of how one can achieve this?
Christopher: I know it’s a big gamble, but do not need to dive headfirst into our difficult emotions to transform compassion – we just need to touch them.
There are many ways to do this that I explain in my book. Perhaps the easiest way is to simply label the emotion – fear, anger, grief. When we label an emotion, especially with a “gentle and kind attention” rather than a “concerned attention”, the excitement seems to lose its sting. The brain imaging studies have also shown how the labeling reduces the fear response in the amygdala, a brain area that triggers the warning signs.
Another strategy is to locate the emotion in the body. All emotions have a bodily component. For example, fear is often felt in the stomach, chest sadness, and shame on the head. Once you have identified the place where the feeling is felt more strongly, you can loosen the body, allowing the feeling to stay, without fighting and running a little loving and kind energy to that place in your body as if it belonged to the body of a person who loves much, like a beloved child. This exercise is often called “relax, calm, allowing”. Considering that emotions are a network of reactions at the level of mind and body, to change a part of the rest of the network changes. For example, a person can suffer much less after an insult at work when he does loosen, calm and allow the pain of insult in his physical body.
A third strategy is to use language to soothe, comfort and accompanied himself when you are feeling really bad. You can try the following phrases Kristin Neff calls “mantra of self-pity.” The mantra of self-pity is an exercise that is taught in the training program of eight weeks called “Mindful Self-Compassion (MSC)” (Self-pity Aware) that Kristin and I are currently developing. When you are experiencing emotional pain, try saying this to himself:
This is a time of suffering
Suffering is part of life
It can be nice to me
I can accept me as I am
You can tailor your own phrase, ensuring that credible and appropriate to your situation. For example, if you are feeling a sense of guilt, you can say “May I forgive me.” Usually the greater suffering at the time of use the phrases, the greater the impact.
Elisha: If I was sitting next to someone who is struggling with thoughts and destructive emotions, what advice would you give?
Christopher: That depends, of course, on who the person is and what he is going through at the moment. In general, I do not give advice when I know the person first because it may appear that I am distancing myself from the person, as women often feel when they share their difficulties well-intentioned husbands. Instead, at first I am inclined to feel the struggle of the people in my own body.
There is an issue here also lies with the conceptual core based therapy Mindfulness and Acceptance: “What we resist, persists.” By resisting the inability to sleep, possibly develop insomnia, anxiety started to resist ruminating or panic attacks, if we resist it eventually fixed in a depression box. Even Sigmund Freud said: “A person should not strive to eliminate his complexes but to enter into an agreement with them.” What we are cultivating a new relationship with us so sick woman a relationship characterized by consciousness from moment to moment (Mindfulness) and a friendly and accepting attitude (Compassion). This relationship does not try to “remove” or “reduce” bad feelings and emotions, but rather live safely and peacefully “in the middle” of what is bothering us.
Pema Chodron, a Western nun in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition says it best:
“… We can still be crazy after all these years. We can still feel angry after all these years. We can still be timid or jealous or be filled with feelings of worthlessness. The point is … not trying to get away from ourselves and become better. It’s about befriending who we are already. ”
This approach may not look like a therapy, but the invisible foundation of all emotional healing.
Here is the paradox: we practice compassion because we do not want to feel better, but because we feel bad. Self-pity is a natural and healthy response to feeling bad. Even an intelligent new approach to emotional pain and self-pity attentive would be insufficient if used to manipulate our moment-to-moment experience. Compassion definitely transformed our emotions, but feeling good is a byproduct of compassion. And it is when we are in the mental mode of attentive compassion that generates a small space around our destructive emotions that allows us to make positive changes in our lives.
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