Earlier, we learned that we can stimulate different parts of our brain and body systems by deliberately generating images and thoughts . Remember we used the example that we can get ourselves aroused by deliberately creating erotic thoughts.
What about if we use exactly the same idea , but with a focus on compassion and balancing our minds?
Not it turns out that actors can deliberately stimultae things in their minds and bodies so that they can reallt get into a role . In fact , if we put good actors into brain scanners and ask them to get into an emotional role , we see that the areas of their brain linked to those emotions light up. If they ‘re trying to become angry , sad , anxious, or happy character , they can stimulate those parts of their brain.
So it is the same with imagining ourselves becoming a compassionate self: we can stimulate parts of our brain that can help us to rebalance and come out of depression. In this next exercise we’re going to imagine that we are a compassionate character , like an actor playing a role. It is by far best to do it this way because if you try to imagine your genuinely being a compassionate person. , the self-critical self can kick up and say,’Oh no , you’re not compassionate .’
Just being to imagine what it might be like to to have certain qualities-to become a certain character for a role. And then carry this role into your life so that you start acting in compassionate ways.
First , think about ( and , if you like , write down) the key qualities you would have if you were the most compassionate qualities. Clarify in your mind the strenghts; notice that compassionate is not about being sumassive or pushover.
Now, sitting in your chair , engage in your soothing rhythm breathing , and , when settled , imagine having those qualities.It helps if we start to do this playfully , even though the intent is serious.
Don’t worry and don’t exercise , if it doesn’t come easily . The idea is to be curious, and explore what happens , as opposed to trying to make somethinh happen and then being critical if it doesn’t . What’s important here is your intention to be compassionate.
Next, explore your facial expressions: Starting from a neutral expression, create a friendly smile on your face for around fifteen seconds and go back to neutral. Then once again fifteen seconds of friendly face .
Did you notice any slight difference in how your body felt, no matter how subtle ? Well , you might have noticed that a friendly face gives you a slightly warmer feeling. That is because you are deliberately working the muscles in your face which have connections to your brain.
Next, we are going to focus on friendly voice tones . So, now in a very neutral tone say,” Hello ….” and name yourself . So on each out-breath say,” Hello …” doing this for fifteen seconds with the neutral voice and then creating as friendly and supportive a voice as you can for fifteen seconds. Do that twice ( more if you like).
Once again, notice the difference when you deliberately change your voice tone . . As you do this , you start to generate a friendly and supporrtive inner voice too. You have probably already guessed that when you get familiar with that kind, supportive and encouraging inner vocie it will help you in various ways and certainly be a counterwieght to the hostile voice of the inner critic .
Learning hoe to generate a kind voice will be helpful. If you are using any of the techniques or strategies from other chapters, try to talk to yourself in this kind voice while you are doing them.
The reason for deliberately trying to create a friendly voice tone is because when we get depressed , self-criticism is so pervasive that we don’t even notice it at times, we don’t notice that our emotional tone to ourselves is frustrated and angry or even contemptuous. This inner emotional tone of our thoughts can be quite damaging. Just imagine what’s hap[pening in your brain if, day in and day pout , you say negative things to yourself in a slightly angry or contemptuous tone. And think about which brain system you are stimulating , not good . But you can , on purpose , start to change this by practising how you talk to yourself as well as what you say to yourself.
Now, whenever you are confronted with something difficult , spend moment slowing your breathing, feel rooted in your body, and imaging approaching that difficulty from the compassionate self . Think of the alternative ways in which you can look at your thinking , or work with your attention . Each time you engage with trying to make a change , take a few breaths , bring the compassionate voice tone to mind and then engage with the task.
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