Another way in which we can stimulate and balance our minds is by being open to the compassion of others.How it’s easy for us to focu on the one person who was unhelpful and completely put out of our minds the other nine who were helpful? So training our attention to be compassionate means each day trying to notice and remember people who are kind to you. It may only be somebody on the bus who smiles, but even ;little things can make a big difference. Your brain will be very good at picking out threats and negatives, so it can take effort to balance and learn to look at the good things.
Depression becomes more stuck when we focus on the things we don’t like, rather than trying to build on the things we do. Keep in mind that this is not your fault, because your brain is naturally oriented towards threat , but one you know this you can make a decision to retrain it.
Learning to stimulate compassionate feelings can also be done through imagery. Once again , this works the same way as your erotic fantasies – using imagery on p[urpose to shift our mental state . In this situation, consider your ideal compassionate other.
If you could encounter the most compassionate person in the world, what qualities would they have?
Because they are ideal they will be beyond human frailties such as having off days , and getting irritable or sick! Sometimes people bring to mind a loved parent or grandparent, which is okay to start with , but if it’s someone who has died there can be grief associated with it , which is less helpful .
So ideally , create your own image . This image will have the great wisdom and understanding we mentioned before. It will convey a profound sense of strength and capacities for endurance,a snese of complete commitment to you, and a deep wish for you to be able to work on your depression.
Your compassionate other has the same qualities we saw developed in the compassionate self above. Remember you don’t need to create clear visual images because fleeting impressions are fine- it’s the ‘sensed feeling’ that comes with this practice, and focusing of attention , not the clarity of the image that is important.
So, when you imagine your compassionate image, you can consider whether they are male or female or sort of neutral, older or younger than you , and whether they are human. Some depressed people prefger to have animals as their compassionater image . But whatever image you have, focus on the qualities of wisdom, strength and commitment to you. And of course these are offered in a warm way. Once you have created this in your mind then imagine them whishing for you recovery from depression with a deeply heartfelt sense of concern for your well-being. This image will never criticize you because it has the wisdom to understand that no one chooses depression .
Consider the warmth and strength of their tone of voice and any other characteristics that would be helpful to you.
Sometimes it helps to dialogue literally with these images, understanding that they are imaginary . Maybe you will recognize that this is what happens in religions, such as with prayer. And indeed, many people draw comfort and strength from these imaginary conversationswith gods. In CFT approach though, we are not giving these practices any spirtual meaning , but simply offering them as ways to stimulate our minds.
Our brains are sensitive to social signals and therefore creating these in our minds can be helpful . After all, if you sat and imagined people being critical and hostiler to you, you can see that it would be upseting. So in this exercise we are learning to focus and create compassionate interactions in our imagination.
We can also use compassionate imagery when we remember people being kind to us. Sometimes, it’s useful to spend some time sitting quietly and really focusing on what we call ‘gratitude and appreciation’.
Bring to mind people who have helped you , encouraged or supported you. Imagine what their intent was while they were engaging in this way with you. Try to recall how you felt when you recieved that kindness from them.
Once again, the idea is not to make us feel guilty and obligated but just to open ourselves up to feelings that will help us to combat depression. When you are thinking of a compassionate person , though there is a danger that your depressed mind will kick in. You might remember someone who has died and become very sad; you might start to think that there is no one like that in your life.
For example, one client remeber her mother , now dead. This brought up grief. So when you are doing this exercise keep in mind that if the image makes you sad it might be better not to use it. Try to think of another image, or see if you can concentrate on the good aspects. Always remeber that our depressed mind can control our attention , feeling and thinking unless we take deliberate steps to refocus.