Throughout history people have sought to cope with a life that is often stressful and hard. We have actually known for some time that developing compassion for oneself and others can help us face up to and win through the hardship and find a sense of inner peace. However in modern societies we rarely focus on this key process that underpins successful coping and happiness and can be quick to dismiss the impact of modern living on our minds and well-being. Instead we concentrate on 'doing, achieving' and having'. Now, bestselling author and leading authority on depression, Professor Paul Gilbert explains how new research shows how we can all learn to develop compassion for ourselves and others and derive the benefits of this age-old wisdom.
In this ground-breaking new book he explores how our minds have developed to be highly sensitive and quick to react to perceived threats and how this fast-acting threat-response system can be a source of anxiety, depression and aggression. He describes how studies have also shown that developing kindness and compassion for self and others can hep in calming down the threat system: as a mother's care and love can soothe a baby's distress, so we can learn how to soothe ourselves.
Not only does compassion help to soothe distressing emotions, it actually increases feelings of contentment and well-being. Here, Professor Gilbert outlines the latest findings about the value of compassion and how it works, and takes readers through basic mind training exercises to enhance the capacity for, and use of, compassion.
British clinical psychologist Gilbert (Overcoming Depression) integrates neuropsychology, Buddhist practices, and Carl Jung's concept of archetypes to illuminate the human mind and its potential for meaningful connection through compassion. Eschewing the standard self-help focus on "learning to accept and love yourself," Gilbert explores the universal challenges stemming from conflict between the "old brains" humans share with other primates and the "new brains" unique to humankind (providing "our ability to think, imagine, learn and use symbols and language"). Gilbert argues that it's necessary to accept without shame or guilt our "many dark and cruel potentials," because compassion represents just as powerful a force in the human mind. Human brains, Gilbert explains, have "evolved for social relating," and his approach to self-acceptance involves "thinking about our internal world as being full of 'social-like' relationships" with different personality aspects-the angry self, the compassionate self, the competitive self, etc. He also proposes a number of familiar techniques (mindfulness, controlled breathing, visualization, journaling) to help readers increase compassion, toward our ourselves and others, while dealing with the anxiety, depression, rage, and other uncomfortable emotions relationships can evoke. Though his writing is diffuse, Gilbert has an arresting but rational perspective that should appeal to self-help enthusiasts and newcomers alike.