Note: this activity is adapted from the work of Paul Gilbert (Source)To begin, we’re going to connect with our own intuitive wisdom of empathy and compassion. All of us have symbols that communicate wisdom, acceptance, compassion, and safety for us, even if we are not consciously aware of it.
1. Bring to mind a situation where you have experienced conflict, blame, anger, or other difficult emotions. Write a key word or phrase to remind you of the situation.
Caution: Be wise about the situation you choose, especially if you have suffered traumatic stress.
2. Now let your mind settle on a new question. If you could go anywhere or be with anyone to cope with that difficult situation, what would it be?
- What would you see? Is it a person, place, animal, or thing? What colors?
- What would you hear? What type of sounds? How loud? If there is a person, what kind of voice?
- What about other sense? Smells? Touch? Temperature?
- What happens to you? If there are people, how are you treated?
- Do you do anything? What is your response to being in this compassionate place?
You might find it helpful to draw a picture or write a poem about this place.Also, you can find more exercises and information in the work of Paul Gilbert, a psychologist and researcher who has developed Compassion Focused Therapy and Compassionate Mind Training, HERE.
Even if this exercise is difficult for you at first, it is important to begin seeing ways in which you already know what compassion means to you and how you experience it. Just like with exercising the body, your compassion muscles may be very weak or undeveloped - but they are there! You are strengthening something that you already have, not creating something from nothing.