Take a look at a short script for guiding a key exercise in Compassion Focused Therapy (CFT), often known as Calm Place Imagery. This exercise is commonly used in CFT to help people access their soothing system, and to feel calm, peaceful, content and connected.
You can also access this as a PDF download here. You can also find access to some of the audio practices here, and guided compassion self-help courses here.
Calm Place Imagery
“Find somewhere comfortable to sit where you’ll not be disturbed. Adopt a posture that is confident, grounded and comfortable, slowly bringing a friendly expression to your face. Engage in your soothing rhythm breathing, allowing your breathing and body to slow down a little.
When you feel ready, spend some time bringing to mind an image of a place in which you could feel calm, peaceful and content. This may be somewhere you have been before, a mixture of two or more places that you know, or somewhere completely new that you’ve never been to before. Try not to get frustrated or worried if no image comes to mind for a while, or if you find that several different images come to mind. Just notice this mindfully, and remain with the intention to allow an image to come to mind that feels calm, peaceful or soothing.
When an image has come to mind, we can take some time to explore different aspects of it, starting with what you can see. This might be colours, shapes, or objects. Spend 30 seconds doing this.
Next, notice if there are any sounds that are present in this image that adds to the feeling of calmness and peacefulness. If there are, just gently pay attention to these, noticing the different qualities they may have, how they leave you feeling. Spend 30 seconds or so doing this.
Now, notice whether there are any soothing or comforting smells present in the image. If there are, again, spend 30 seconds paying attention to this. Now, notice any physical sensations you can feel or things you come in physical contact with or touch, such as the warmth of the sun against your skin, or the feel of the grass or sand beneath your feet. Focus on this for 30 seconds.
Now with whatever you can see, hear, smell or feel, notice what it’s like for you to be in this calm, peaceful place? (15 secs)
Notice if you’re in the image with someone or something else, or whether you’re on your own. If you are on your own, take some time to bring someone – or something, like an animal – in to the image who would increase your sense of feeling calm, peaceful and content. Don’t go with someone who you feel you should invite, focus instead on what’s helpful to add in a helpful way to the image. (30 secs). See if it’s helpful to imagine this person or animal being physically close to you in the image, or whether it’s more helpful to have some distance.
Finally, as this is your own calm place, imagine that it has an awareness of you. It welcomes you there, and is happy to see you. It wants you to feel calm and content. Notice how it feels to know that this place wants you to feel supported, safe and at ease. Spend a minute or so just focusing on this.
Given that this is a place in which you can feel at ease, calm and content, it may be useful to consider what you would like to do whilst being here. Maybe you wish to remain still, content with just ‘being’ in the moment, in this place. Or you may like to explore the place in a more active way, or moving around in this place, walking, swimming or playing a game. It is your own unique calm place. You can use it in a way that helps you to feel at ease, as well as engaged and interested, with the freedom to explore.
Before we finish the practice, take a snapshot of it in your mind. Remember that you can come back to this image whenever you’d find it helpful – it’ll always be there for you, waiting to offer its support and help.
Now, slowly begin to allow the image to fade and return back to noticing your soothing breathing rhythm and upright, confident posture in the chair (10 secs)
When you feel ready, slowing open your eyes and bring yourself back in to the room.”
These exercises and practices have all been adapted from the wonderful work of Paul Gilbert – find out more at www.compassiontemind.co.uk