Take a look at a short script for guiding a key exercise in Compassion Focused Therapy (CFT), often known as Compassionate Other, Compassionate Friend or Perfect Nurturer. This exercise is commonly used in CFT to help people build their compassionate mind and experience compassion flowing in from others
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
Sit in an upright but comfortable position. Engage in your soothing rhythm breathing and friendly facial expression, allowing your breathing to slow a little. Stay with this for 60 seconds or so.
Take a few moments to bring to mind some of the qualities of compassion that you would value someone else having (15 seconds). Alongside these, we’re going to focus on three core qualities of your ideal compassionate other.
First, your ideal compassionate other will be wise and understanding. They’ll have a deep wisdom and understanding about the nature of suffering, that we have ‘tricky brains’ that easily get caught up in loops. They’ll know that much of what happens inside of us is ‘not our fault’, and that so much of who we are – our genes, our gender, our ethnicity and sexuality – were not of our choosing. They understand the difficulties we experience in life, and are able to offer helpful perspectives on this.
Second, your ideal compassionate other is strong and courageous. They have a sense of authority and quiet confidence. Like a tree with deep roots that remains resolute and strong through a storm, you’ll know that no matter what difficulties you face, they’ll always be there for you.
Finally, your compassionate other will have a caring motivation for you. They’ll be there to offer you support and kindness, and want to help you manage whatever difficulties arise in your life.
With these qualities in mind – caring-commitment, wisdom and strength – what would your ideal compassionate other look like if you could see it stood in front of you? Spend a few moments imagining this, seeing what it would be like for this to be a new creation, and not
someone you know. Also hold in mind that it doesn’t have to be human, and instead could be an animal or part of nature – if you can (30 secs).
Maybe you could consider whether they are old or young (5 secs)…. male, female, genderless or non-binary (5 secs)… short or tall (5 secs).
How would you like your ideal compassionate other to sound? If they have a voice, what would their tone of voice be like? Spend a little time imagining this, and focusing on how the voice tone leaves you feeling.
If your image has a face, what’s their facial expression like? How does their face express their compassionate nature to you?
How would you like your ideal compassionate other to relate to you? Would anything help you to sense their commitment and kindness to you?
Imagine the your image is now directing compassion to you, maybe in the form of energy or light (10 seconds). Notice how that leaves you feeling, receiving its kindness and care.
Hold in mind that this image is there for you. That it will never criticise or blame you for difficulties you’re facing in life, but instead understands that life is hard, and wants to help you find ways to manage the difficulties you experience (30 secs)
Before you bring this exercise to a close, hold in mind that you can return to this image whenever you’d like to – it’s always there, waiting to offer you it’s wisdom, strength and caring commitment (10 secs).
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