Take a look at a short Compassionate Self script, a key exercise in Compassion Focused Therapy (CFT). This exercise is commonly used in CFT to help people build their compassionate mind.
If you are new to guiding this exercise, it can be useful at first to read the compassionate self script as it is. As you build your confidence and familiarity with it, you can then adapt and alter the compassionate self script to fit with your own style and your client’s needs
You can also access this compassionate self script as a PDF download here
Compassionate Self Script
Sit in an upright, confident but comfortable position. Engage in your soothing rhythm breathing and friendly facial expression, allowing your body and mind to slow down as you breath out (60 secs)
Now, like an actor getting into a role, you are going to use your imagination to create an outline of what you would be like to be a compassionate person. So for a moment, think about the qualities you would have if this was the case. It doesn’t matter if you feel you actually are a compassionate person – we’re just going to imagine that you have these qualities just like actors do when they take on a role.
We are now going to focus on the three specific qualities of compassion that are central to the compassionate self – wisdom, strength and caring-commitment. We will focus on each one of these in turn.
Let’s start with wisdom, of which there are many sources. One set comes from an understanding that we have tricky brains, which often get caught up in loops. And that we have been bestowed with a threat system, with emotions like anger, fear and disgust that can be very painful, and difficult to manage. We didn’t choose to have a mind that works like this, nor so many of the things that shape us. We didn’t choose our genes, our gender, our ethnicity or culture but all of these have had a significant impact on the person we become.
So your compassionate self has a deep wisdom about the nature of life itself; it knows that so many of our problems are rooted in things that have been beyond our control – that much of what goes on in our minds is not our fault (10 secs).
The wisdom of your compassionate self is also linked to learning how to take responsibility for doing something about your suffering. This involves stepping back from blame, shame and
judgement and cultivating our minds in a way that might be helpful. So just as the grass, flowers and shrubs of a garden can grow in all sorts of ways if left to itself, the wisdom of your compassionate self can help you appreciate that if this version of you is not how you would like it to be – if it is contributing to causing you or others distress – that you can learn to do something about it.
Spend a little time just focusing on what it would be like to be a wise person, and how if these insights were in the front of your mind, how this would influence how your see and understand people in your life (15 secs)
Now let’s move on to the quality of strength, groundedness and confidence. These qualities of your compassionate self are in part linked to your body posture – upright, alert and grounded in the chair. The strength of your compassionate self also arises from your soothing breathing rhythm, which helps you feel anchored and grounded (10 secs).
It can be useful to imagine how your compassionate self might stand or hold its posture, that somehow represents strength and confidence. If it helps, imagine that like a tree with deep roots that remains standing and resilient through a storm, your compassionate self is also rooted in a way that means it can be in the presence of distress and never get overwhelmed.
Or imagine that like a mountain that has withstood millennia of bad weather, your compassionate self is also resolute and strong in the face of your threat system, helping you to tolerate whatever distress emerges in your life. (15 secs)
Take a moment to imagine what it would be like to face some of the stress that turns up in your life, but doing this as your strong, grounded compassionate self (15 secs)
Finally, let’s focus on the quality of commitment. Your compassionate self has a deep caring commitment. It recognises life is often hard, and because of this, wants to do what it can do to alleviate your own and other peoples’ distress (15 secs).Imagine that this part of you has an energy and drive, that it wants to do what it can do to be supportive, kind and helpful (10 secs).
Imagine how you would stand if you had a connection with this… consider what your facial expression, or your voice tone, might be like if you were deeply caring and committed to alleviating suffering. Spend 30-45 seconds on this.
Now, try to imagine these qualities – wisdom, strength and caring-commitment – coming together into a sense of your compassionate self. Take 30 seconds or so imagining your compassionate self with these qualities. How might you stand? how you might you speak? How you would think and feel? How you would try to respond to people as your compassionate self? Focus on the desire to think, behave and feel compassionately.
Don’t worry if you don’t feel that you have these qualities. Like an actor playing a character, just imagine what it would be like if you did.
Spend a couple more minutes allowing yourself to connect to your compassionate self. Take your time on the different qualities. Consider as this wise, strong and caring version of you, what your intention is to other people and yourself (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
If you found the compassionate self script helpful, please check out some of our other scripts and resources
These exercises and practices have all been adapted from the wonderful work of Paul Gilbert