Terrarium

 

This project will take a multitheoretical approach to developing self-compassion and coping for at-risk youth. These approaches will be conducted in the form of an experiential and psychoeducational group. The use of the concept of “driving all blame into one” in Chekawa’s Sevenfold Mind Training will consist of driving blame into the biopsychosocial model. Gilbert’s use of the biopsychosocial model in Compassion Focused Therapy will be utilized as a reference point. Additionally, Gilbert’s exercises and view of self-compassion and compassion for others will be implemented. Bilateral stimulation and forms of trauma or shaking-off exercises will be part of the group experience. We will also practice deep breathing, stretching and imagery meditation. The order of training events will be roughly based on Van Melik’s Lineage Project approach.

At-promise youth are faced with multiple biosocial and personal issues. One issue that often comes up is the use of blame and shame as a disordered coping skill. This psychoeducational and experiential group will help youths to understand the biopsychosocial model and develop coping and integration skills. Initially there will be a brief discussion of group rules and how the hour will proceed. The group will be presented with a topic or issue of difficulty, which will be chosen from one of Gilbert’s CFT exercises or a common trend in coping difficulty youth experience in detention. An example of such topic may be feeling wronged or unfairly treated by someone. There will be time to reflect on and visualize the topic of discussion. Each youth will discuss their experience of the topic or question asked.

They will then visualize the issue or a similar issue while doing a bilateral stimulation exercise in order to help soften around defenses and fears. A brief set of simple but rigorous Tsigjong (Qigong) exercises will be presented, in order to get energy moving around the body and shake off any remaining stress. This will be followed by some deep breathing and yogic stretching. The deep breathing and stretching is a mimicking of the relaxation process animals use after a stressful event to reintegrate and continue on with their daily lives. The difficulty initially imagined will be visualized again via guided meditation, but this time the youths will take a caring approach to the narrative and imagine themselves responding to their difficulty with self-care and compassion as well as compassion for others involved in the visualization, if appropriate to the topic. The group will wrap up with a brief silent meditation.

If allowed, a brief self-compassion and or coping assessment will be used at the beginning and end of four weeks of group. The object of the group is not to delve deeply into trauma, but to handle everyday concerns with self-compassion and skillful coping. The groups will need to be brief and only build on each other for three or four weeks, due to the unpredictable lengths of time youths spend in group therapy. Each weekly group should be able to stand by itself. I hope to gain from this project a sense of how these youths view difficulties and determine helpful ways for them to cope with these difficulties. I would also like to better understand the roll compassion plays in their daily coping. My thoughts are that using a combination of efficacious and researched treatments in a new way will yield changes in their ability to cope and increase the experience of self-compassion.

The first step in executing this project will involve researching literature on bilateral stimulation and other physical coping mechanisms. It will be important to have a basic understanding of the tools and techniques used as well as research on possible outcomes. CFT literature and techniques will also be reviewed to get an understanding of the model and some of its biopsychosocial influences. This will take about one month. Based on what is gleaned from the research phase the next step is to design group specifics. The purpose is not to limit creativity, but to provide a framework for creativity. This will take another month as successive groups and topics will need to be designed in advance.

Resources

Paul Gilbert – Mindful Compassion: How the Science of Compassion Can Help You Understand Your Emotions, Live in the Present, and Connect Deeply with Others
Chekawa – Path To Awakening: a Commentary on Ja Chekawa Yeshe Dorje’s Seven Points of Mind Training
Link to the Lineage Project Site

 

Twin dogs in the grass

 

What is compassion?

Compassion, like many ideas / words, is a definition in progress. I like to take the time to read, listen and then define terms for myself. It helps me not only to remember what they mean, but gives me a way to apply them to my life. Often, I take other’s definitions and reconstruct them in order to better understand their meaning. None of what I come up with is my own. Instead, I am adding another voice to the long and web-like conversation of humanity. Paul Gilbert and the Dalai Lama were influential in the way I formulated my definition. I like to define compassion as the noticing of another’s suffering and seeing it as one’s own with the desire to alleviate it.  This is twofold, in that it points not only to discomfort with another, it delves into discomfort with one’s own own suffering.This isn’t sympathy, which implies an interference or discomfort with the process of another’s suffering.  Sympathy also implies attaching to the person or object of suffering in a way that is ultimately not helpful. Compassion isn’t pity, which implies looking down at someone or feeling superior.  Compassion is an eye-to-eye meeting with someone, a recognition that we all suffer, an ability to take on and transform that suffering as if it were our own and using skillful effort to alleviate it.

How do I notice another’s suffering?

I see someone in a moment that I often find myself in and connect with that moment. I feel a tug or arising sensation as they look down, appear afraid or appear uncertain, angry, mean or sad. Sometimes they say something and it cuts right through my own delusion in such a way, that I completely open up to their (also my) experience. It is one of those simultaneous their / my experiences. Sometimes I really have to work at noticing suffering if it is someone with which I struggle. When I struggle with someone, I often find that their suffering is an obstacle so closely allied with one of my own that I am so afraid to dredge up, it turns into a form of dislike for the other person. Sometimes this is a pretty strong feeling of pushing outward. This pushing outward is a clever mechanism of self-distraction. Sometimes I have to call on my awareness and reflect back and forth at myself for a while. Many times I have to dive right in and feel compassion for myself.

How do I see another’s suffering as my own?

The first step in all of this is to work on alleviating my own suffering to a degree that I am equipped to assist others. That doesn’t mean that I have to be perfect and completely free of all complications. Often in reaching out to another I am taking care of my suffering. This the means that I am not acting from a place of my own obstacles and unaware of my own suffering. I am aware of and do not contribute to suffering when I am attempting to alleviate it. I keep awareness of my own suffering active as I deal with another. I have to hold the sufferings of both at the same time. I may have to bounce back to myself and to you and then back to myself. It is noticing the discomfort of both and acting from a place that steps in and cuts right through. This helps me to bravely say the words that meet the moment. This may mean asking, “Are you suffering?” or “I see you going inside yourself. What is that experience like?” It may just mean a kind look or gentle nod. It may mean briefly attending to myself in the situation so I do not contribute more to the overall suffering that is going on.

Compassion is a powerful trans-formative tool that begins with self- compassion. There are practices and ways to access compassion that I will be adding to my resourcespage in the future.