Practice Compassion

How Compassion-Focused Therapy can help you with eating disorders, social anxiety, and other mental health challenges.

Using Compassionate Imagery to Calm Anxiety

An introduction to Compassionate Imagery

At the end of my last blog entry I mentioned a free podcast that contains a series of Compassion Focused Therapy exercises. I thought I'd follow up with this brief entry to make that resource more clear, and more available. The podcast can be found here:

These exercises were recorded by Paul Gilbert for the Compassionate Mind Foundation.  

For thousands of years, people have sought to soothe their experience of anxiety by coming to a place of rest in the breath, and by then using the power of their imagination to evoke imagery that stimulates feelings of warmth, loving kindness and compassion. In CFT, we understand that these exercises are actually activating ancient evolutionary systems in our brain, that allow us a feeling of social safeness, providing an experience of security, empowerment, and peace.

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When we imagine something, we often experience it as if it were literal, and nearly "real." For example, if I think of my favorite food, I may become hungry and even feel it in my stomach. If I have a vivid memory of a wonderfully relaxing day at the beach with my favorite people, I may smile to myself. Similarly, when we think of frightening situations, or when our minds weave worried predictions about dangers that may arrive, we often feel a sense of dread, and our behaviors can be dominated by these experiences.

If you are working with a therapist or reading through one of the CFT series of books from New Harbinger, I would suggest that you use this podcast as a compliment to your work. If you would like to explore an introduction to CFT and practicing compassion, you might wish to begin with Dr. Gilbert's podcast that introduces compassionate mind training, followed by work with the soothing rhythm breathing practice.  

As you work through this blog, our books, or work with therapists and teachers, you may wish to move forward into some of these imagery exercises. I would invite you to do so with self-kindness, patience and gentleness, taking things only to the place that you feel comfortable with in this moment.  

Sending warm wishes,


Dennis Tirch

Dennis Tirch, Ph.D., is a compassion-focused psychologist, author of The Compassionate Mind Guide to Overcoming Anxiety, and faculty member at Weill Cornell Medical College. more...

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