About Compassion

WHAT COMPASSION IS AND IS NOT

About Compassion

Protocol supported by extensive scientific evidence

Definition

Compassion is a relationship we have with ourselves that is based on kindness, including in cases of failure, perceived inability and negative emotions, such as guilt, shame and self-criticism. Compassion is key to improving our physical and mental well-being, and our interpersonal relationships. - Javier García Campayo -
Goetz et al. (2010) define it as “the feeling that arises in witnessing another’s suffering and that motivates a subsequent desire to help”.
According to Paul Gilbert (2015), it is “a sensitivity to suffering in self and others with a commitment to try to alleviate and prevent it”.
Moreover, compassion is considered a form of motivation that can be directed towards others (compassion) or towards oneself (self-compassion). Both can be understood as the same concept because while compassion involves the desire for others to be free of suffering, self-compassion is understood as compassion directed towards oneself; in other words, it is an attitude of acceptance and kindness towards the difficulties we may have in our lives as we take care of ourselves and make the relevant changes in order to improve (Neff 2003, Neff and Davidson 2016).

The Buddhist perspective

One of the aspects that most impressed the Dalai Lama and Buddhist monks when they came to the West and spoke about compassion was the difficulty that we Westerners experience with loving ourselves.
“Compassion is the desire for all sentient beings to be free of suffering” – Dalai Lama

What compassion is not

Compassion is not feeling pity or shame: these are negative emotions which tend to make individuals become self-absorbed by their own problems and forget that others also have similar ones. It tends to produce an environment of rejection. Self-compassion considers that everybody suffers equally, and therefore does not seek special treatment from others.
It is not indulgence or looking for excuses: it isn’t about giving up and becoming passive. It’s a genuine desire for health and well-being for oneself and others.
It is not weakness: many people believe that in such as competitive world in which we live, practising compassion will turn them into victims for predators. Compassion isn’t incompatible with assertiveness or defending our rights.
It isn’t selfish or sinful: our natural reaction when we’re hurt or wounded is to look after ourselves and recover. It’s what any other animal would do because it’s a part of survival.
It does not lessen motivation for change: a very internalized aspect of Western culture is that if we want to change – to be and act differently from the way we normally do – we have to be very critical with ourselves. Consequently, our desire to change is not used as a stimulus or form of motivation.

Basis of the ABCT model

Attachment theory. Attachment theory is one of the theoretical constructs that best explains our way of relating with other people and, therefore, how emotions, both positive and negative, arise in our relationships throughout our lives. Knowing your attachment style and modifying the aspects that cause distress will be associated with reducing chronic distress. This intervention aims to modify those styles by structuring a secure attachment style, one associated with reducing criticism and anger towards ourselves and others, and increasing compassion.
Contributions from tradition. As with other compassion protocols, we have incorporated a number of practices and theoretical foundations from tradition, such as Tibetan Buddhism, but also from other religions in which compassion plays a part, given that it is the common denominator in all of them.
Contributions from other models of compassion and other therapies. No knowledge comes from nothing. Our model includes ideas from other compassion protocols, such as the structure of Paul Gilbert’s three brain circuits and a number of practices that tend to have been taken from Buddhist tradition. It also includes techniques from other therapies, both cognitive and third-generation therapies.

Scope of application and action mechanisms of mindfulness and compassion

Scope of application

At the clinical level, by following therapy protocols administered by healthcare professionals.
Psychoeducational setting: directed towards the general population, to people without clinical diagnoses who seek greater psychological well-being. It is applied by individuals trained in the therapy without the requirement that they should be healthcare professionals.
Spiritual application: for individuals who are not seeking spiritual development or transcendence. Imparted by spiritual masters or individuals with recognized experience in meditation and irreproachable ethical principles.

Action mechanisms

Reducing self-criticism. We develop a greater connection with and kindness towards ourselves and others, which is the basis for shared humanity, one of the key prosocial components of compassion.
Reducing self-criticism. We develop a greater connection with and kindness towards ourselves and others, which is the basis for shared humanity, one of the key prosocial components of compassion.
Reperception of negative life events. We are allowed to accept responsibility for negative situations without being associated with negative psychological affect, or emotional distress.
Regulating emotions. Undesirable emotions and thoughts aren’t suppressed; we acknowledge that the emotions we feel are valid and important. Mindfulness can break down emotion into physical components and separate them from thought labelling and the subsequent associated feeling, making it easier to work with them.

Disorders for which compassion has shown usefulness

Chronic pain. Compassion is thought to facilitate adaptation and reduce catastrophizing and, most likely, the perceived unfairness associated this disorder (Costa and Pinto Gouveia 2011).
Eating disorders (Kelly et al. 2014). The early inclusion of self-compassion in the treatment of eating disorders is believed to improve the prognosis, given that self-criticism seems to be one of the key factors for the exacerbation of the disorder.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (Held and Owens 2015). Compassion is believed to reduce guilt, which is one of the main factors for the chronification of this disorder.
Traumas psicológicos infantiles (Scoglio & cols. 2018). High levels of self-compassion achieve better emotional regulation in these patients, reducing the impact of trauma, which allows them to deal with adverse events more effectively. This therapeutic mechanism is known as positive feedback
Personality disorders. Compassion therapy in a group format improves stress, depression, shame and social comparison (Lucre and Corten 2013), and acceptance (Feliu et al. 2017).

Benefits of compassion practice

Higher degree of well-being

Compassion is associated with the meaning in life, optimism, emotional intelligence and greater psychological and physical well-being.

Improving interpersonal relationships

You will develop more genuine and much more satisfactory relationships in cooperation with others by shaking off reproach and manipulation.

Reducing suffering

The emotions that cause the greatest suffering are guilt, shame, self-criticism and perfectionism. Compassion is the best antidote.

Becoming your own best friend

Tending to the relationship you have with yourself improves your emotional balance. Showing affection and love for yourself will allow you to become your best friend.

Any doubts?

ABOUT US

A team of experts in the field.

Led by Javier García Campayo, practising psychiatrist, psychotherapist and mindfulness specialist. The compassion therapy team is made up of teachers who are experts in the field. The teachers and tutors have been trained by mental health professionals with comprehensive training in mindfulness and compassion.

Scientific evidence

Find out how the results of the programme demonstrate that participants learn to connect with their internal resources to achieve different benefits for their well-being and mental and physical health.

These resources allow them to cope more effectively with situations that would previously cause distress and/or discomfort, and enable them to implement more adequate and positive strategies

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FAQs

Some of the questions most frequently asked by our students.

What do I need to be able to do this course?

Once you have enrolled in any of the courses on offer, you will receive instructions to access the platform, where you will find a specific section with information about the course. In this section you will find the links to the synchronous (live) video conferencing sessions that you will be able to access on the given dates, and the materials for the session, both presentations and additional materials used.

To access the course, you will need a computer and an Internet connection. To facilitate the connection, we recommend you use an Ethernet cable or have your computer close to the router for a stronger WiFi signal.

When you access the session, we recommend you do so in a quiet place with as few interruptions or distractions as possible, with suitable lighting and a comfortable chair. If you feel the need, you can keep a meditation cushion on hand for use in the guided meditations and interchange it with the chair during the session.

Remember to check that your computer’s camera, speaker and microphone are working correctly before connecting to the live session. We recommend you keep your camera on throughout the session.

How long will I have to access the content?

From the time the course is held, you will have access to the platform that allows you to download and revise all the material from the different sessions. We will provide you with the presentations shown during the sessions and any complementary material that may be of use.

Because of the importance we place on live sessions, they will not be recorded for later viewing.

Does compassion meditation have any adverse effects?

Research has shown that certain unexpected effects may occur from time to time during the practice of meditation, such as dizziness, drowsiness, numbness of parts of the body (mainly legs and feet), physical pain, headache, heightened emotions and emotional distress.

These effects generally tend to be part of the practice of meditation and of learning how to meditate. At times they may be associated with specific aspects of posture or reveal the physical or emotional state of the person.

Should you experience any adverse or unexpected effects, we encourage you to contact the teacher of the course, who will advise and guide you through the process.

During the course, we will provide you with strategies that will allow you to cope with such experiences.

It is important to remember that these training courses have a psychoeducational design and are not meant to be psychological treatments or interventions.

Do I need to have experience in mindfulness or meditation to do this course?

There is no requirement for prior experience in mindfulness or meditation to do the ABCT Basics course. During the course, we will be providing you with all the tools your need to continue your learning process. You will find theory, practical material and resources to support your learning. You can also adjust the difficulty of your practices according to the point you have reached by adapting them to your current situation. As you gradually feel more prepared, you will be able to advance at a suitable pace.

In order to enrol in the ABCT Teacher Training course, the prerequisite is to have completed the ABCT Basics course and one year of subsequent individual practice.

What does each course qualify me to do?

The ABCT Basics course is aimed at any person interested in finding out about attachment-based compassion therapy so that it can be applied to their daily life and improve their well-being. In order to advance along the pathway to becoming a teacher, completion of this course is required.

The ABCT Teacher Training course is a complete and exacting training programme that qualifies you to become a teacher of attachment-based compassion therapy.