Are You Self-Critical? Compassion-Focused Therapy Can Help.

Many people have an internal voice that is harsh, rude, demanding and demeaning. Sometimes that voice has been around for years. Sometimes it’s been there since adolescence or even early childhood.

Often people will acknowledge that they would never dream of speaking to a close friend (or even someone they dislike) the way they speak to themselves.

Compassion-focused therapy (CFT) helps you to notice the critical internal voice and see it for what it is: a habit, an old story, a pattern of responding. Sometimes this voice is driven by a desire to do better, or to change something that is not working. Sometimes it is a response to feeling threatened, hurt, anxious or embarrassed. Often this voice is automatic; it chimes in quickly and severely.

People tell me repeatedly that the harsh critical voice is not actually that useful or motivating. It is often damaging. It is compassion that tends to soothe and motivate; it is compassion that turns down our stress response and helps us to see things more clearly. Compassion also tends to elicit less defensive and more cooperative responses from others.

The good news is that it’s not your fault that the harsh internal critic exists, and it is possible to learn to give and receive compassion more easily. Over time and with practice, a new habit can grow into place. With CFT, you will learn mindfulness, attention, and emotion-regulation skills. You will practice specific exercises to develop your compassionate self during therapy sessions and in-between sessions. This work also helps people to know and understand themselves better, and act in ways that are consistent with their values. Sometimes I find it is helpful to combine CFT with other treatments, such as exposure work for OCD or other cognitive-behavioral therapies for anxiety, depression, and relationship issues. If you’d like to learn more about CFT before getting started, I recommend visiting the Compassionate Mind Foundation’s website or purchasing The Compassionate Mind Workbook. Links to both are available on my Resources page.