Compassion, Awareness,
and Mindfulness Applied Psychology

Live a Vital, Purposeful, Meaningful and Satisfying Life in spite of Self-doubt, Self-criticism, Anxiety and other Life Shrinking Human Experiences

By Bernadette Devenish
Clinical Psychologist

Our thinking minds are absolutely amazing. They are constantly looking out for us, scanning the environment for danger, recording and recalling details, linking our past experiences, predicting into the future, mostly about what could go wrong, using anything at all that could be handy to keep us safe. No wonder more than 80% of our thoughts have a negative shade to them. Why focus on the positive things our thinking minds reason, no threats there. Negative events, experiences, thoughts, feelings, memories, and images on the other hand, are a lot more likely to hold useful information for our minds to ensure our safety and survival. If our mind had a mission statement it would be something like ‘do not die’. No matter whom we are or what we achieve, no umbrella is big enough to protect us from the reality of being human. We cannot out work, out earn, out run, or out climb normal challenging, difficult, and unpleasant human experiences. All of the logic and reason in the world, no matter who we are, will not talk our minds out of focusing on negative experiences.

On the face of it, having this mind watching our back day and night could be quite comforting. Knowing that we have this default mode within us with its radar set on ensuring our safety. The problem with having a mind that is focused solely on keeping us within a comfortable safe zone however is that when we try something new, our minds can go into overdrive trying to get us to step back into comfort and predictability. In the face of perceived threats from things that are different to the status quo, our minds can send us thoughts, images, memories, and feelings such as worry, fear, anxiety, self-doubt, self-consciousness, self-criticism, pounding heart, shaking, sweating, dry mouth, and a mind that has gone blank, trying to stop us going forward into the unfamiliar and unknown. These are normal human stress or fight flight responses; they are tools that our minds use to keep us safe and move us back into comfortable predictability. Fusion with these thoughts and feeling makes them seem real, true and important orders that must be followed, ensuring that we obey whatever our minds say.

Mindfulness and self-compassion, commonly used in modern psychotherapy approaches such as Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (or Training) said as ACT, are useful tools to help us to step back from these normal unhelpful life shrinking internal experiences. Mindfulness teaches us to lighten up on ourselves, shifting our relationship with inevitable difficult human experiences to an open, allowing, less serious and non-judgemental stance. Observing and noticing with kind curiosity gives us some wiggle room for challenging experiences, allowing us to show up and to be present in our moment to moment lives. Mindfulness skills help us to live vital, meaningful, purposeful and satisfying lives just the way we are. Mindfulness and self-compassion help us to respond skilfully to our moment by moment experiences instead of being dictated to and bullied into reacting with unskilful mindlessness. Mindfulness practice in our daily life grounds us firmly in the here and now, removing the power of thoughts and feelings to pull us away from the life we want – our values. Mindfulness provides stability and allows us to have difficult feelings and thoughts like anger, resentment, hate, jealousy and revenge without needing to act on them. Mindfully noticing what we are experiencing in any given moment wakes us up to our lives, keeping us present, bringing a deeper connection to ourselves, others, and the world around us. To learn more about mindfulness, self-compassion, values and ACT contact the CAMA Psychology Group www.camapsychology.com, email info@camapsychology.com or Phone 0407 535 304

References
Bogels. S. & Restifo. K. (2015). Mindful Parenting. Springer New York.

Follette. V. M., & Pistorello. J. (2007). Finding life beyond trauma. Using acceptance and commitment therapy to heal from post-traumatic stress and trauma-related problems. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications, Inc.