We strive to organize our difficult emotional life and remembered experiences in such a fashion that they are no longer a part of who we are. We work to escape or avoid whole sets of internal experiences, whole pieces of ourselves need to be gone. Life becomes about not remembering and not feeling. Life becomes about the trauma.
Sometimes when my colleagues and I work with very depressed people who are very self-critical, it quickly becomes obvious that they’re harbouring considerable anger. They may behave in very submissive, withdrawn and self-blaming ways, but they clearly have serious conflicts with parents or partners.
Praxis: Tell us a bit about your journey to learning and eventually teaching Compassion-Focused Therapy.
DT: I’ve been involved with Buddhist meditation since my childhood, when an uncle and mentor had taught me about Zen practice, and compassion is truly the core teaching of all Buddhism. Throughout my young adulthood and education, I had been looking for ways to integrate Buddhism with personal development and psychological science. In fact, I originally pursued a PhD just to better understand the dharma from a scientific perspective.
We can lose sight of how to be a good friend in our most important and intimate relationship. Robyn Walser and Darrah Westrup suggest you try treating your partner the same way you treat your good friends.
People who have experienced trauma often keep themselves in the victim role, which often keeps them away from the things they really want in life. But what if there was a way to point this out to them without invalidating them?
Many of my clients believe that they need to be harshly self-critical if they’re going to better themselves: that if they bully or beat themselves up, they might whip themselves into shape and become more motivated to take charge of their lives. This is a common belief.