“If you want others to be happy, practice compassion.

If you want to be happy, practice compassion.”

– His Holiness, the Fourteenth Dalai Lama

The Dalai Lama once said that he believes our purpose in life is to seek happiness. Sometimes, that goal can feel like a tall order. Life presents all sorts of twist and turns that make it difficult to find happiness. And though compassion might be the key to achieving happiness, compassion can be challenging to practice. For people struggling with an eating disorder, compassion and self-love may seem particularly elusive. Not all of us possess quite the same skills at our disposal as the Dalai Lama.

Eating disorders often carry with them deep feelings of self-criticism that are rooted in shame. When the voice of an inner critic is screaming in your ears, a voice of compassion or self-love can seem unreachable. Where can you even start?

While the road to compassion may be a bumpy one, Compassion Focused Therapy (CFT) helps illuminate how crucial compassion is to healing. At Reasons, we leverage compassion-based treatment to help patients tap into self-love by exploring mindfulness, acceptance and a different way of relating to suffering or challenges in life.

What is CFT?

Developed by Paul Gilbert, Compassion Focused Therapy is an evidence-based treatment for people struggling with chronic mental illness, especially those marked by high levels of shame and self-criticism. In CFT, patients learn about how tricky the brain can be, and come to understand that the suffering of an eating disorder isn’t their “fault” but is instead a consequence of evolution, personal history, culture environment and so much more.

How Do We “Learn” Compassion?

Paul Gilbert once said that, “The essence of compassion is a deep awareness of the suffering of oneself and of other living beings, coupled with a wish and an effort to relieve it.” In other words, compassion begins by level-setting on the fact that life includes many different types of suffering, and that exercising kindness and generosity to ourselves and others can help us heal.

Our minds are tricky and can be the source of our suffering or our joy in any given moment. Through CFT, we learn to accept and observe our minds differently, and thereby start treating ourselves differently. Breath exercises and mindfulness exercises can help along this journey, in addition to other sensory, image-based, behavioral and feeling practices.

When difficult emotions and experience overwhelm you, self-compassion practices can offer a new way of relating to yourself that promotes growth. By giving yourself the comfort and self-love you need to move through pain, you provide yourself a nourishing alternative to self-criticism. This approach to addressing and recognizing suffering taps into a deep inner wisdom and kindness – which resides deep down in all of us.

How Do You Start?

Self-compassion and self-love are a lifelong journey, and the obstacles you face in your day-to-day life can present unique challenges to maintain that inner wisdom. But, no matter how long the journey may be, there’s no reason you can’t start today. If you are struggling with an eating disorder and are struggling with self-criticism and shame, reach out to us at 844-573-2766. Our Admission team can tell you more about this approach, and the other methods we use to support those struggling with an eating disorder. Self-compassion takes tremendous courage, and it can be challenging to know where to start. The good news is: you are not alone. Let us help you learn the tools to support your journey towards self-love.

For more resources on self-compassion and Compassion Focused Therapy, please explore Dr. Kristina Neff’s Self-Compassion website, as well as The Compassionate Mind Foundation.