Self-Compassion and Your Brain from “The Self Compassion Skills Workbook”:

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Dr. Richard Davidson, one of the leading neuroscientists in the world, has studied how compassion training affects your brain.

He’s concluded that anyone can develop greater compassion and self-compassion, but that it requires practice.

If you practice a little, you can develop a little self-compassion.

If you practice a lot, you can develop a lot.

According to Davidson’s research, there is no limit to the amount of compassion and self-compassion that we can develop if we dedicate ourselves to practice.

In fact, when he studied Buddhist monks who had undergone decades of intensive compassion training, he reported that they had developed a level of inner peace and freedom beyond what most people would believe possible.

In other words, the sky is the limit.

If you are willing to train yourself in the practices that make up the Map to Self-Compassion, you can transform your life.

All humans (in fact, all mammals) have a Care Circuit in their brain.

Every time you feel warmth and love, that brain circuit is active.

If we could take a detailed image of your brain, you would see it.

Your Care Circuit releases oxytocin (sometimes called the love hormone) and natural opiates to give you that warm fuzzy feeling.

As you begin training in self-compassion, your Care Circuit is going to be your best friend.

You’ll be learning different practices that can activate it, strengthen it, use it for emotional regulation, and to become kinder toward yourself.

Developing self-compassion is relatively simple.

It is about strengthening the Care Circuit in your brain and learning how to use it when you need it.

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Building Self Compassion

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The Self Compassion Skills Workbook”:

1. “There is a specific circuit in your brain that scientists call the Care Circuit, which creates the experience of compassion, warmth, and love.

2. Self-compassion training strengthens your Care Circuit—like exercising a muscle.

3. With enough compassion training, your Care Circuit can literally grow in size so that the increase is visible on a brain scan.

4. The Care Circuit is one of the primary emotional circuits in the brain that creates happiness and well-being.

5. Activating the Care Circuit through self-compassion training reduces every form of emotional distress, including anxiety, depression, and anger.

6. Compassion training for 30 minutes a day for 14 days creates significant changes in the brain and leads to more prosocial and altruistic behavior.

7. Eight weeks of compassion training can make your temperament or personality significantly more positive.

8. Scientists have documented that Buddhist monks with intensive training in compassion have the strongest markers for happiness in their brains that have ever been recorded.”
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There is no limit to the amount of compassion (for yourself and others) that you can develop in your life if you are willing to practice.

Your body and your brain are designed to feel compassion, and the more you engage your Care Circuit, the stronger and bigger it becomes.

There is nothing stopping you from developing a radically new way of relating to yourself—with kindness and love.
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My two cents:  This is a roadmap made by Neuroscientists, pointing out the road less traveled, “The Happy Path”.

 

If you want to be happy, adopt a daily mindfulness/meditation practice.

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Intrusive Thoughts and PTSD

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Intrusive thoughts were unknown to me until my trauma exploded one day during a family crisis.

It is like thoughts, emotionally terrifying thoughts, triggering thoughts, arriving at a rate similar to a gatlin gun firing.

My fight or flight mechanism would fire violently 15 times a day, because of these nasty thoughts, paralyzing me.

That cortisol dumped would light my solar plexus up enough to scare the hell out of me. That jolt was terrifying and intense, powerful in fact.

It sure felt like I was facing an imminent threat.

Now, healed, or much improved, the intrusive thoughts are still alive.

My nervous system is my friend now and does not fire unless a real threat appears.

This has given me the ability to discount, not letting these intrusive thoughts get an audience.

Without an audience thoughts wither and fade.

I use other focus tools when these thoughts arrive.

I touch my thumb with each finger, saying release, release, release, release, release.

My senses take over, sight gets total awareness first, then I listen intently, searching out sounds in an order of loudest first. Finding the lowest decibel sound in the room gives me a goal to focus on.

I feel my skin, register the temperature, then smell for any aromas.

Another tool is reciting my affirmation out loud, In this moment, right now, I feel my body overflowing with Kindness, Aprroval, and Safety.

When negative thoughts arrive, replace them with our focus tools, be prepared, practice when things are calm.

Thoughts needs attention to live.

Thinking is the opposite of what we should do when negativity or trauma arrives.

Extra credit: https://ptsdawayout.com/2018/05/24/this-is-known-as-dysregulated-arousal/

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Part 3: narrative based and immediate based selfs

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“Living with your Heart Wide Open” by Steve Flowers

“It’s important to understand the distinction between pain and suffering.

Some amount of pain is inevitable in life.

We’ll all experience loss, setbacks, illness, and more.

But suffering is different.

It comprises the thoughts we heap on top of pain—thoughts that often make us feel far worse than the original pain.

For example, pain is transformed into suffering when we tell ourselves things like “I’m never going to get over this.

This pain is going to torture me the rest of my life.”

The pathway of healing is a journey of feeling the disowned and unwanted pain that stories of unworthiness have covered and concealed.

Mindfulness is a key skill for making this journey, fostering the present-moment awareness that will enable you to turn toward and be with the inevitable pain of being human.

Awareness allows us to look deeply into the pain of our lives because awareness itself isn’t subject to pain.

It can witness pain but isn’t in pain itself.

It doesn’t screen out feelings that seem difficult or may be unwanted; it enables you to open your heart and deeply experience what’s in it.”

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Part 2: narrative based and immediate based selfs

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Neurological research using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) has shown that these two forms of self-awareness—narrative-based self and immediacy-based self—are located in two separate areas of the brain (Farb et al. 2007).

Using neuroimagery, which can detect which “self” people are operating from, this study compared novice meditators to people who had participated in an eight-week program in mindfulness meditation.

When participants shifted from a narrative focus to their immediate experience, fMRIs indicated that the experienced meditators had less activity in the region associated with the narrative-based self.

In other words, through the practice of mindfulness meditation we can disidentify from the self we’ve created with our stories and discover a new sense of self based in the present moment.

The narrative-based self lives in a continuum of past and future, and as such is the source of wanting, dissatisfaction, and judging—in short, suffering.

The immediacy-based self exists only in the here and now.

These two orientations in the world are fundamentally (and neurologically) different.

The immediacy-based self lives with the inescapable emotional pain of being human, yet it is also present for the breeze on your face or the birdsong that you cannot feel or hear when you’re preoccupied with thoughts and stories.

The narrative-based self can help you avoid much of the emotional pain that’s inevitable when living in the here and now, but you pay the price, as you must instead live with the suffering that self-limiting stories create.

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Part 1: narrative based and immediate based selfs

Pixabay: ToNic-Pics

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“Living with your Heart Wide Open” by Steve Flowers

“The hunger from unmet needs can form a central theme in the story you repeat to yourself, creating a narrative of a wounded self.

As described above, the narrative-based self exists across time and continuously creates itself through the stories it repeats.

We mistakenly believe this “self” is a somewhat permanent entity that endures through the constant changes of life.

(my two cents: this self is our created “Ego”)

Psychologist William James characterized the narrative-based self as a construction of narratives woven together from the threads of experiences over time into a cohesive concept we reference as “me” to make sense of the “I” acting in the present moment (James 1890).

The immediacy-based self, in contrast, is a creature of the here and now.

It is grounded in the experience of who you are in each moment.

This sense of self exists only in the present moment and therefore is ageless and timeless.

It is the primary orientation from which awareness is experienced and thus is not characterized by concepts such as gender, race, religion, and personal history.

As such, the immediacy-based self is not a thing but rather an active center of awareness from which you can acknowledge moment-to-moment experience.

From this perspective, Descartes’s famous dictum becomes “I experience what’s happening, therefore I am.”

Neurological research using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) has shown that these two forms of self-awareness—narrative-based self and immediacy-based self—are located in two separate areas of the brain (Farb et al. 2007).

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The Spirutual path in times of turmoil

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If you have a serious mindfulness practice, trying to do no harm, trying to enhance gratitude, kindness, compassion and giving, the current turmoil in America is depressing.

The opposite has been happening in America, hate and divisiveness rule our cities.

Loving kindness, wanting others to be secure and happy, wanting others suffering to lessen has been our spiritual goal.

Tricycle Magazine describes metta this way:

“In metta meditation (Loving Kindness), we direct lovingkindness toward ourselves and then, in a sequence of expansion, towards somebody we love already. Somebody we are neutral towards. Somebody we have difficulty with. And ultimately toward all beings everywhere without distinction.”

I believe every life is as valuable as every other life.

Poverty and suffering exist in the midst of extravagant wealth and opulence in America.

Caring and giving to others without regard for reward, seems to have faded from our country.

Hate and violence are the opposites of loving kindness.

Thoughts?

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