Monthly Archives: December 2015


The other night I attended the ‘2nd Inaugural’ lecture of Paul Gilbert at the University of Derby. I have to admit that my fatigue and the fact the organiser requested our arrival for a “prompt start” whilst starting 10mins late left me redirecting my attitude from ‘come on then….tell me something new and outstanding’.

You can find out more about Paul Gilbert here. He’s a Clinical Psyhcologist who started his academic career in Economics, and has now established a centre for research in Compassion Therapy. A post grad course is also now available at Derby Uni. I wonder about specialist therapists when I’m drawn towards eclectic coaching.

I went to the lecture for a few reasons:

1. I believe in the power of compassion, demonstrating it, receiving it,  noticing it.

2. I’m still not sure about how people everyday define the difference between empathy and compassion but I think it matters and that both are essential, and powerful in a mostly good way

3. Most therapeutic approaches I come across have valuable application in my coaching practice

4. Or maybe it was just that I had nothing better to do… And there was free wine

Gilbert defines compassion as “behaviour that aims to nurture, look after, teach, guide, mentor, soothe, protect, offer feelings of acceptance and belonging in order to benefit another person”

Requiring 2 psychologies of us:

COURAGE – to look and truly see another persons suffering

DEDICATION – the desire to help relieve it

That courage strikes me; I feel that definition. It resonates and explains, and soothes. Then, similar to when you learn a new word and consequently hear it everywhere. Or you buy a new car and the fact it’s in your conscious thought means you spot the same model repeatedly. I find myself noticing compassion. Or am I seeking it.

Talking to a friend about his friend in hospital, suffering, and I’m hearing how he’s seeing this, and how this friend is too young. And yet when are we ever old enough or ready for that? He doesn’t look away, instead he steps towards. It’s sad, and also I feel warmed by his courage. Because if not you, who? Life is simply richer with compassionate people around.

Later during a thinking pair session I’m hearing my thinking partner talk about giving time and attention to her business and why she does what she does. The drive and selfless desire to move towards injustice in the workplace, and work only where that can by applied. I appreciate her dedication.

It’s easier when we notice the suffering of others, to walk by, to empathise and then let that empathy float by. We have our own stuff going off. It’s easy to feel something, whether that’s discomfort, worry, anxiety, fear when someone else is suffering, and…well, what do you do with that?

What makes us move towards?

He said “Because I can’t imagine doing anything else”

What was it about these two people. How do they chose so quickly and easily that towards the discomfort, towards showing love, towards acceptance and understanding is their default direction?

Gilbert went on to describe compassion therapy and what became clear is that whilst compassion breeds compassion (with a known body of research demonstrating that behaviour lacking compassion clearly supports further behaviours lacking compassion, empathy, love) it starts with the self. Compassion for yourself.

Self-Compassion means having the courage to look into your own suffering and truly see it, with a dedication to doing what you can, and finding a way to sooth it. It means to nurture, to protect, and to accept yourself. And perhaps the latter is first! Acceptance before change, before self-mastery.

As humans we have 3 evolved emotions systems of Threat, Soothing and Drive. Compassion therapy starts with growing the capacity to self-sooth by overriding your vagus parasympathetic nervous responses; using your Soothing emotion system to reduce your Threat emotion system. This can start with practicing physiological exercises that stimulate this soothing centre (your sympathetic nervous system) such as long slow breathing, tapping out/counting breathing. Later in the therapy this leads to soothing thoughts and self-talk. Gilbert suggests that just as we can salivate from only thinking about food, or become aroused from just thinking about sex, we can cultivate compassion through attending to thinking about it.

I think of holistic yoga practice that incorporates flows with breathing and meditations.

Gilbert opines that the practice of doing these therapeutic exercises is itself is an act of self-compassion, and thus cultivates your Drive emotion system. Compassion becomes something that is sought. (For Drive system think needs and motivation).

Actually though, it doesn’t matter where you start, because looking outward to notice compassion will have a boomerang effect.
So what are you thinking about now?

When did you last demonstrate compassion? Remember that for a moment.

Imagine you’re your most compassionate self …what would you be like?

And please don’t be fooled that all this compassion and emotional mastery is for the soft minded. To step towards and to look deeply is actually the hardest way to be. It’s a choice.


A rose by any other name 

“I’m not a disruptor” he said with courage in a room full of disruptors. Because (I paraphrase and apologise for deviation) if someone wants coffee and thats the mix with milk and sugar, how they want it and fitting to needs I’m going to give it to them like ‘this’ not shake it up and throw it in their face. And unfortunately the discussion didn’t ensue …there wasn’t time or space permitted for it …but if it had:
It’s ok to be disruptive

It doesn’t mean to throw things in people’s faces all chaotic like “‘av it”
Disruptive can be about developing discrepancy. Being the objective listener who enables a step back to observe the bigger picture. To come alongside and gently highlight the discrepancy between what someone knows and believes, and their incongruent behaviours. Creating a dissonance and planting a seed of consideration of both staying the same or doing something different.

If disruptive is about change, then surely we’re talking about motivation. In my experience of people, I haven’t ever known of enduring motivation to emerge from newness or ideas being thrown in faces to create discomfort. So you’re an expert. Even when the new idea is amazingly good, people don’t hop on it because of your enthusiasm. It’s got to fit – be placed in the open space created for it after adequate time to think and explore.

Like those blogs about how shit L+D is evocative of reactionary short lived motivation ‘away from’ a currently dysfunctional situation. But towards what? and where? Disruptive today, but not with lasting impact for tomorrow.
Disruptive starts with appreciation of the current situation from all perspectives. The stuckness and difficulties need recognition first, with the development of discrepancies to shine light on the stuckness. This is important. This is an experienced reality. 

Then the exceptions – because when something going wrong it’s not 100% shit, 100% of the time and there are always exceptions, both in practice, and to performance inhibiting thoughts. These need to be appreciated the hell out of. The effort needs noticing, the goodness needs noticing, the how this is happening needs noticing. And here the disruption is present through facilitation of all this appreciation and…by the ideas and newness that can now be built upon these foundations. To change direction, to do something different, to make the exception a habit. 

Disruption is about creating disruption within. That motivates change. To break the patterns and do something better more often. It’s longer lasting when it’s built on recognition of what’s already happening. That recognising is a choice of how to view things, and you as the disruptor make that choice. To stand at a distance and throw beautiful coffee all over people or come alongside and catalyse a journey of self-efficacy towards better.

NB There’s theory behind the above points but I haven’t put the effort in to ref them because this is a blog and I’m not handing it in to be assessed or to fit a criteria. Yet maybe it doesn’t matter because it’s wrong anyway and there will still be a debate about whether a word is over used or looses meaning when a rose by any other name would be just as disruptive and the meaning is emergent from doing. Who cares what we call it. Stop blogging and do something then Jo.