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Kindness is more a sentiment maybe, important of course, but it does not focus on suffering per se nor does it require courage.We’re just completing a study of how people distinguish them, and they do.Humans are potentially one of the cruellest and nastiest species that have ever walked on this planet.We’re quite capable of deliberately trying to create and be indifferent to the suffering of others. In the last 20 years of Western society we’ve been nudging people toward the competitive ‘me’ first, and tribalism. A way of helping people to develop compassion motivation for themselves and for others, and also to be open to receiving compassion.It began back in the late 80s with three basic themes; the first was, in the context of cognitive therapy, to get people to focus on the emotional tone of their coping thoughts, teaching people to generate a compassionate, caring, validating and supporting orientation to their coping thoughts.
One process is called, ‘developing a compassionate self-identity’ where we help people to think about ‘If you were at your compassionate best, what qualities would you have? So a response might be ‘I would be friendly, I would be tolerant’.
I mean, to have a mind where you can do that to millions of people, that is just frighteningly terrible’.
And that’s partly what got me on the road to really thinking we have to address the issue of cruelty, because we just keep doing it, century after century.
It’s important to recognise that there are social contexts which can also nudge people toward the more compassionate side.
CFT is really trying to introduce these notions about how we take a more compassionate orientation to ourselves, in therapy, in our schools, in our environment and the world we live in. Then in 1995 I watched quite an extraordinary programme about the experiences of people who were taken into the Nazi concentration camps in the Second World War.
How do we bring a more moral and ethical orientation to the way we relate to ourselves, societies and the planet?