Monday, December 16, 2013

Creating a Happy Life with a Compassionate, Wise Inner Being

"Entrusted" collage by Lani, textures by FlyPaper.
I've been paying quite a lot of attention to Paul Gilbert's Compassion Focused Therapy work in the UK this past week.  One thing that really stood out was a reference to some developmental work on altruism that Warneken and Tomasello have done.  The amazing thing is their videos on YouTube clearly show infant pleasure when being able to offer up acts of generosity and kindness to others.  Paul Gilbert suggests that we do actually get great delight when we can access that compassionate, wise part of ourselves that seems to be there from a very early age.

Actually Gilbert and others say that the affiliative activities involved in altruism and kindness are hard wired, that they are part of our primate brain.  When under stress though, we totally lose sight of this part of ourselves, and fall back on to the more primitive parts of the brain.  Modern life being what it is, culture making its increasingly strident demands on us, we tend to stay in the stressed out, more primitive mode a lot more than our ancestors ever did.  But when we are give a chance, we thrive on acts of kindness.

Here's an interesting video from Christine Carter and Kelly Corrigan where they discuss the growing materialism with kids and holidays.  It's worth a watch!

So if we take Gilbert's ideas along with Warneken and Tomasello's research, then we need to find ways to help ourselves and our children access the compassionate, wise, generous, affiliative part of our brains in order to have a happy life.  For example, Carter and Corrigan talk about taking toys to a homeless shelter, and distributing them.  But what if, instead, they were to take simple art making activities to a shelter and create a little art making workshop for the folks in the shelter.  I guarantee all would have a great time.  Especially if you are making some simple like sock puppets.  Then all participants have the pleasure of playing and working together, but they also have a toy they have made themselves.  How great would that be?

So that would be my #21 way to have a happy life, find a way to create some fun with others, and make sure to engage the affiliative part of the brain.

#22 is related.  One of Paul Gilbert's ideas is about creating compassionate image for you to work with and develop.  The more I read about this the more excited I got.  This is exactly what the folks I worked with in NYC did, in creating a Wise Old Woman character and puppet.  She embodied the groups' inner compassionate and wise beings.  (You can read more about the experience here.)  Everyone in the group, including therapists, projected all kinds of wonderful wisdom and good things like feeling cared for and cared about on to the Wise Old Woman.  She was loaded with the qualities that Gilbert says is so important: Wisdom, Strength, Warmth and Nonjudgement.

My #22 of 1000 ways to have a happy life would be to work on the Wise Old Woman and Gilbert's compassionate character some more, in my art and art journaling.  (Can't wait!)

Want more on holiday gifts?  Try the Minimalists.  Excellent ideas! (And thank you Huyen for pointing that one out!) 

Have a happy holiday and a happy life!  You all deserve that!


Merrikate said...

Thanks, as always, Lani -- awesome to realize that my two adult kids are barely 'materialistic' in the usual sense, and that they live by a different code than many of their contemporaries. Also cool to find the archetypal Wise Old Woman in this post -- my version of this interior self has been my go-to journal correspondent for over thirty years. She can always be counted on for her love, common sense, wit, and all those other lovely wild sublime down-to-earth traits of mythic/real 'Women Who Run With The Wolves'. May all she represents emerge more and more palpably into all the individuals, groups and cultures of our evolving and devolving world. She awakens, we awaken!

Lani Gerity said...

Wow, this is beautiful, Merrikate! Thank you. And may it be so!

jennifer said...

Hi Lani,I've been thoroughly enjoying your blog,even have gone back to 2011,it's lots of fun! Thank you for sharing your wonderful art and insights.Wishing you all the best in 2014!