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The Compassionate Mind: A New Approach to Life's Challenges 1st Edition

4.7 out of 5 stars 21 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 860-1421142519
ISBN-10: 1572248408
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Frequently Bought Together

  • The Compassionate Mind: A New Approach to Life's Challenges
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  • Mindful Compassion: How the Science of Compassion Can Help You Understand Your Emotions, Live in the Present, and Connect Deeply with Others
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  • The Mindful Path to Self-Compassion: Freeing Yourself from Destructive Thoughts and Emotions
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

British clinical psychologist Gilbert (Overcoming Depression) integrates neuropsychology, Buddhist practices, and Carl Jung's concept of archetypes to illuminate the human mind and its potential for meaningful connection through compassion. Eschewing the standard self-help focus on "learning to accept and love yourself," Gilbert explores the universal challenges stemming from conflict between the "old brains" humans share with other primates and the "new brains" unique to humankind (providing "our ability to think, imagine, learn and use symbols and language"). Gilbert argues that it's necessary to accept without shame or guilt our "many dark and cruel potentials," because compassion represents just as powerful a force in the human mind. Human brains, Gilbert explains, have "evolved for social relating," and his approach to self-acceptance involves "thinking about our internal world as being full of 'social-like' relationships" with different personality aspects-the angry self, the compassionate self, the competitive self, etc. He also proposes a number of familiar techniques (mindfulness, controlled breathing, visualization, journaling) to help readers increase compassion, toward our ourselves and others, while dealing with the anxiety, depression, rage, and other uncomfortable emotions relationships can evoke. Though his writing is diffuse, Gilbert has an arresting but rational perspective that should appeal to self-help enthusiasts and newcomers alike.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


“For a long time, Paul Gilbert has been making seminal contributions to our understanding of compassion and how, if systematically cultivated, it can become a force for greater good both in our hearts and in the world. This book offers a deep and compelling evolutionary perspective on the human brain, mind, and culture. It demonstrates how much meaning and our well-being hinge on our innate capacity to extend heartfelt compassion to ourselves and to others. It also guides us in working skillfully with deeply ingrained tendencies such as anxiety, anger, and depression, so they do not dominate our lives and erode our health and happiness. Written with a deep sense of kindness towards all who suffer, including himself, this book is a very friendly, practical, and potentially illuminating and healing gateway to what is deepest and best in ourselves, often completely unknown or unrecognized by us.”
—Jon Kabat-Zinn, Ph.D., professor of medicine emeritus at the University of Massachusetts Medical School and author of Full Catastrophe Living and Coming to Our Senses

“In this impressive volume, Paul Gilbert offers compelling insight into a key challenge of our time: compassion. The reader will find a conceptual and practical guide to cultivating a more compassionate mind. The author gracefully integrates evolutionary neuroscience, cognitive behavioral therapy, Jungian archetypes, attachment theory, Buddhist psychology, and over thirty years of clinical experience into a book you won’t want to miss. Dozens of accessible exercises make this book especially helpful for readers who want to transform their lives for the better.”
—Christopher K. Germer, Ph.D., clinical instructor in psychology at Harvard Medical School and author of The Mindful Path to Self-Compassion

“Paul Gilbert has created a masterpiece urging us to harness the power of our minds to shape our brains toward compassion and kindness. Exploring the science of our ancient neural circuitry and weaving this with our contemporary cultural pressures, The Compassionate Mind takes us on a powerful journey into the origins of the challenges that keep us from living life with meaning, connection and resilience. Once we're well-prepared with this fascinating background, Gilbert shows us in useful detail the personal practices that enable us to sharpen our skills of compassion for ourselves, for others, and for the larger world in which we live. The result is not only increased happiness and better physical health, but more meaningful relationships with others, and even a better relationship to our planet. There is no better time than the present to learn these important steps to enhance our individual and collective lives, and even to transform our place in the ‘flow of life’ on Earth.”
—Daniel J. Siegel, MD, clinical professor at the University of California, Los Angeles School of Medicine and author of Mindsight and The Mindful Brain

“Anyone who struggles with their inner critic should make sure to read this book. Professor Gilbert writes in a masterly fashion about compassionate mind training, an innovative approach which is likely to grow in importance over the next decade as the evidence for its benefits continues to build.”
—David Veale, Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College, London

“Paul Gilbert has come forth again with a book about the mind, its unused potential, and how to hardness that potential to one’s and others’ benefit. The Compassionate Mind is a road map to compassion for the self and towards others. It is a book for those curious enough to explore their hidden potential to attain a special kind of humanness and happiness. A ten on a scale from one to ten.” —Michael McGuire, author of Darwinian Psychiatry

“Internationally-renowned psychologist Paul Gilbert has provided all of us with a much-needed book. Written with wisdom and warmth, Gilbert takes us on a journey through the far reaches of evolution to the very depths of our own hearts. This helpful and thoughtful guide to living a compassionate life—for yourself and for others—will be a reminder for many of us that we are all human but that we need to be more humane toward our own troubled selves. Throughout this book, the reader will feel like the author is speaking directly to him or her, and will recognize that it is possible to use the tools of modern psychology to fix what feels broken inside of us. A timely book for a time when competitiveness, materialism, and narcissism have failed us. This book provides timeless wisdom that you can use every day. It will make a wonderful gift for someone you care for, especially if you give it to yourself.”
—Robert L. Leahy, author of The Worry Cure and president of the International Association for Cognitive Psychotherapy

“Paul Gilbert is one of the most brilliant scientists studying compassion today. In this wonderful book, he makes his theories very accessible and down-to-earth. You feel like you’re having a chat in his living room with a warm cup of tea. I also love his easy-to-follow exercises, which offer concrete ways to help you develop greater compassion in daily life.”
—Kristin Neff, associate professor of human development at the University of Texas at Austin

“The increasing drive to find a competitive edge in all aspects of our lives may create efficiencies, but they are cold, heartless, and unpleasant to live with. Gilbert shows how and why this occurs, and explains why our capacity for compassion is the antidote.”
—Oliver James, author of Affluenza and The Selfish Capitalist


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 544 pages
  • Publisher: New Harbinger Publications; 1 edition (March 1, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1572248408
  • ISBN-13: 978-1572248403
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #52,701 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
In this book, British Psychologist Paul Gilbert formally introduces us to the model that underlies his treatment model,Compassion-Focused Therapy. This book serves both as an introduction to the Compassionate Mind model and as a self-help book of sorts. In my perspective, this is a book that will benefit anyone who reads it, and will particularly benefit individuals struggling with issues of depression, anxiety, anger, or shame, clinicians in psychology or other helping fields, or anyone else who is generally interested in understanding their minds better and working with them in the pursuit of a happy life.

The Compassionate Mind model operates from a premise that should be the basis of any valid psychology: that in order to work effectively with our minds and emotions, we need to understand something about how and why they work the way they do. In 'The Compassionate Mind,' Gilbert skillfully weaves together evolutionary psychology, affective neuroscience, cognitive psychology, and recent psychology applications of Buddhist mindfulness and compassion practices into a model which helps us understand that many of our problems originate in the very ways our brains evolved, and the ways in which they fit with modern life. The reader learns about the evolution of our threat systems and how they predispose us to difficult emotions that evolved to protect us but which have a troublesome fit with both our new brain capacities for fantasy and rumination and the cultural dynamics of modern life. In doing so, Gilbert makes a case for compassion that is both unique and powerful: not only, as the Dalai Lama suggests, is the cultivation of compassion good for us; it is also the only response that makes sense when we observe the difficult fit between our evolved minds and the demands of our lives.
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Format: Paperback
There is just so much depth and erudition in Dr. Gilbert's comprehensive self-help tour de force, that this entire review could be dedicated to the finer intellectual points of this integration of evolutionary psychology, Buddhism, and emotional neuroscience. However, what really strikes me about "The Compassionate Mind" is the kind and direct way that the author addresses the reader. Many self-help books talk down to the reader. "The Compassionate Mind" lifts the reader up. Dr. Gilbert appreciates the innate intelligence and wisdom of the reader, and uses direct language to deliver a comprehensive message. I have recommended this book to many of my patients, and I am certain that I will continue to do so for years to come.

At this point there are many books that discuss meditation based approaches to self-help and psychotherapy. Dr. Gilbert exceeds this mandate. "The Compassionate Mind" brings the reader into contact with the cutting edge of Western science of mind, psychotherapy technique, and truly ancient and profound Buddhist teachings. He lays the conceptual foundation, and then builds upon this with a wealth of user-friendly methods that readers can immediately adopt.

This is a truly excellent contribution to the self-help literatures of Western and Eastern psychology, deserving of a place among the classic texts for the intelligent lay reader.

I would recommend this book to any friend or loved one, and recommend it to anyone reading this review.

Dennis Tirch PhD
Associate Director
American Institute For Cognitive Therapy
Adjunct Assistant Professor
Weill Medical College of Cornell University
Academy of Cognitive Therapy
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Format: Paperback
I came to this book soon after reading Karen Armstrong's Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life and the common purpose was striking; to help us all become more compassionate, to ourselves and others, so that we may then build a better more compassionate world and become happier, kinder and healthier individuals in the process.

The book is built around "compassionate mind training" and the idea, now with some scientific evidence, is that we have the wiring in our brain for compassion, and that we have evolved to thrive on caring behavior, on kindness and compassion. The problem is that too often our "old brain" reptilian instincts of the four F's (feeding, fighting, fleeing and ...reproduction) take control of our lives. The very good news for humanity is that our propensity for compassion not only reflects the genes we are born with, but also to some extent is a result of the effect of early upbringing, and very significantly can be developed with the right exercises and practices - "physiotherapy for the brain."

Part One, in 6 chapters over c. 250 pages shares the science - how our minds and brains work and why compassion is a powerful healing process. This understanding, he stresses, is important for us in being able to most effectively develop that compassionate mind. He explains ten life challenges that we will meet along the way, such as competitive business efficiency that threatens our need for interconnectedness, (business efficiency he says is "crippling our hearts"), and the tragedies of life that can send us to despair and depression rather than compassion. He also writes of the three basic emotion regulation systems that evolution has given us: threat and self- protection, incentive and resource seeking, and our soothing and contentment system.
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