Tess and Monika decided to run a session on compassion after the workshop attendees reacted to Tess’s doll silouhettes.
Monika and I are working with an art journaling for self care group in Edinburgh.
We wanted to do something on self- compassion. Last week we worked on emotions and sensations within the body. I felt that the group reacted quite strongly to the body shapes I produced. I chose an imperfect slightly rounded body shape to work. ￼
Because of the groups reactions, we thought it would be great to work on self compassion- being kind to their inner critic. I found a few resources on line that were really helpful
The last link is an article by Patricia Rose Williams for the Canadian Art Therapy association journsl . Within the article is table of exercises and ideas for art projects.
‘For example, creating a simple wrapped doll with a variety of textiles and embellishments can become a powerful symbol of the self.’
I wanted to adapt this and make a doll that could be added to an art journal.
ACTIVITY: Practicing Self-Compassion
The purpose of this activity is to introduce the concept of self-compassion. It will allow participants to assess how they currently practice self-compassion and to begin thinking of ways they could become more self- compassionate.
Self-compassion is defined as being kind and understanding to one’s self in times of suffering, failure, or when we feel inadequate. Self-compassion contributes to increased resiliency. People who practice self-compassion can take responsibility for negative experiences but don’t get overwhelmed by bad feelings.
Self-compassion researcher Kristen Neff identifies three components of self-compassion:
1) Self-kindness: being kind and understanding to one’s self in times of suffering, failure, or when we feel inadequate.
2) Shared humanity: Suffering and being imperfect are part of the shared human experience. Everyone suffers and everyone feels inadequate sometimes.
3) Mindfulness: Observing our negative thoughts and emotions openly and without judgment, but realising they are just thoughts and emotions. They are not facts.
• Ask the group what they think self-compassion is. After they respond, share the definition .
• Ask the group for their thoughts and feedback on the exercise.
• Does anyone feel they are already very good at self-compassion? Does anyone feel this is
something they need to work on?
• Why do we tend to be so critical of ourselves?
• What are some other ways we could practice self-compassion
1) Think about a time when a friend or family member was going through a hard time or felt bad about themselves. What did you do in that situation (how did you act, what did you say, what tone did you use)?
2) Now think about a time when you were struggling or feeling bad. What did you do in that situation (how did you act, what did you say to yourself about the situation, were you self- critical or kind)?
3) Is there a difference between how you treat a friend who is suffering and how you treat yourself? If so, why?
4)How could you treat yourself more like you would treat a loved one the next time you are suffering or feel “not good enough”?
For more information on self-compassion, visit Dr. Kristen Heff’s website:
The writing activity above was adapted from “How Would You Treat a Friend?” at: the
Sources/ More Information
On a paper doll I wrote down things that I don’t find easy about my self
I wanted to use paper to wrap the doll in, but wanted it to be more like fabric, so I scrunched it up to create texture, I wrapped a section of the doll in th paper and attached it using washi tape, so that it looked like a blanket, then I attached the doll to the page using comments about self compassion.
The above doll comes out of the red wrap so that I can use it for a teaching aid. I decided that I wanted to make another doll today – I get really bad migraines and after suffering for a few days I decided I wanted to make my own doll
I scrunched and coloured the paper with water soluble pastels and hand wrote out the statements, it felt more mindful and I had more control. I made a nest of paper scraps, wrapped the doll in ripped out coloured paper with the colours up against her body and stuck her in the nest. As an exercise this was a lot more satisfying for me. I like how messy it is ….. the top one is a bit toooo clinical