Book Review: The Mindful Path to Self-CompassionDebbie Homewood September 1, 2010
Author: Christopher K. Germer
Publisher: The Guildford Press
Book Publication: 2009
“A moment of self-compassion can change your entire day. A string of such moments can change the course of your life.” – from the Introduction
As a counsellor and teacher I am always looking for really good books that can offer additional support to the people I work with. Every so often I come across one that is just in a class by itself. The Mindful Path to Self-Compassion is one of those. Without reservation, I can recommend this book to anyone who is struggling with painful experiences such as anxiety, grief, depression, stress, insomnia, chronic pain, abuse, addiction, or many of the other ways we suffer as human beings.
Dr. Germer works from the two perspectives of mindfulness and loving-kindness or compassion. His basic premise is that it is just not possible to avoid feeling bad. We can learn to deal with pain, misery, suffering and distress in a different way, freeing ourselves from the trap of destructive thoughts and emotions. The path to emotional freedom starts with kindness towards our suffering self. In his own words: “we offer ourselves kindness not necessarily to feel better, but simply because we feel bad.” Mindfulness and self-compassion give us access to a natural, sympathetic response to our pain. When we are able to begin to experience this, things change.
He first teaches you how to develop greater self-awareness (mindfulness), and then moves on to teach you how to begin to respond to your experiences and yourself with loving-kindness. He does an excellent job of explaining each in simple, practical ways that make them accessible to everyone.
Germer offers a number of concepts (schemas, personality types, obstacles or hindrances and stages in the journey), which help you understand yourself better and therefore more effectively use both mindfulness and compassion and deal with difficulties as they arise. With over thirty years experience as a clinical psychologist, and many years as a teacher he illustrates his points with real, helpful cases and examples.
In my opinion the real gift of this book is that it is realistic and honest. He brings together his own many years of frontline experience as a therapist, his years of experience with meditation, and a great deal of current research about mindfulness and loving-kindness. He offers straightforward techniques and in so doing embraces the messiness of being human. He clearly understands that self-compassion doesn’t make much sense (it feels like meaningless sugar-coating) if we can’t be open and honest about the difficulties we encounter in our lives.
I can whole-heartedly endorse the mindful path to self-compassion as a powerful way to work on your well-being and peace, as I have used both in my practice for many, many years. Dr. Germer’s book is informative, educational, practical and gives you all the tools you need to start on this path to kindly and truly take care of yourself. Be kind to yourself and pick up this wonderful book.