Compassion focused therapy (CFT) is rooted in an evolutionary, functional analysis of basic social motivational systems (e.g., to live in groups, form hierarchies and ranks, seek out sexual, partners help and share with alliances, and care for kin) and different functional emotional systems (e.g., to respond to threats, seek out resources, and for states of contentment/safeness). In addition, about 2 million years ago, (pre-)humans began to evolve a range of cognitive competencies for reasoning, reflection, anticipating, imagining, mentalizing, and creating a socially contextualized sense of self. These new competencies can cause major difficulties in the organization of (older) motivation and emotional systems. CFT suggests that our evolved brain is therefore potentially problematic because of its basic 'design,' being easily triggered into destructive behaviours and mental health problems (called 'tricky brain'). However, mammals and especially humans have also evolved motives and emotions for affiliative, caring and altruistic behaviour that can organize our brain in such a way as to significantly offset our destructive potentials. CFT therefore highlights the importance of developing people's capacity to (mindfully) access, tolerate, and direct affiliative motives and emotions, for themselves and others, and cultivate inner compassion as a way for organizing our human 'tricky brain' in prosocial and mentally healthy ways.
Keywords: Compassion-focused therapy.
© 2014 The British Psychological Society.