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Book Review: The Compassionate Mind

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Paul Gilbert’s The Compassionate Mind is a sizeable but excellent read for those of an unceasingly competitive and critical disposition, who are given to judging themselves and others punitively in the pursuit of eradicating what they see as intolerable imperfection or weakness. Organised into two sections, the book first outlines the evolutionary journey of the mind, from its earliest environments, saturated with threats to which it was bound to react anxiously or aggressively, to its comparatively far safer present, and the inherited struggles between ‘new’ and ‘old’ brain/mind systems that can leave us afflicted with painful feelings. The second part of the book offers a wealth of exercises to help develop mindful compassion - a mindset and repertoire of behaviours which, Gilbert argues, constitute an effective antidote to the toxic shame, anxiety, aggression and other negative feelings generated when we urgently aspire to the faulty values of the modern world only to fall short time and again.