Living With Anxiety – A Journey Into Compassion

Brad Byrum MFT Trainee (Supervised By Stever Dallmann MFT51178)

Everyone experiences anxiety. It is just part of being human. But, for some of us, anxiety is such a powerful force that it becomes our dominant inner reality, shaping how we experience ourselves and how we live our lives. So we adopt strategies to “manage” our anxiety. We devise ingenuous ways to avoid feeling what we are feeling. Some of us learn early in our lives that we can find temporary relief from our inner hells through medicating ourselves. We learn how to numb the pain.

And then, maybe, we get lucky. We find someone who really loves us or we fall through the cracks of our brokenness into the presence of compassionate others who can hold our experience or we just “hit bottom” and meet a Higher Power we aren’t sure we can trust but we are too desperate not to.  I’m really lucky. I’ve experienced all three.  My marriage, my therapy, my recovery group, and my medication have kept me sober for 682 days so far (this time.) And there’s a Higher Power in here somewhere – in the form of a love and compassion that holds me just as I am.

Which brings me to Compassion Focused Therapy (CFT). CFT offers an integrated approach to working with anxiety that draws from evolutionary, social, developmental and Buddhist psychology, and neuroscience. Working compassionately with one’s experience of anxiety in a safe and supportive  environment can begin to shift the experience from avoiding what is feared towards a more compassionate acceptance of the self just the way it is. Learning how to turn toward our anxiety can open up one’s life to greater freedom and joy.

The CFT approach is grounded in the basic evolutionary fact that our brains did not evolve to make us happy. Our brains evolved to keep us safe. We are “wired” for anxiety. It’s not our fault.  It’s our neurologic inheritance. The good news, for those of us who suffer from anxiety disorders, is that our brains are astonishingly complex and also evolved the capacity for connection and compassion. And our brains are “plastic” – we can change our brains. In CFT we intentionally cultivate compassionate mind training as way of enhancing our capacity to experience warmth, empathy, wisdom, and kindness.

Everyone experiences anxiety but for some of us anxiety is a particularly acute form of human suffering. This suffering is about how we experience our own minds. The goal of CFT is to alleviate suffering by developing our compassion system – allowing us to live more comfortably in our own minds. Treatment using CFT involves: learning about human nature, learning skills to develop our neurological compassion system, practicing activating this compassion system and using it in your life.

Join me for an 8 week Compassion Focused Therapy Group beginning March 6, 2017.  Working compassionately with our experience of anxiety in a safe and supportive group environment we can begin to shift our experience from avoiding what we fear toward a more compassionate acceptance of ourselves just as we are. For more info, please contact me at or (415) 529-5454 ex 743