INAUGURAL PROFESSOR PETER GILBERT MEMORIAL LECTURE
THURSDAY 21ST MAY 2015
A Compassionate Approach to Spiritual and Mental Well-being
by Professor Paul Gilbert OBE
This lecture will be in two parts. The first will be an overview of an evolutionary approach to compassion and the implications for spiritual thinking. The second part will offer participants opportunities to practice breathing and exercises focused on the development of the compassionate self.
Prof Peter Gilbert OBE was a pioneer in bringing spirituality and spiritual needs into the field of mental health. He was also a lovely man and embodied a gentle and loving spirituality. Peter and I co-presented on several occasions and had many enjoyable discussions, even though I was quite a hard-line evolutionist. One of the challenges to spirituality is the fact that we are evolved biological beings. As such we come into the world for a relatively short time to flourish, reproduce, decay and die, sometime slowly and painfully. We exist in a world full of disease processes that can devastate populations, and we are susceptible to injury. The way the human brain has evolved means it is capable of committing the most horrendous cruelties as well as being vulnerable to a range of mental health problems.
The challenge for humanity is to understand and come to terms with the complex and contradictory evolutionary realities of having both body and brain. I will address some of these issues and how we can utilise systems within ourselves to find a source of compassion in spite of the fact that life can be filled with suffering. This is a view that is particularly represented in the Buddhist spiritual traditions but increasingly in others to.
Our ability to feel compassion for self and others is linked to how we work with our own minds and in particular find places of peace and inner calmness. I will take participants through a series of breathing and focusing exercises that will help stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system and provide a grounding for compassion. We will then look at some of the practices for building a compassionate identity.
There will be time for questions at the end.
Paul Gilbert FBPsS PhD, OBE is Professor of Clinical Psychology at the University of Derby and Consultant Clinical Psychologist at the Derbyshire Health Care Foundation Trust. He has researched evolutionary approaches to psychopathology for over 35 years focusing on the treatment of shame- based difficulties - for which compassion focused therapy was developed. In 2003 he was president of the BABCP and a member of the first NICE committee on depression. He has written/edited 20 books and over 150 papers. In 2006 he established the Compassionate Mind Foundation charity with the mission statement “To promote wellbeing through the scientific understanding and application of compassion” (www.compassionatemind.co.uk). He was awarded an OBE in March 2011.
Speaker: Professor Paul Gilbert, Head of the Mental Health Research Unit and Professor of Clinical Psychology at the University of Derby.