By Michaela Thomas. Published by Robinson, 2021. £11.99
Reviewed by Motherdom Editorial Board member Professor Mary Nolan
Michaela Thomas (also a member of Motherdom’s Editorial Board) is a Clinical Psychologist and Couples Therapist and her commitment to the work she does is evident in the energy and detail of her book. Based on Compassion Focused Therapy, the book aims to help couples understand, manage and gain more from their relationship. She examines the ways in which compassion, ‘a sensitivity to the suffering of self and others with a commitment to try to alleviate it and prevent its return’, is three-directional. It must flow from each partner to the other and back, and also be directed inwards by each partner. Michaela repeatedly stresses that readers should not blame themselves for angry, negative and unkind emotions; her aim is to support us to take responsibility for how we express our feelings in interactions with our partners. A compelling account of the three emotional systems of drive, soothing and threat leads readers into parts of the book that invite us to look back at our childhoods, examine our values and formulate how to be the partner we want to be. While we are invited and supported to delve deep into ourselves, Michaela also reveals details of her own compassion journey in sections headed ‘my story’.
Each chapter of the book starts with a brief summary eg ‘here we explore the qualities of your compassionate self and how these can affect your relationship with your partner’ and an introduction to the chapter’s main ideas, often backed up by references to significant thinkers in the field. This is followed by several ‘try this’ activities which may include mindfulness exercises, ‘reflection and connection’ sections and case studies from ‘the sofa’. The book is supported by online resources.
This is a beautifully written book – accessible without being patronising – using lots of helpful imagery to visualise ideas, eg ‘imagine that your attention is like a helium balloon’ and seeking the ‘just right’ or ‘ ‘Goldilocks’ of compassionate body posture’. While it might be best to read the chapters in order as there is a careful logic in their sequence, it would nonetheless be possible to pick out sections according to interest and need and still gain many insights.