Compassion Based Awareness Therapy ~ Our Language ~

** While these are the common terms we use in supervision and training as well as in therapy sessions, each therapist incorporates his or her own style and may use different language.

Language shapes our world, our reality; it assists in the creation of meaning. Add body language and intonation and it can allow for connection or create distance. These terms are not created by this theory. We have picked them up through our years of experience and training. While these are familiar words or phrases in the world of psychology and Buddhism, we may be using them in contexts that are not familiar to you. In this way we have borrowed and adapted them in the way that we find appropriate within this theory. We have been most influence from our personal work with our own therapist, Mary Wong, Ph.D (now retired) and our spiritual practice with Zen Buddhist Monk, Cheri Huber.  You can visit for more information.

Aspects of the self

As children we developed “personality” traits as a way to deal with difficult aspects of childhood. You may have been a caretaker for a time and when that role ceased to provide the necessary results, you became more aggressive. When being an angry teenager stopped working you became a compliant people pleaser. As an adult all the roles that we developed are available to us. Yet, if we are unaware that the roles we developed throughout childhood are influencing the decisions we make today it can be detrimental. Aspects of the self can include roles such as son/daughter, partner, pet person, controller, athlete, musician, hard worker, and so on. We are not “one” unchanging personality but many interchanging ones.  For more details about this process please see the book, There is Nothing Wrong with You, by Cheri Huber.

Authentic Self

This is who we really are…”pure light and loving kindness.” It is easy to see this in young children or animals. You can see the innocence in them. The process of socialization (i.e. conditioning) teaches us that our authentic self is not who we are and that there is something wrong with us. From this perspective our life’s work is to fix ourselves. In this theory we believe that there is NOTHING WRONG WITH ANYONE! We are all inherently and authentically loving, beautiful, worthy, lovable, kind, and pure.

Being at choice

When we bring conscious, compassionate awareness to our daily life we live from a place of being “at choice.” We are not just reacting to life based on our conditioned experiences of the past. This is the place of freedom.

Stories, Narratives (Beliefs & Assumptions)

These are the ideas and opinions we developed based on interpretations, both realistic and exaggerated, of experiences we had as children. These “stories” constantly impact how we make sense of the world. Because many of these are unexamined we end up living our lives based on these beliefs, although they may no longer benefit us. These beliefs were needed to survive in childhood but are often harmful later in life. An example could be, “I can’t trust people so I will never rely on anyone but myself.” Another is, “My needs aren’t as important as others. It’s selfish to focus on my self.” If we live as though these as “truths” they will create much suffering and hardship.


This is a Buddhist term that refers to the place inside us that is available to us when we are not being influenced and beaten up by the voices of conditioning. At Center there is no conversation, no stories, no beliefs and assumptions, and nothing is wrong. At Center there is a sense of connection, of belonging, of wellbeing. We do not see ourselves as separate from life, compassion exists and there are no mistakes. We see life as an opportunity to learn and grow. There is clarity and inherent wisdom. There is no resistance to life, only willingness, excitement and confidence. At Center we see who we really are – inherent goodness!

Checking out the story

A reality check is another way to say this. Once we notice the story and realize it is “just my story” a useful skill is to check it out with the other person and see if it has any accuracy.


The ability to open your heart to what is kind and loving in each giving moment. This is often misinterpreted as “coddling.” Compassion does not mean doing what you want or giving into emotions. It is the ability to attend to a situation and/or person in the way that most benefits the being. For example, it would not be compassionate to feed yourself cake and ice cream for dinner on a nightly basis; that is not a compassionate choice. Compassion would be to choose something healthy and balanced, which may or may not include a yummy dessert. You will hear us say, “If you wouldn’t say it to a 5 year old, don’t allow it to be said to you.”


This is the result of the process of socialization, mostly readily identified as the childhood experiences we had with family and the culture we grew up in. This can include things like school, church/religion, friends, television, magazines, billboards, music, commercials, books, culture, etc.

Conscious Awareness

Waking up!  Being present to the moment you are in.  The ability to notice one’s own cycle of conditioning; the ability to “see” the different parts of this cycle (see other terms).  This is a practice of being.  The more we bring conscious compassionate awareness to our life, the more likely we can see through the hateful and inaccurate stories to our authentic self. The application of awareness is an essential skill in order to have movement.

Directing your Attention

This is about training your mind. In Zen they say your mind is like an untrained puppy.  Without training, the puppy will wreck havoc over your home.  With training, the puppy become a welcomed companion.  This is a skill in which you are able to keep and hold your attention on one thing at a time – in the here and now. It is imperative that we be able to direct our attention to what is helpful, loving, kind, encouraging and will allow for healing and growth. This skill is key in order for the work to progress past an intellectual experience and into an action oriented way of living.


This is a term we learned in our work with Cheri Huber.  This is the process of being “identified” with an aspect of yourself, but not being aware of the identification. When “identified” you are being run by the script or story associated with that wounded part of self.  For example, you can be identified with a part of you who uses a sense of humor when you experience any unpleasant emotion.  The belief is, “feelings aren’t safe.”  So this part of you avoids intense emotion at all costs.  When you can recognize this part, you can learn to attend to the needs or wounds of that part and no longer react from that wounded place or the unhelpful belief system associated with that place.  In the above example one could, in compassionate awareness, bring curiosity to the process of learning how to be with intense emotion and learning to care for the part of you who gets scared when intense emotion arises.

Inner Child

This is one aspect of the personality we focus on quite often. The inner child is usually the most wounded aspect from our childhood and tends to carry the weight of our emotional baggage. When we learn to attend to this child with compassion and understanding we can release the child from the baggage and love him/her for all that he/she is.

Meaning placed to an event

As humans we have the capacity and tendency to place meaning to each experience. This can either be a wonderful or dangerous thing. The meaning we place is often based on inaccurate information, making the meaning inaccurate.

For example, my partner walks into the house and immediately sits down without acknowledging me. In that moment, based on my past experiences as well as my beliefs and assumptions, I place a meaning to that experience. Generally, we place a negative meaning, such as, “Why is my partner always ignoring me? I must not mean anything to her/him.” This “meaning” now becomes part of the story, shapes our reality and influences how we behave. Because of this meaning, we now have limited choices about how to react – we are actually being run by our conditioning instead of the behavior of our partner.

Mentor/Coach/Loving Parent/Best Friend

This is the voice residing within us that has never received much attention. This is the voice we always wanted to hear as a child: the voice of unconditional love and acceptance. This aspect of ourselves can see our authentic self and does not ever doubt our inherent goodness. It knows what we need to hear in any given moment. This is a relationship that we must nurture and grow so that we turn to it, rather than the critic.


“Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgmentally.” (Jon Kabat-Zinn) This is a skill that must be practiced in order to become proficient.


The world is our mirror.  This is the process of seeing aspects of your self in everything and everyone. We can’t not project.  We are always projecting.  It is crucial for us to know this.  Everything we see out there is merely a reflection of qualities we own or won’t own within ourselves. For example, we project laziness onto the person who doesn’t exercise regularly yet fail to see the ways in which we can be “lazy.”  We also project generosity onto the individual that volunteers, but fail to recognize generosity within ourselves. Everyone projects. There is nothing wrong with it.  However, if we are not aware that we are constantly projecting, it becomes dangerous and keeps us caught up in the story that is made up by projection.


These are statements that the Mentor knows to be true about us. These statements are meant to strengthen the relationship between the human and the mentor. The words are intended to encourage, support and nurture someone through life in all its ups and downs. These are NOT affirmations.  Affirmations are trying to convince someone of something they don’t believe.  When there is a strong relationship with the Mentor, one will more easily hear and accept the reassurances.

Self Hate

Believing that you are inherently flawed and need fixing in some way. This is truly the root of all evil. Jokes aside; in CBAT, all maladaptive behaviors are a result of some form of self-hate. These behaviors exist on a continuum and can be exhibited mildly as in paying your bills late, severely, as in self-harm behavior and anywhere in between. When we truly love and care about ourselves, and see our inherent value, we will behave in loving ways towards ourselves and others.


“Pain is inevitable; suffering is optional.” (The Buddha) We will experience pain in life. Suffering occurs when we resist this fact. We often have a belief that we can somehow avoid pain, and if we don’t, we have failed. We are all capable of dealing with and facing whatever life hands us. “We are adequate to our experience.” (Cheri Huber) When we don’t believe this, we suffer.  Pain is…I broke my leg.  There is pain in breaking a limb.  The suffering comes in when there is a conversation about breaking my leg, such as, “this is awful.  I can’t believe I did that.  It was so stupid.” And so on.  Suffering does not have to occur.

The Conversation

This refers to the conversations that go on inside our minds. The conversation is usually between the voice of self-hate and some other aspect of ourselves. It could sound something like… “I really want to start tennis lessons.” Then we might hear…”Your not athletic at all. You’ll look like a fool!” When we can integrate compassion and be our own mentor, the conversation could sound like this…”I really want to start tennis lessons.” Then you can hear “Sounds great. Let’s find a class now.”

The Voice/Critic

This is the voice of self-hate. Every human has a constant commentary going on inside his or her head about each and every aspect of life. This commentary is rooted in the conditioning we received in childhood and the beliefs and assumptions we’ve created about everything.  This voice is not your authentic self taking care of you.  It is outside of us and talks us into things that are not good for us and out of things that are.  This voice can be nasty, mean, hurtful, critical, judgmental, unkind, cruel. “You are an idiot!  You never get it right!”  This is a pretty clear beating.  It can also be subtle and sly and sound like it is on your side.  “I thought you wanted to lose weight.  You never seem to finish anything.  Why is that?”  This is more subtle, but it is still clear that you should feel bad.  It is imperative that we learn to recognize this voice so that we can see that it is not on our side.  One can label this voice with any name that fits (some examples are the critic, judge, self-hate, demons, etc).

We are NOT our behavior

Behavior is learned and based on survival. Therefore, it can be unlearned. This is the good news.  In order to stop the cycle of self-hate, one must see the distinction between one’s behavior from their authentic self and be willing to believe one is inherently lovable.   Choices we make our rooted in what we believe about ourselves and the world.  Behind every “bad” behavior is a hurting human.  When we do not value ourselves we tend to make unwise choices.  But those choices are not who we are.