Accelerated Learning And Self-Compassion: A Story of Recovered Optimism



Maria was a 45-year-old woman, who escaped a difficult situation in Puerto Rico to provide for her 4-year-old and 6-year-old children in America.  The father, a bit of a womanizer, had stayed in Puerto Rico.  Maria was saddened by this act, but vowed to make a good life for her children anyway. 

Initially, she did well working for a data collection company, but then they installed a new electronic record system, and she simply could not keep up.  When we met, she was in tears.  All she could get out is “How will I take care of my babies?”  Maria’s boss had been warned her twice about completing assignments late.  After a brief meeting with another supervisor, she was told that she could make two more mistakes before she would be fired


Our first session was spent completely committed to hearing Maria’s story, and teaching her some self-compassion to manage the grief she felt from the loss of her husband, the loss of stable housing, and the loss of her capacity to work competently. 

In terms of self-compassion practice, I modeled self-compassion in my responses to Maria. We also practiced self-compassion breathing, and went through the self-compassion phrases a couple times.  By the end of the session, we noticed that Maria had historically been a slower learner.  To help resolver her current dilemma, we decided to add accelerated learning to her self-compassion plan.

Accelerated Learning In Action

The next session, we connected to her company’s website, and as the previous entry suggested, we found a summary of what was required, and two example forms.  We read through all three of these documents.  Then, got out the white board. 

I asked Maria to come up with the 5 most important things required to complete her paperwork.  Then, we wrote these things down, paying attention to the detail necessary to bring each of one of these things to life (Maria said that she could relate more to people than computers).  Next, we looked at what her boss wanted and made a skeleton document based on the two examples. 

Maria’s mood began to brighten.  Then, I handed Maria a copy of the skeleton that I had typed out, and asked her to fill it out without editing.  She was surprised at how quickly she was able to finish.  When it was time to edit, I offered to help, but she was already rolling.  So, I simply sat back and watched her go. 

After she finished, we looked over the document together.  Maria reported that it was her best work.  When I asked her how she had completed this work so quickly and so completely, she said that our accelerated learning formula worked, but that she most benefitted from my kindness.  So, I told her about L.O.O.K.: Learning Out Of Kindness.  She pledged to try to be kind to herself, while she worked, including: reminding herself to be patient, assuring herself that she was and knew enough.  She also promised to take slow, long breaths with a hand on her heart, when she felt really overwhelmed. 


She came back after two weeks with her two children and a container filled with Pasteles.  Her work had gotten better, and her bosses were so impressed that they retracted one of her original strikes with the promise to retract the last remaining strike after one more month of solid work.  Maria had become more optimistic about the life she could provide for her children, and the kindness she could give herself.

365 Days Of Kindness.  Self-Compassion.  Day 113.  In The Books.