Compassion

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I think compassion is right up there with gratitude as one of the most important attitudes to cultivate in life. It is a form of love, a form of kindness, that is non-discriminating, yet is neither overly emotional. It is both detached and caring. In...


I think compassion is right up there with gratitude as one of the most important attitudes to cultivate in life. It is a form of love, a form of kindness, that is non-discriminating, yet is neither overly emotional. It is both detached and caring. In that sense it is like empathy, which is a component of compassion. In fact it is the only way to maintain a caring attitude in a professional capacity without causing oneself to burn out. Empathy is a tool which can be used to cultivate compassion. It is the capacity to put oneself in another's shoes, to imagine how they might feel, or see the world, whilst maintaining our own sense of self as a separate being, so that we are still able to act rationally. Sympathy is where one identifies with the other's feelings; we know how they feel because we feel it, or we believe that we know how they feel and react from an emotional position. This is not always helpful, as it often comes across as feeling sorry for them, and can paralyse us from helping the other person to see a way forward. We are stuck in there with them, or worse, we take them to a negative place they weren't even in. This can happen especially if we have unresolved traumas of our own that resonate in some way with theirs. We are reacting from our own emotions, rather than a rational and calm base. With empathy and compassion, we can be caring and rational at the same time. We can make appropriate decisions, based on both bare facts and the emotional needs of others, without being clouded by our distress on behalf of the other. We can recognise their views and feelings, so that they feel validated, without them feeling that we have taken over and entered their psyche, along with all our baggage.

© Janey Colbourne 2016

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