There are two ways to respond to suffering - one is to focus on the event, the other is to focus on the present-moment distress. Pity is part of cluster of event-focused responses, while compassion becomes possible when we resonate with the level of distress. Event-Focused Sympathy (Contempt-Empathy-Pity) People who are unskillful with suffering tend to focus on the events that caused it. They unconsciously assign a value to what happened. For example, they might classify a
If you had told me when I was ten that I would be spending my life immersed in suffering, frankly, I wouldn't have been surprised. I would have looked at you with a thousand-yard stare and said, "I'd hoped things would get better." What I couldn't know was that most of the suffering wouldn't be mine. Some say we can find peace in two ways; the first is to be so blessed, so naive, that you imagine the world as safe. The second is to have been so buffeted by suffering that you
Some people are better at empathy than compassion, so they tend to focus on themselves when they encounter distress. There are two ways to respond to suffering: Compassion is tied to the present moment. A compassionate person resonates with the distress in front of them, rather than the events that brought the suffering about. Compassion is an immediate, uncomfortable sensory experience. Because it's embodied, it's often tied to action, but is frequently without words. Whe
Empathy invites us to imagine how we would feel if it had happened to us. Our friend's suffering makes us think about ourselves. It is relative to our experience and preferences. We become like Goldilocks, testing out our friend's bed. To illustrate, let's take an event - a miscarriage - and see how empathy can fall apart.
The Bed is Too Hard (I'm having a hard time relating).
Maybe we will never have a miscarriage ourselves. We're male or maybe joyfully childfree and o
Some people say "justice" but they're thinking vengeance or punishment. The desire for vengeance or punishment is not compatible with compassion - although I think we should be compassionate for those who clamour for these.
If justice means "equitable, impartial and righteous" then justice is a form of compassion.
Compassion means to meet suffering with love. It does not mean to be permissive or indulgent. What we call evil, is suffering passed on to someone else. I
It's ironic that people use the term compassion fatigue to describe the depression, sleeplessness and anxiety that may come from being immersed in other people's suffering. Compassion is the antidote to the burnout and stress caused by overuse of empathy. The Folly of Empathy Empathy is to "relate" to the events that caused else's suffering - to try them on and think about how I would respond if they were happening to me.
The first disaster is that I am now embodying the
There's a moment when you're holding something the other person will not want to know. As you wait for them to answer the door, or come into your office or pick up the phone it feels like you're about to hand them an exploding package. A lot of energy is about to be released, you want to be able to absorb it and take it to ground. The key to this is humility and compassion. Humility will allow you to not know what the news needs beyond the facts. Let the facts be said as g