Last update: June 14, 2017
Compassion is the ability to understand the suffering of others and responds to the desire to alleviate and reduce it. This concept it is simpler and at the same time more intense than empathy, pushes us to want to help and mitigate a suffering that is foreign to us.
Self-compassion, on the other hand, makes us more understanding with ourselves, especially when things don't go as we had hoped.. Learning to develop compassion is a skill that can help us feel happier and more satisfied with our daily life; without abusing or lulling ourselves into it, of course.
Psychologist and researcher Paul Gilbert, creator of compassion-centered therapy, points out that feeling compassion doesn't mean feeling sorry for others. Rather, it is a motivation that gives us the energy we need for help others, so that they themselves, with our help, can alleviate their suffering.
The components of compassion
Literally, the word compassion means "suffering together" or "managing emotions with sympathy". It is an emotion that arises when we perceive suffering in others and that pushes us to try to alleviate this pain that we see in others. It is divided into several components:
-A cognitive component which includes paying attention to and evaluating the suffering of others, as well as recognizing our ability to act in the face of it.
-A behavioral component which includes a commitment on the part of everyone and a firm decision to act in a way that helps eliminate suffering.
-An emotional component which pushes us to act on impulse by generating emotional reactions that cause us personal satisfaction. Our level of psychological well-being depends, in part, on the type of relationships we have with others. If we weave relationships with threads of kindness and compassion, it will be easier for us to feel satisfied with our actions.
Compassion opens our hearts
This emotion helps us connect with our heart to put ourselves in the shoes of others. Opens the door of emotions, allowing us to experience what our neighbor is experiencing, his pain and suffering.
Compassion, if real, helps us stop looking only at ourselves and look up to see our surroundings. It reminds us that we are not alone in the world, but that others are also important. If we offer honest help, it will give us great inner peace.
The act of compassion brings us closer to our neighbor, gives us the opportunity to give our best to help others, with humility and closeness. This makes us more human, sensitive and honest with the people around us, and of course, with ourselves. Whenever we care about someone who needs it, we are enlarging our hearts and offering sincere help to the other.
The fear of compassion
Why don't we take advantage of so many opportunities? We do not allow ourselves the opportunity to act with compassion because our focus is not well placed. Social neuroscience has shown that our natural impulse is to help. At the brain level we are programmed to deliver. So why don't we sometimes help?
The emotion of compassion it can lead us to feel fear to act for various reasons, for example:
- Thinking that helping others to alleviate their suffering will make us vulnerable, this can cause us rejection.
- Being unable to observe the suffering of others, as this can awaken sad emotions that we may not want to feel.
- Reliving, through the feeling of compassion, the unresolved wounds of childhood, preventing us from coming into contact with the suffering of others.
- Feeling that if we come into contact with a suffering that does not belong to us, we will not be able to get out of it.
- Focus our attention on something else, which we perceive as “more important”.
Self-compassion: the ability to accept ourselves for who we are
Self-compassion is about realizing our inner suffering, being able to understand its meaning, being able to accept it, and ultimately granting ourselves affection. It's a way of nurturing self-affection when things don't go as planned.
"Be the change you want to see in the world".
Compassion invites us to look at society as a transformative force, from our inside out. Instead of filling ourselves with self-criticism and judgment, self-compassion allows us to be kind and to develop a loving adult within us, who looks after us and protects us every day. Suffering, in this case, instead of distancing us from humanity, unites us to it.
As we welcome compassion into our life, we will notice significant changes. We can feel by imagining a family member suffering and seeing the effects it causes in our body and then transmitting feelings of goodness and compassion to this person. Observe what changes in you with this exercise. Afterward, try to send good feelings to someone we like and understand what changes in our body.
Mindfulness or awareness helps us to develop this compassion that we could then turn towards others. To develop it, we should generate a private, mental space where perceive the suffering of others, in order to pass to action. So we will start placing our bricks, helping to build a more just and generous world.
Change in society begins with us, feeling empathy and compassion first of all towards ourselves and then towards others. There is no excuse not to start today. The sooner we begin to feel compassion, the more happiness and well-being we can experience in everyday life.