As humans, we aspire to have empathy and understanding for the people we work with and live with, but this can be difficult to achieve when we get into heated conversations, especially when things get stuck. It can be very difficult. In such moments, when we feel disconnected from our innate capacity for compassion, it is helpful to remember what the different components of compassion are so that we can return to them. is.
The Five Elements of Empathy, Compassion, and Compassion
It’s easy to confuse sympathy with empathy and empathy. While empathy involves feeling another person’s pain and understanding their perspective, compassion goes a step further to do something about it. Compassion involves caring about suffering, but from a distance it often sounds like “poor you,” with a subtext of “Thank God it’s not me.” The motivation to help out of compassion is guided by fear and separation, not by our common humanity. When we experience empathy, we also experience discomfort, which creates a desire to solve the problem rather than truly empathize with the person.
Understanding the difference between compassion, empathy, and sympathy is essential to being mindful in the real world. Whereas compassion involves detached observation of another’s suffering and is often accompanied by criticism, empathy allows one to step into another’s shoes and feel their pain. But compassion goes beyond empathy and creates a genuine desire to help.
Compassion goes beyond empathy by creating a genuine desire to help.
In an increasingly divided world, empathy, even with good intentions, can widen the gulf between individuals. It can inadvertently emphasize the differences between those providing help and those needing it. But compassion encourages us to recognize and embrace our interconnectedness through the lens of our shared humanity. Both the helper and the helped are seen as equally important members of an interdependent ecosystem, each contributing at different times and in unique ways. Compassion has the power to bridge gaps, foster understanding, and promote peace and collective well-being.
Uncaring empathy can have a negative impact on the experience of suffering, resulting in empathic distress, also known as compassion fatigue, which can lead to feelings of despair and hopelessness. When exposed to world injustice, racism, climate change, or the extreme poverty in which so many young children live, we can easily become overwhelmed. But as soon as we return to compassion and shift our attention to what actions we can take to help, no matter how small, we can feel motivated and hopeful. .
The five elements of compassion
Sympathy is more comprehensive and effective than empathy. It includes her five elements that empower you to transform your suffering:
- recognize the struggle
- Understand the universality of human suffering
- Empathy for those involved
- Tolerating discomfort (e.g., distress, shame, anger, fear) that occurs in response to the person suffering
- Creates a motivation to alleviate suffering
In summary, compassion is our ability to feel, understand, and be motivated to alleviate suffering in ourselves and others, based on an understanding of shared human experience.
compassion in action
When we no longer feel compassion naturally, remembering the different aspects of compassion can help us return to a kinder place within ourselves. The first step when something triggers you is to stop and recognize that you are struggling. Then I will put my hand on my heart. This allows you to move from a reactive mental space to a calmer, heart-centered space.
Just pausing like this and returning to a more compassionate space reminds me that struggling is a common human experience, and that I’m not alone in feeling this way. This normalizes my discomfort. It becomes easier to be with it. That way, you can look at your colleagues and actively try to understand their perspective. What do they know that I don’t know? What are their intentions? What is my intention in this situation? What do our perspectives have in common? By asking questions rather than rushing to judgment and declaring your point of view, you can take in more information, form an understanding, and make more informed decisions.
It’s still a tedious process. You’re not always sure if you made the right decision. But my commitment to compassion, to understanding the perspectives of everyone involved and seeking to take action that benefits everyone involved, is what I do with an open mind and heart, even when I want to shut up or walk away. It gives me the courage to show up with.
Compassion overcomes our judgment and reveals our common humanity. However, the pull on the judge’s mind is so strong that it can be difficult to interrupt the momentum of judgment. Can you think of a situation where your sense of judgment outweighs your desire for empathy and understanding?
Recognize our interconnectedness
Everything that exists in the universe is connected by a chain of relationships. Even something as basic as water involves a web of interconnections between people, systems, and nature. These interrelationships may seem obvious, but they can be confusing when you’re in the middle of difficult conversations or difficult situations that divide people into “us versus them.” In such moments, we focus on a part of reality that is different from the whole. And yet, as Martin Luther King Jr. reminded us in his famous letter from Birmingham Jail, “we are caught in an inescapable network of interconnectedness, bound by a single sheet of destiny. We are bound by a garment. Anything that directly affects one affects all indirectly.” When we view situations through the lens of interexistence, our needs compete with the needs of others. You can see that I haven’t. they are interdependent. This is similar to the concept of Ubuntu in Xhosa culture. This concept has been translated to mean “I am because we are.”
Imagine what would happen if you understood the causes and conditions that cause people to think and act the way they do and dissolve your judgments. Resources can then be directed toward changing harmful systems, processes, and behaviors, rather than simply punishing individuals who are products of those systems. Like the children of the Xhosa culture, if we learn to hold hands and run together, we too can share in the fruits of victory. We, too, can learn how to be truly happy by reminding ourselves and each other that we are interconnected.
Where are you on the compassion continuum?
Returning to compassion within ourselves requires disrupting default habits such as rushing to judgment, defending one’s way of thinking, and avoiding suffering. The more we practice and play with compassion practices and reminders, the more we will be able to face differences with open hearts and minds.
Excerpt from the book Return to Mindfulness: Disrupting Default Habits for Personal Achievement, Effective Leadership, and Global Impact Written by Shalini Bahl Milne. Copyright © 2024 Shalini Bahl Milne. Republished with permission from the author.