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How to Renew Your Compassion in the Face of Suffering

The Compassion Collapse

We all see suffering around us, whether it is the inhumane treatment of migrants or minority groups, or any depressing news of diseases, and it is easy to feel overwhelmed.

As the number of people needing help reaches epic proportions, it becomes less likely for us to initiate any help. This paradox is known as the compassion collapse and is a feeling of jadedness mixed with helplessness to the enormity of the situation.

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How to Renew Your Compassion in the Face of Suffering

How to Renew Your Compassion in the Face of Suffering

https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/how_to_renew_your_compassion_in_the_face_of_suffering

greatergood.berkeley.edu

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Key Ideas

Just Sympathy is Useless

Tragic stories and imagery make us sympathetic and wanting to help.

But a recent study reveals that the feeling of sympathy is not proportional to the help given by the person. A desire to help, or to contribute is more valuable for any tangible or fruitful result.

Feelings of sympathy do not necessarily lead to any action to end the suffering - they may cause a feeling of helplessness.

First-hand Knowledge

When people have the first-hand experience of pain and suffering, the desire to help arises from deep within, as they know the intricate details, and are motivated to help others who are in peril. This is called the Altruism born of suffering.

People who haven't experienced similar hardships themselves will find it hard to relate to others suffering. However, the desire to help can be invoked by showing them the effectiveness of the method, as well as the larger picture.

Using the Negative Emotion

  • The negative emotions that come when confronted with thousands of people facing human rights abuse, can be channeled into brainstorming solutions and coming up with concrete strategies to help.
  • Providing a clear roadmap and with assured results makes people trust their ability to make a real difference, which can increase motivation.
  • Talking about the crisis in an objective way, without reaction, also helps, avoiding being overwhelmed and helpless.
  • Meditation is another effective method, as it brings detachment and helps us focus on the crisis without negative and emotional outbursts.

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Mindfulness

... is a collection of practices aimed at helping us to cultivate moment-to-moment awareness of ourselves and our environment.

Meditation sharpens your attention

Meditation helps to counter our tendency to stop paying attention to new information in our environment. Other studies have found that mindfulness meditation can reduce mind-wandering and improve attention.

Larger randomized controlled trials are still needed to understand how meditation might work with other treatments to help people manage attention-deficit disorders.

Consistent meditation

Long-term, consistent meditation mindfulness changes our ability to handle stress in a better, more sustainable way.

  • Practicing meditation reduces the inflammatory response in people exposed to psychological stressors.
  • Mindfulness practices help us to be less reactive to stressors and to recover better from stress when we experience it. 

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Burnout can be broken down into three parts:

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6 components of the workplace environment that can contribute to burnout:

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We end up with burnout when one or more of these areas of our work don’t match our needs.

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A definition of empathy
A definition of empathy

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In recent years, researchers have found that misplaced empathy can lead to exhaustion and apathy, and prevent you from helping the people who need you.

Worse, people's empathetic tendencies can be used to manipulate them into aggression and cruelty.

The identifiable victim effect

Psychologists point out that defining empathy as the act of stepping into someone's mind to experience their feeling can lead to some tricky moral dilemmas.

  • We are moved to open our hearts (or wallet) when presented with a case such as a charity campaign where a single story of a named, suffering child is showcased to the exclusion of other suffering children. Psychologists call it the "identifiable victim effect."
  • This can also help explain why many people become numb to the deaths of strangers, but be up in arms about the minor loss of personal freedoms they more directly experience.

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