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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.

@ikert75

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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.

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.

  • 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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Meditation also makes our compassion more effective.

  • Practicing loving-kindness meditation for others increases our willingness to take action to relieve suffering. 
  • For long-term meditators, activity in the part of our brains that reflects on thoughts, feelings, and experiences quiets down, suggesting less rumination about ourselves and our place in the world.

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IDEAS

Chronic psychosocial stress that’s common in people suffering from burnout can impair personal and social functioning as well as overwhelming your cognitive skills and neuroendocrine systems. 

Over time the effects of burnout can lead to memory, attention, and emotional problems.

  • Don’t schedule distractions. Schedule deep work.
  • Keep a scoreboard for deep work: The point is to shame yourself if you’re not up to snuff.
  • Stop saying “yes” to unimportant stuff;
  • Have a “Deep Work Ritual”: Hiding in a conference room and throwing your phone into an abyss is a good one.
  • Ask your boss how much time they want you spending on deep vs shallow work: If they say “100% shallow”, feel free to ignore everything above.