Compassion is an orientation towards suffering. It is how we meet the suffering of others and our suffering.
- Recognising suffering
- Understanding the human experience of suffering as universal
- Emotionally connecting with the other person’s suffering
- Being able to tolerate uncomfortable feelings (e.g. fear or disgust) so we can stay open to their suffering
- Being motivated to alleviate their suffering
The ability to see that someone is suffering. This might be obvious if they express pain or sadness, and it might be more difficult if they express rage or another emotion. Often when people rage, they are suffering.
Understanding the human experience of suffering as universal
We all suffer. In different ways and at different times. It is part of the human experience.
Emotionally connecting with the other person’s suffering
Sometimes we think that if we allow ourselves to feel another person’s suffering, we will be washed away in pain. When we block out the suffering, we leave the other person alone with it. When we can allow ourselves to feel moved by another’s pain, we engage with our humanity and let them know they are not alone.
Being able to tolerate uncomfortable feelings (e.g. fear or disgust) so we can stay open to their suffering.
When faced with great suffering, feelings will come up. Do we allow them to pull us away from the deep listening that suffering requires? Can we tolerate the discomfort and stay present?
Being motivated to alleviate their suffering
Taking action to help to reduce suffering. What action can I take to mitigate suffering in me, in the people I know and globally?
Reference: What is compassion and how can we measure it? A review of definitions and measures.
Strauss C, Lever Taylor B, Gu J, Kuyken W, Baer R, Jones F, Cavanagh K
Clin Psychol Rev. 2016 Jul; 47():15-27.