When building solid personal relationships we must not be only interested in our own best interests. We must look out for the interests of others, we must show compassion.
Let’s look a little deeper into what compassion is, why it may be tough to practice, and some ideas for becoming more compassionate people.
What is Compassion.
So what is compassion? Here is what Webster has to say about it. Compassion is a “suffering with another; painful sympathy; a sensation of sorrow excited by the distress or misfortunes of another.” Compassion arises out of a state of empathy, a state that allows us to connect with the emotional status of other individuals.
The feeling of compassion elicits a motivational driving force. A force that naturally seeks to alleviate the suffering of the individuals we are in contact with. Through empathy we are brought to meet another where they are at. With compassion we are brought to emotion to effect change on their lives for the better. It is a deeply human emotion that can alleviate suffering for those helped, as well as the helper.
Without a healthy dose of compassion healthy relationships are not possible. This emotion has a way of taking us out of our own mental and emotional worlds, giving a break from our own struggles. Doing this so that we can produce beneficial change for someone else. Maybe that individual is someone we have deep emotional bonds with, or maybe somebody that we have never met.
Our Own Needs and the Difficulty of Showing Compassion.
We all have needs, I do, you do, we do. And compassion for others is about helping to take care of needs they have that are causing them suffering. There are times where this is easy while other times it is like pulling teeth. What makes showing it for others difficult can be that our own needs feel that they require more urgent attention.
Maybe we haven’t been sleeping or eating well, or are feeling some sort of sickness. We could also be grieving in some way, be busy with tasks, or having a rough patch to go through. Whatever the reason, the needs of others simply may not feel like any of our own responsibility. When feeling too needy myself the pain of other people can seem to be too much to handle.
But the problem is that too much pushing away of other people’s pain can become a habit. A habit that does lead away from showing our humanness to those that may need it. Research has showed that “feeling compassion our heart rates slow, we release oxytocin, and even areas registering pleasure in our brains light up.” Closing ourselves off from being compassionate people means that we will not get to experience its physiological benefits. Letting this feeling happen and showing it to others is one of our many needs.
Needs of ours that we don’t take care of, find ways to affect our lives negatively. What we need is to find a balance between taking care of enough of our others needs, as well as our need to be there for others.
How to Responsibly Show Compassion for Others.
Showing compassion is a human need. But it is only one of our many needs. For me, it feels good to help others with their difficulties. This good feeling only goes so far though. When doing too much for others while neglecting other needs that are not compassion related, trouble is being asked for. Responsibly showing compassion for others can be a difficult balancing act, but can be found.
1.Compassion for Self.
This feeling is not just for other people. Putting ourselves out there too much for others while not taking care of ourselves, means we are not being compassionate with ourselves. There are many ways that we can show compassion for ourselves. One of those ways happens to be showing enough of it for others. But that is not enough.
I always have enjoyed the airplane oxygen mask analogy for self-care. Which means that we are supposed to make sure our own masks are on first before helping the person next us. Because if we cannot breathe we are not going to be much good to anyone else. No, that way I essentially turn myself into a liability. It can be difficult to let the world take care of itself, while we get our heads straight. While we get a nice workout in, meditate, nap or do some therapeutic writing. But we need to connect with our own neediness in these ways so that we are even more available to be there for others when the time comes.
2.Check in with Our Motives for Helping.
Our motivations for why we do what we do is a difficult thing to figure out. But I personally believe that us human beings do what we believe is in our own interests. Also, I don’t believe there is anything wrong with that. It just so happens that helping others can also be in our own interests. We get rewarded from helping others. Maybe the reward happens to be external, like money or praise. The reward may be are own ability to light up our brains with very human feel good chemicals like oxytocin.
We need to check into the reason we feel the need to help. Not be overly critical or judgmental about these motives, but just to see what they might be. The reason this is important is because if our goal is to be compassionate to both ourselves and the other individuals, we will want to make sure we are coming from a place of compassion. Sometimes the motivations can be rooted in drastic codependence. Trying to do too much for others that can already do for themselves. Possibly coddling others in an unconscious grab for the feeling of control. If through investigation you come to realize relational codependence is a problem. Don’t judge it too harshly. But please do make an effort to change if that is what is desired.
3. Learn When to Say Yes and When to Say No.
There are times that we should be saying yes to being helpful. And there are times that we probably should be saying no. Each of our levels of empathy and compassion are different, as well as our levels of energy to show them. So I can’t tell any of you what is yours to handle and what is not. But for me if the help I am giving doesn’t overly interfere with the health of my family, and I know the individuals involved cannot take care of it themselves, then I can responsibly help. Otherwise I must surrender their needs to care of others.
There are countless areas to connect with the suffering of others. Look on the news, it is everywhere I look. I don’t have the time or emotional availability to handle all emotional pulls to alleviate this suffering. But I do what I can where I can. Where I can’t and where I shouldn’t get a no from me these days. That no isn’t always easy, but is necessary for being a stable support in the relationships (including myself) that I currently take responsibility for.
Well, that is all we have for today, and thank you so much for stopping into My Life Experiment. What is written here has come from struggle and growth.
We truly believe that if you take today’s lessons to heart and apply them, that you will greatly benefit.
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