Written as part of the #DailyWritingChallenge #compassion
Being truly compassionate requires a degree of empathy, an ability to understand and appreciate another’s thoughts and emotions within their frame of experience. It is an exchange, of sorts, that also leaves you compelled to do something for that person, to somehow improve their situation or experience.
When others are compassionate towards us, we feel loved and our inner-experience feels valued. It can feel as though we have shared the load with another. There is a sense that someone has now ‘got our back’.
The different experiences shared in compassionate exchange vary greatly. Sometimes they are quite frivolous and light, although still meaningful to individuals. At other times, they can feel dark and weighty.
In sharing another’s ‘load’ with them through compassionate endeavour, we often take on board some of their emotions and experience ourselves. It is important, therefore, that when we are being compassionate towards others, that we are aware and reflective of ourselves and of our own experience within the exchange.
Compassion fatigue, burnout and vicarious trauma/grief are often considered the perils of a professional counsellor. These are just some of the reasons they are professionally obliged to undertake supervision. However, these experiences are not only confined to the professional setting, they can also have an affect on even the most low-key of exchanges as well. Where this does happen, and where there is a lack of awareness and support for such impact, the compassionate other can find themselves struggling to process their inner thoughts. Furthermore, there can be a defiance as to the reality of such experiences – either by the individual or by others – and, some might query their ownership of emotion or their ‘right’ to feel in such a way.
In the current context of COVID19, there seems to be (and, to have been) much trauma and grief from all corners. We are faced with it in our homes, our work, the news, our social media and even in our most mundane of tasks like the weekly food shop or daily dog walk; it permeates everything we see, do and think about. In being compassionate within these daily exposures, we can become frustrated by the desire to do something, to somehow make things better, when in reality so much feels beyond our sphere of influence.
I have been reminded of the challenges faced by being compassionate to others in the past few weeks. Conducting well-being calls with my work team, listening to the worries of my family and friends, seeing posts about loss and upset on twitter and Facebook and hearing about losses much closer to home too, reading damning articles about the profession I know we give so much to, muddling through my own processing of a new and evolving life … have all taken their toll.
The affect crept up on me, if I’m honest, and it took me by surprise. I feel fortunate that I was able to accept it when it arrived and to allow it to wash over me and move on; I was kind to myself. I showed compassion to myself and I actively sought compassion from others to help me through.
It is important, more than ever right now, to be compassionate – compassionate to others but also to ourselves. To find ways to off-load and to share the burdens we carry, no matter how small or trivial they might seem.
This week is mental health awareness week. The theme is kindness. Be kind to others and offer them compassion. Be kind to yourself and remember, sometimes we might need help to find the compassion we need. It’s okay not to be okay. If you need help, some of the contacts on the NHS website might be of use. Shared with compassion ❤️.