“Our human compassion binds us the one to the other – not in pity or patronizingly, but as human beings who have learnt how to turn our common suffering into hope for the future.” ~ Nelson Mandela
The word ‘compassion’ literally means “to suffer together”.
Modern researchers define compassion as the feeling that arises when you are confronted with another’s suffering and feel motivated to relieve that suffering.
Although closely related, compassion is not the same as empathy or altruism.¹ While both compassion and empathy include understanding emotional discomfort, compassion has the added desire to take action, to reduce that suffering.
Empathy is the experience of another person’s feelings. It begins with emotional contagion, the mirroring of another’s emotion, like tears coming when we witness a friend’s sadness.
Altruism is an action benefitting someone else, which may or may not accompany feelings of empathy or compassion —for example in the case of a donation made for tax purposes.
Although empathy and altruism are key components of compassion, compassion is the emotional response to the perception of suffering and includes a real desire to help.²
Self-compassion is the ability to acknowledge and alleviate our own suffering.
The good news is, scientists tell us that we can cultivate both self-compassion and compassion towards others.³
Mindful Self-Compassion (MSC) is one such training course, empirically-validated by research and currently being offered by Lyndi in Brisbane.
If you wish, you can practise right now with this 15-minute guided audio Loving Kindness.
¹ from greatergood.berkeley.edu
² from psychologicalscience.org
³ from ccare.stanford.edu