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Questions about compassion.

 
EN
 
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EN
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14 October 2018 16:03
 

Compassion is empathy in action, in my view.  It can go wrong when not tempered by common sense.  And there is only so much capacity for empathy, like only so much milk in the jug.  You need to dole it out judiciously.

 
Jan_CAN
 
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Jan_CAN
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14 October 2018 18:41
 
hannahtoo - 14 October 2018 03:05 PM

Jan:
However, it also seems that we are living in a society where we are expected to hide our pain, to suffer in silence.  It doesn’t have to be as serious as clinical depression where suicide is a concern; there are those among us who are suffering for various reasons and they are having to do it alone.  It sometimes seems that if we are in need of help or compassion, we are expected to get it from professionals.

I wonder if many/most people just assume other people are supporting a friend who is going through rough times.  They don’t know the ins and outs of the particular relationships that person has.  It’s a byproduct of our living so separately these days and being so busy with work and endless errands.  How many people are “lost inside their houses”?  I know that close neighborhoods exist, but I’ve never lived in one.

Your comment is a reminder of the importance of checking in with friends and also of reaching out when needy.

Now that I am well, I don’t dwell on the past that I have briefly described here, but I do think it has better helped me to recognize such distress in others.  My goal in relating such personal experiences is to encourage people to keep their eyes and hearts open.  Thanks for listening.

We are often living so separately and can be disconnected from those around us.  When I was going through the worst time, all the signs were there for anyone to see.  Although I tried to hide what was going on, my mood was withdrawn and subdued, my usual sense of humour gone, there was drastic weight loss, I was declining social events, I was taking time off work.  If I had done what I was planning to do, what would these people who saw all this have said?  That they had no idea?

We can’t live our lives worried that everyone who appears to be ‘down’ might commit suicide, or that we can help everyone in our midst.  But I expect many of us could do more, even if it’s just a little ‘tea and sympathy’.

 

 
 
Cheshire Cat
 
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Cheshire Cat
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14 October 2018 20:58
 

For 2,500 years, Buddhism has made compassion one of it’s major tenets, similar to the way Christians exalt love. 

”According to Buddhism, compassion is an aspiration, a state of mind, wanting others to be free from suffering. It’s not passive — it’s not empathy alone — but rather an empathetic altruism that actively strives to free others from suffering. Genuine compassion must have both wisdom and lovingkindness. That is to say, one must understand the nature of the suffering from which we wish to free others (this is wisdom), and one must experience deep intimacy and empathy with other sentient beings (this is lovingkindness).”
— In The Essence of the Heart Sutra by the Dalai Lama

I believe I felt the pure form of compassion described above once, about eight years ago. My mother had just died and I was dealing with her cremation and the disposing of her possessions. Even though she had been sick for years and had had several close calls with death, when she did finally die there was still an emotional shock that I experienced.

For about 3 days after her death, it was as if a filter in my mind had disappeared, a filter that separated me from other people. During this time I could look into the eyes of others and know instantly and without hesitation what they were feeling. I know that in a general way, we do this sort of sizing-up of others emotional states all the time, but this was different. There was no guessing on my part. I “felt” the other person instantly. It was as if I was no longer separated from others and that I was inseparable from them. Perhaps the grief I was feeling left me more sensitive than normal.

The experience faded but made a lasting impression on me.

 
 
Jan_CAN
 
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14 October 2018 22:04
 
Cheshire Cat - 14 October 2018 08:58 PM

For 2,500 years, Buddhism has made compassion one of it’s major tenets, similar to the way Christians exalt love. 

”According to Buddhism, compassion is an aspiration, a state of mind, wanting others to be free from suffering. It’s not passive — it’s not empathy alone — but rather an empathetic altruism that actively strives to free others from suffering. Genuine compassion must have both wisdom and lovingkindness. That is to say, one must understand the nature of the suffering from which we wish to free others (this is wisdom), and one must experience deep intimacy and empathy with other sentient beings (this is lovingkindness).”
— In The Essence of the Heart Sutra by the Dalai Lama

I believe I felt the pure form of compassion described above once, about eight years ago. My mother had just died and I was dealing with her cremation and the disposing of her possessions. Even though she had been sick for years and had had several close calls with death, when she did finally die there was still an emotional shock that I experienced.

For about 3 days after her death, it was as if a filter in my mind had disappeared, a filter that separated me from other people. During this time I could look into the eyes of others and know instantly and without hesitation what they were feeling. I know that in a general way, we do this sort of sizing-up of others emotional states all the time, but this was different. There was no guessing on my part. I “felt” the other person instantly. It was as if I was no longer separated from others and that I was inseparable from them. Perhaps the grief I was feeling left me more sensitive than normal.

The experience faded but made a lasting impression on me.

I like how you’ve described this, as a filter in the mind disappearing.  It is a profound experience when intense emotion such as grief dissolves this barrier between ourselves and others.  Even if it is for only a short time.

[ Edited: 14 October 2018 22:21 by Jan_CAN]
 
 
Brick Bungalow
 
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Brick Bungalow
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15 October 2018 12:27
 
EN - 14 October 2018 04:03 PM

Compassion is empathy in action, in my view.  It can go wrong when not tempered by common sense.  And there is only so much capacity for empathy, like only so much milk in the jug.  You need to dole it out judiciously.

I would just amend slightly… the healthy variations of empathy. Empathy frequently inspires cruelty as well. Otherwise agreed.

 
EN
 
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EN
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15 October 2018 12:51
 
Brick Bungalow - 15 October 2018 12:27 PM
EN - 14 October 2018 04:03 PM

Compassion is empathy in action, in my view.  It can go wrong when not tempered by common sense.  And there is only so much capacity for empathy, like only so much milk in the jug.  You need to dole it out judiciously.

I would just amend slightly… the healthy variations of empathy. Empathy frequently inspires cruelty as well. Otherwise agreed.

Yes, agreed. If cruelty is an option, humans will find a way to express it. Unless they are Canadians.

 
Brick Bungalow
 
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Brick Bungalow
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15 October 2018 14:48
 
Cheshire Cat - 14 October 2018 08:58 PM

For 2,500 years, Buddhism has made compassion one of it’s major tenets, similar to the way Christians exalt love. 

”According to Buddhism, compassion is an aspiration, a state of mind, wanting others to be free from suffering. It’s not passive — it’s not empathy alone — but rather an empathetic altruism that actively strives to free others from suffering. Genuine compassion must have both wisdom and lovingkindness. That is to say, one must understand the nature of the suffering from which we wish to free others (this is wisdom), and one must experience deep intimacy and empathy with other sentient beings (this is lovingkindness).”
— In The Essence of the Heart Sutra by the Dalai Lama

I believe I felt the pure form of compassion described above once, about eight years ago. My mother had just died and I was dealing with her cremation and the disposing of her possessions. Even though she had been sick for years and had had several close calls with death, when she did finally die there was still an emotional shock that I experienced.

For about 3 days after her death, it was as if a filter in my mind had disappeared, a filter that separated me from other people. During this time I could look into the eyes of others and know instantly and without hesitation what they were feeling. I know that in a general way, we do this sort of sizing-up of others emotional states all the time, but this was different. There was no guessing on my part. I “felt” the other person instantly. It was as if I was no longer separated from others and that I was inseparable from them. Perhaps the grief I was feeling left me more sensitive than normal.

The experience faded but made a lasting impression on me.

Thank you. This is a variation of what I’m struggling to describe.

I can relate to an experience of loss that leaves me a sort of blank slate. When someone who I relied on as the better part of of myself passes it’s as if a conduit within me is severed. Something like I imagine losing a limb to be. My own faculty to understand myself and navigate the world is damaged. It isn’t depression or grief although those things accompany it but rather a marked disability.

This, in particular has helped me to identify with certain deficits in the behavior of other people that I might otherwise pass off as flaws of character. I can now see certain markers of damage that were invisible before. I can also feel a visceral need to restore whatever part of those lost functions may be available. I’m not always in a practical position to offer assistance nor do I always have the emotional resources to respond with kindness but I do have some space to move provided by the perspective of that experience.

 
icehorse
 
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16 October 2018 10:14
 

jb:

Roughly speaking, Empathy is “I feel with you.” Compassion is “I feel for you.”

I’d amend this: Empathy is: “I can predict what you’re feeling.” Sympathy is “I feel for you.”

To me, compassion implies doing something about it, no?

 
 
Jb8989
 
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16 October 2018 11:23
 
Brick Bungalow - 14 October 2018 12:49 PM
Jb8989 - 13 October 2018 03:56 PM

So you’re also talking about nature v nurture. Compassion is close enough to empathy to be a prerequisite to good relationships. On the other hand, there’s something to be said about having less of it. Less loyalty is something you’ll hear a lot of depressed people wish they were more of. Query the distinction.

I feel like empathy is definitely like this.There are many ways that excess empathy can be toxic. I don’t (yet) feel that way about compassion. I think that compassion contains within it a sort of moral intelligence. It contains moderation and insight because it represents the intersection of intention and action. Acts of compassion are often passive or disciplinary as dictated by circumstance.

This is what I derive from the literature at any rate. Maximum compassion isn’t toxic because it entails maximum efficiency.

I agree in part. But I think that people can be reckless with any felt sense - compassion included. Think of the hopeless romantic hell bent on satisfying Mrs. Right, who happens to be Mrs. Toxic. Campassion could be the culprit. It could be a bunch of other things, but it could also be compassion driving an instinct to save.

Basically it could be an adhesive to things we may not actually want to stick to.

I have a work in progress theory that empathy is easier to emotionally disengage from because it involves literally feeling foreign emotions. (I.e. foreign in the literal sense of another person, not foreign as in an unknown emotion).

 
 
Jb8989
 
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16 October 2018 11:26
 
icehorse - 16 October 2018 10:14 AM

jb:

Roughly speaking, Empathy is “I feel with you.” Compassion is “I feel for you.”

I’d amend this: Empathy is: “I can predict what you’re feeling.” Sympathy is “I feel for you.”

To me, compassion implies doing something about it, no?

I think with raw empathy there’s not much prediction going on, more like a mirroring of another person’s reaction. I’m only a soft believer in cognitive empathy, but you may have touched on the distinction.

And it depends. Crying simply because someone else is crying, is technically doing something. Empathy is somewhat compulsive in nature.

[ Edited: 16 October 2018 11:29 by Jb8989]
 
 
nonverbal
 
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nonverbal
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16 October 2018 11:41
 
Jb8989 - 16 October 2018 11:23 AM
Brick Bungalow - 14 October 2018 12:49 PM
Jb8989 - 13 October 2018 03:56 PM

So you’re also talking about nature v nurture. Compassion is close enough to empathy to be a prerequisite to good relationships. On the other hand, there’s something to be said about having less of it. Less loyalty is something you’ll hear a lot of depressed people wish they were more of. Query the distinction.

I feel like empathy is definitely like this.There are many ways that excess empathy can be toxic. I don’t (yet) feel that way about compassion. I think that compassion contains within it a sort of moral intelligence. It contains moderation and insight because it represents the intersection of intention and action. Acts of compassion are often passive or disciplinary as dictated by circumstance.

This is what I derive from the literature at any rate. Maximum compassion isn’t toxic because it entails maximum efficiency.

I agree in part. But I think that people can be reckless with any felt sense - compassion included. Think of the hopeless romantic hell bent on satisfying Mrs. Right, who happens to be Mrs. Toxic. Campassion could be the culprit. It could be a bunch of other things, but it could also be compassion driving an instinct to save.

Basically it could be an adhesive to things we may not actually want to stick to.

I have a work in progress theory that empathy is easier to emotionally disengage from because it involves literally feeling foreign emotions. (I.e. foreign in the literal sense of another person, not foreign as in an unknown emotion).

Easier than what? I’m with you so far.

 
 
icehorse
 
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icehorse
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16 October 2018 13:52
 
Jb8989 - 16 October 2018 11:26 AM
icehorse - 16 October 2018 10:14 AM

jb:

Roughly speaking, Empathy is “I feel with you.” Compassion is “I feel for you.”

I’d amend this: Empathy is: “I can predict what you’re feeling.” Sympathy is “I feel for you.”

To me, compassion implies doing something about it, no?

I think with raw empathy there’s not much prediction going on, more like a mirroring of another person’s reaction. I’m only a soft believer in cognitive empathy, but you may have touched on the distinction.

And it depends. Crying simply because someone else is crying, is technically doing something. Empathy is somewhat compulsive in nature.

I get irritated when people who are doing nothing claim compassion. They might be semantically correct, but it bugs me. E.g., if you’re compassionate about the animals suffering in factory farms, you stop eating them, you don’t just complain about it or wring your hands. If you hear about starving children somewhere and just fret about it, I’d take umbrage if you claimed compassion. If you sponsored one of those kids, I’d happily grant you “compassionate” status smile

 
 
Jefe
 
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Jefe
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16 October 2018 16:14
 
icehorse - 16 October 2018 01:52 PM
Jb8989 - 16 October 2018 11:26 AM
icehorse - 16 October 2018 10:14 AM

jb:

Roughly speaking, Empathy is “I feel with you.” Compassion is “I feel for you.”

I’d amend this: Empathy is: “I can predict what you’re feeling.” Sympathy is “I feel for you.”

To me, compassion implies doing something about it, no?

I think with raw empathy there’s not much prediction going on, more like a mirroring of another person’s reaction. I’m only a soft believer in cognitive empathy, but you may have touched on the distinction.

And it depends. Crying simply because someone else is crying, is technically doing something. Empathy is somewhat compulsive in nature.

I get irritated when people who are doing nothing claim compassion. They might be semantically correct, but it bugs me. E.g., if you’re compassionate about the animals suffering in factory farms, you stop eating them, you don’t just complain about it or wring your hands. If you hear about starving children somewhere and just fret about it, I’d take umbrage if you claimed compassion.

...or post on internet message boards…  wink

 
 
Jb8989
 
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16 October 2018 16:35
 
nonverbal - 16 October 2018 11:41 AM
Jb8989 - 16 October 2018 11:23 AM
Brick Bungalow - 14 October 2018 12:49 PM
Jb8989 - 13 October 2018 03:56 PM

So you’re also talking about nature v nurture. Compassion is close enough to empathy to be a prerequisite to good relationships. On the other hand, there’s something to be said about having less of it. Less loyalty is something you’ll hear a lot of depressed people wish they were more of. Query the distinction.

I feel like empathy is definitely like this.There are many ways that excess empathy can be toxic. I don’t (yet) feel that way about compassion. I think that compassion contains within it a sort of moral intelligence. It contains moderation and insight because it represents the intersection of intention and action. Acts of compassion are often passive or disciplinary as dictated by circumstance.

This is what I derive from the literature at any rate. Maximum compassion isn’t toxic because it entails maximum efficiency.

I agree in part. But I think that people can be reckless with any felt sense - compassion included. Think of the hopeless romantic hell bent on satisfying Mrs. Right, who happens to be Mrs. Toxic. Campassion could be the culprit. It could be a bunch of other things, but it could also be compassion driving an instinct to save.

Basically it could be an adhesive to things we may not actually want to stick to.

I have a work in progress theory that empathy is easier to emotionally disengage from because it involves literally feeling foreign emotions. (I.e. foreign in the literal sense of another person, not foreign as in an unknown emotion).

Easier than what? I’m with you so far.

Easier than compassion. From a mitigation standpoint.

 
 
Jb8989
 
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Jb8989
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16 October 2018 16:49
 
icehorse - 16 October 2018 01:52 PM
Jb8989 - 16 October 2018 11:26 AM
icehorse - 16 October 2018 10:14 AM

jb:

Roughly speaking, Empathy is “I feel with you.” Compassion is “I feel for you.”

I’d amend this: Empathy is: “I can predict what you’re feeling.” Sympathy is “I feel for you.”

To me, compassion implies doing something about it, no?

I think with raw empathy there’s not much prediction going on, more like a mirroring of another person’s reaction. I’m only a soft believer in cognitive empathy, but you may have touched on the distinction.

And it depends. Crying simply because someone else is crying, is technically doing something. Empathy is somewhat compulsive in nature.

I get irritated when people who are doing nothing claim compassion. They might be semantically correct, but it bugs me. E.g., if you’re compassionate about the animals suffering in factory farms, you stop eating them, you don’t just complain about it or wring your hands. If you hear about starving children somewhere and just fret about it, I’d take umbrage if you claimed compassion. If you sponsored one of those kids, I’d happily grant you “compassionate” status smile

Snowflakes come to mind. They either do little to nothing about all that compassion or they weaponize it overzealously.

 
 
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