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Defining + Understanding Compassion

Evolution of Compassion


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Roya R. Rad, MA, PsyD | Psychology Teacher-Self Actualization

Compassion like love has a spectrum and has a number of stages and levels. The general term learned in society about compassion is somehow different from a more expanded version of it. And also it differs from society to society and the modernity of it.

In general, compassion is viewed as a deep awareness of the suffering of another coupled with the desire to alleviate the pain. Here, compassion is a form of emotion, a feeling that is acting and flowing. An active emotion can be used both as a positive force and a negative one. This form of compassion may also include an element of pity and mercy, which ordinarily can be positive forces to encourage us to help someone with the healing process. However, from a more expanded version, this feeling of pity may affect a person's sense of empowerment and that they have the power to change many elements of their life to cope with the ones they can't change. This pity may make them into victims and not the powerful creator they have within. Pity is also considered by some as an active form of judgment where one sees the suffering of another as a bad thing. It is not surprising that many self-aware people dislike being pitied. So, in some senses, from a spiritual perspective, this form of compassion could have disempowering effects and should be evaluated with the right intention and awareness.

A higher state of compassion is a deeper form of awareness, it is being aware of another person's suffering but without the judgment of seeing it as bad or good, and without wanting to control the situation and to relive the pain. It is more about a non-judgment appreciation of whatever value it may have and having the desire that the person can benefit from its hidden and potential value. It is about trusting the depth of life. This needs a lot of mind expansion to really be able to look beyond the tip of the iceberg.

This type of compassion is not an easy one, and not everyone can comprehend or understand it. It takes an expanded mind to be able to go far enough to feel another person's point of being and to accept it as is. While at the same time, at this non-judgmental level, one is open to helping the way that is more logical than emotional -- in other words, the help would not be with the expectation of a certain outcome but to see what, if anything, one can do to bring some form of positive to this person's life. At this stage, there is no sacrifice or feeling of obligation but desire and an optional choice.

To experience a higher-level compassion, one must learn to let go of all judgment of a situation and analyzing another's suffering. We must realize that our help should be done in a rational way so that we don't block the person from learning the cause of their pain. We also need to realize that short-term goals for relief of the pain are not always productive. It is more and more clear to an expanded mind that we have access to a free will that can only be fully gained through the awareness of mind and the purification of the heart. Awareness of the mind can be done though cognitive modification, challenging irrational thought, letting go of judgmental and negative thoughts, and increasing one's awareness and knowledge. And the purification of the heart can be attained through emotional healing and letting go of irrational negative feelings like fear, anxiety, anger, jealously, fixations, hate, resentment, grudges, etc.

This is the level where you realize that there is a lesson in every experience and that the lesson has value in it. In other words, this earth is a free-will place. Our shadow is the part that creates pain and sometimes, until we experience it, we won't realize it. If we don't learn our shadows, we are ignoring half of who we are. Shadow is nothing mysterious or illogical. Carl Jung, who was one of the most recognized psychologists, defined it as a part of the unconscious that the conscious part does not recognize and reflects or is ignorant of. As a result of this ignorance toward the shadow, it becomes negative. However, once the person starts identifying it, the shadow can work greatly and hand-in-hand with the light side of the person. Jung says about shadow, "And the less it is embodied in the individual's conscious life, the blacker and denser it is." Jung also added that the shadow is more based on an instinctive and irrational base and as a result is prone to projection. Projection is when the person turns a feeling of personal inferiority and makes it into a judgment of some kind of a moral deficiency in another.

I have noticed that a lot of people are running away from facing the dark side; they deny, avoid, repress or simply run away from the subject. They also misinterpret it. This is creating a lot of dishonesty, fakeness, and confusion along with chaos and conflict based on misunderstanding. If we learn to let the shadow come out, not only do we become more authentic, we also learn ways to turn it into something positive and let others see the true us and be able to make choices as to how they want to interact. Shadow transformation is possible only after admitting that there is such a thing, and it also makes us complete if we know how to work with it.

In the end, be yourself and learn what your complete self really is and you will be amazed how much positive you can do. Also, stop wanting to control and judge other people who are seemingly suffering, or their life. And remember that an ignorant and egoistic help is sometimes much worse than no help, as it can add to the problem in the long run.