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Discovering Empathy

Empathy Can Hurt You! Compassion Heals

compassionhealsJeffrey Walker

Chairman at MDG Health Alliance - Community Health Workers

Empathy can hurt you and is a state that someone cannot remain in and be healthy. Compassion can be an ever giving, joyful, state of being.

So say several great thinkers of our day: Roshi Joan Halifax of Upaya and Matthieu Ricard, Buddhist Monk, author and advisor to the Dalai Lama. An empathetic state is seen as de-energizing and a compassionate state is seen as ever-energizing.

In a number of schools training for care givers and aid workers is being focused on moving them out of empathetic states that tend to lead to PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) into more balanced compassionate states.

Roshi Joan Halifax, at Upaya, says:

"Compassion is considered to be:

  • The capacity to attend to the experience of others
  • To feel concern for others
  • To sense what will serve others
  • Potentially to be able to be of service

There is an important distinction between empathy and compassion.

  • Empathy: “Feeling with”—vicariously sharing the same feeling with another.
  • Compassion: “Feeling for” another: but not necessarily taking it on."

Thoughts? Is having empathy harmful to the individual feeling it?

How can we train compassion? Where should it be done, schools, business?