A distressing common strand of our lives today is that we are tired, bone tired. Many people that I speak to complain about how fatigued they are. The circumstances of the past months have contributed to an exhausted populous stuck in affective empathy. Feeling so deeply, empaths (we) get stuck in emotions of angst, sorrow, and suffering. So mired in these draining feelings, empaths (we) are unable to use the power of awareness to move from empathy to compassion.
But, affective empathy results in the inability to be the lights of compassion to the self and the world. Without adequate compassion, the suffering in our self and the world increases. We are overwhelmed by all the emotions, and they trap us. We get stuck in a downward spiral of compassion fatigue. Awareness is key to reversing the downward spiral to an empowering spiral of compassionate and peace.
We stop the downward spiral when we are aware our self and the emotions that triggered our current condition. Until we can quiet, to some degree, the tumult inside our self, we are not even capable of naming what is at the root of our fatigue. Once we name the roots, we gain the power to reverse the spiral from compassion fatigue to empowering compassionate presence.
Until we are a compassionate presence for our self, we cannot be a calming presence for others. Instead, we feed off of the angst, fear, and suffering of another. And, they feel off our ours. We do our work so that we can do the work of the world. That work is compassion. We begin by intentionally listening to the four aspects of our self — body, mind, spirit, and heart.
Really listen. Listen to the words, their tone, feel your body. Through open minded reflection upon what is heard, you notice the maelstrom of emotions that you react from. Perhaps you feel fear that manifests as anger or you are anxious and are brusque in your interactions. Once you are aware of your internal maelstrom and its impact not only on yourself but also on others, notice how others are caught up in theirs. Then notice how your state of being contributes to the collective chaos.
Instead of blaming and shaming yourself as the source of your fatigue, gently ask, “What do I need?” Listen to the voice of your body, mind, spirit, and heart. However you need to be self compassionate, do it. Give yourself the grace of self care. Unless you are relatively angst free and aware of your fears, you are unable to help others.
After you have begun to alleviate your compassion fatigue, pay attention to how others experience suffering. Really be aware of the tumult. While it is difficult to “put yourself in another’s shoes,” you can befriend them in their moment of suffering. Be present to them. Listen with our body, mind, spirit, heart. Give them what they need — not what you think they need or what you want to give them. Compassion might take the form of gentle listening, a hug, assisting them in securing resources. There is no limit to your compassion.
Say that — “There is no limit to my compassion.” Let it sink into your being. Feel it resonate into your cells. Make it a somatic knowing. Know that when you believe that there are no limits, compassion echoes in all your actions, all your words, and even your thoughts. You waken to the knowing that you are an emissary of compassion.
Maybe I am a dreamer. (I hope I am not the only one.) I am a dreamer who is fatigued by a waking nightmare of dissension, polarization, othering, and unspeakable suffering. I am a dreamer who believes in the absolute, transformative power of compassion. I am a dreamer. Will you dream with me?
Vanessa F. Hurst, ms, is a Mindful Coach, Compassion Consultant, Professional Speaker, and Author who weaves her inner wisdom into all she touches. Vanessa offers Neural Synchrony™ sessions to assist clients in navigating their life paths with intuition. Contact Vanessa @ firstname.lastname@example.org
Her books are A Constellation of Connections: Contemplative Relationships and Engaging Compassion Through Intent & Action.