Sunday, November 8, 2009

Why Be Compassionate?

What is compassion? Why do we need to feel compassion toward our partner? What happens to us when we are not compassionate?

Compassion is something we feel inside. It is an emotion. It is what it feels like to look at our partner, who has behaved in an uncaring manner, and feel for the loss of self esteem they experience as a result, rather than reacting to the perceived hurt. It means that we give our partner the benefit of the doubt when they behave in ways that may give us pause.

When we are in a committed relationship there will be times when we become irritated with our partner. If we do not deal with these minor irritations in productive ways... effective communication... dialogue... compromise... over time we may become angry and resentful. When we move toward anger we move away from compassion. We begin to see the world in a myopic manner, viewing our own emotions and excluding all else. We may forget that our partner has feelings. When our anger takes over and we focus exclusively on our own feelings we lose our ability to feel compassion. We forget that there are two viewpoints to every situation.

Should we lose our ability to feel compassion, we appear calloused and insensitive toward our partner. This adds nothing but fuel to the fire. Our partner interprets our actions as justification for their own behavior. We have allowed our reaction to create an itch scratch scenario. It no longer matters who instigated the problem, we are now involved in a circular pattern of reactions that continues to feed off itself.

When experiencing strong emotions, as a result of the uncaring behavior of our partner, we may be triggered due to unresolved issues related to our family of origin. These strong emotions may be exaggerated due to our childhood issues. This may lead us to employ defense mechanisms designed to protect us from feeling the fear generated by our early childhood experiences. Although these defenses worked well to ensure our survival during our interactions with our family of origin, they may be hampering our adult interactions with our partner.

We choose to respond rather than react. We realize that our partner may be feeling virtually the same emotions. They too have feelings and may be hurt or upset. We take a deep breath, center ourselves and consider how we appear from their point of view. We then respond with compassion, letting go of our need to defend ourselves against our fear.

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