According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the word “compassion” stems from the Latin word “compati” meaning “to suffer with”. Compassion (or the ability to be compassionate) involves feeling or emotion for a person who suffers and having the desire to help them. Some related constructs to compassion include empathy, kindness, warmth and care.

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In the psychology space, compassion is about the way we relate to our clients. It involves connecting with the client and their interpretation of events, challenges and needs, helping them to feel heard and understood. It is also about showing a genuine interest in the client and being sensitive to all aspects of their needs.

Compassion is also about “us” as the therapist and the way we relate to ourselves. At times, a client may throw a curveball our way and we find our “inner critic” broiling in our minds. Becoming lost in our loud thoughts that push us around into disconnection from our clients.

Difficult experiences can trigger all sorts of unpleasant emotions such as fear, anger, hopelessness and shame, leaving us feeling alone and isolated. Our first instinct is often to turn away, to avoid the pain, to react in a way that we think protects and distances ourselves. In our culture, it is easy to think that we can avoid the pain and suffering by attempting to divert attention from the harsh realities. However this further pushes us into loneliness and disconnection from others.

While it may be a natural response to run away and avoid these difficult emotions, we can learn to embrace the pain and suffering with awareness and non-judgment, allowing ourselves to notice the discomfort and respond to it with kindness. For many of us, this takes constant effort and practice. However being present during such difficult experiences provides an opportunity to open up and connect with ourselves and others.

Compassion is not simply noticing and accepting. It also requires the practice of forgiveness, kindness and gratitude. This is the essence to heal and open hearts to love, as well as strengthen and build capacity for warmth and understanding.

- Anita Srbjakoska: Child and Adolescent Psychologist at Fostering Hope Psychology

To book an appointment with Anita or to find out more about the way we can help you, please call 0420 320 322 or email info@fosteringhope.com.au

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