Depression, Anxiety & Compassion

April 19, 2019 | By Colin | Filed in: Musings and Ideas for Discussion, Thought Leadership.

Depression, Anxiety and Compassion.

Finding YourselfCompassion, according to the dictionary (literally “to suffer together”) is: sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others.

Positive Emotion

If someone shows kindness, caring, and a willingness to help others, they're showing compassion. This is a word for a very positive emotion that has to do with being thoughtful and decent. Giving to a charity takes compassion. When you feel compassion for someone, you really want to help out.

Compassion is External

Compassion is something you feel for others or they feel for you. It is, by definition therefore, external to you, or to any person receiving it. That being the case it can not be expected or wished for. And to believe that others OWE you compassion, because of your internal sufferings, is allowing yourself to become a victim of circumstances, a martyr - instead of taking control of your own emotional destiny.

Parallel

At the risk of trivializing the issues of anxiety and depression, which I do not wish to do (I have been there in both cases, and it wasn’t pretty), I would like to draw a parallel for us to think about.

Imagine you were chopping meat or veges for tonight’s dinner (as I was when this thought came to me), and the very sharp knife slips and gives you a really deep and nasty cut to the top of your index finger. Off you go to the hospital. The top of your finger has gone to – wherever these things go when they can’t be saved. (This part is not true!)

Home

After many injections of pain-killers, anti-biotics and stitches as far as they were possible, you are sent home with a huge bandage, a sling and a large number of appointments for plastic surgery follow-ups to reconstruct the tip of your finger.

This injury hurts like hell, makes it extremely difficult to do many of the normal things concerned with family life, and will be with you for the rest of your days. A disfigurement you will carry to your grave no matter what the surgeon does to bring things back to normal.

Hiccough

Dinner is handed off to someone else for this night and a few nights until the pain and swelling become manageable. Then you get on with things. You would, wouldn’t you? This is a hiccough – not a final curtain. You talk about it a bit, well a LOT at first, and answer the many questions, “Yep. Cut the top off. Served it up in the stew, didn’t I?”

Then you more-or-less forget about it and move on. It never goes away, but it does not remain debilitating. You don’t focus on the flat top of your finger, or the few bibs and bobs you need to do differently because of the lack of a finger-tip.

Compassion

You cannot expect people to continue to say how sorry they are for your accident, nor do you think about, nor talk about it all the time. It is just there. You get on with living. You overcome the obstacles, and become the person you need to be, to have and to do the things you want in life.

Easy

Easy. Nope. Not easy at all, the pain can rise up when least expected if you accidentally bang the top of that particular digit, and there are a myriad of things you’d never imagine that rely on finger-tips, especially of the index finger of your dominant hand. But you carry on.

Positive Thinking

Let’s not push the metaphor too far, but finally I want to take a quick look at the positive thinking mantras of a lot of gurus. I don’t believe any one of them suggest that you ignore or deny your feelings, or the existence of bad things, days etc, but what they do say is “You get what you focus on”, so why not focus on the good stuff, the positive stuff and accept that the bad stuff is there, but doesn’t need to define you? Why not do that? Denying your feelings doesn't make them go away. It is not helpful. But nor is focusing on them.

It does not serve you to dwell on them either. Focusing on negative feelings to the exclusion of all else WILL exacerbate these feelings. That is NOT healthy.

Listening

Often a sympathetic, compassionate, listening ear can become empowering in the wrong way. “Gee, if I talk about my problems, people listen.” But that doesn’t really help does it? At the end of the conversation your focus on your issues of depression and anxiety is even larger. And, You get what you focus on”. Have I said that enough?

Advice is not needed, either. Doesn’t help. Friendship might help, but if it is NEEDED, then there is an issue with your own self-love. This for another time?

Conclusion

Finally, feelings of alienation in a depressed or anxious person come from inside you. No one can alienate you. Only you can do that. Choose not to be that person.

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2 comments on “Depression, Anxiety & Compassion

  1. Patrick says:

    I read your article with great interest.

    I agree with a lot of what yiu say. However, I feel that you place most of the focus on the person who is suffering and that ultimately it is up to them to pull themselves together.
    If this were the case, there would be a hell of a lot less people suffering from anxiety and depression.

    I would have liked to hear more about how others’ empathy and compassion can help the suffering person in their journey to become whole again, at the very least develop techniques to deal with their anxiety and stress.

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