Compassionate Love: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness (c)2015 Nancy Virden
Yeah. It was 2:16 pm exactly, on Valentine’s Day, when the idea for this post came to mind. I was writing a sequel to my most viewed and shared article, Is Watching Porn Emotional Abuse, and basically decided it was in my best interest to stop. The research alone is ugly; my mood was getting uglier.
“Write a fluff story” popped into my head and I’m running with it. This is a safer exercise for all concerned.
When my oldest son was about six years old, he joined a boy scout-like program where he was told to choose an animal name for his badge. If anyone had asked, I would have guessed he would write Tiger or some such fierce creature. I was surprised when “Fluffy Lamb” came home, proudly holding out his name tag.
In some bizarre design twist I can no longer explain, a basket of freshly shorn wool sat in the corner of our living room. This same son thought it would be fun to bury his face in it. This was not so entertaining after all when his skin broke out into itchy hives. “Fluffy Lamb” is allergic to the real stuff.
Research on love has resurged as of the last few decades or so. One reason is that psychologists like to fix people, and studying love will presumably help us understand how to do it better, ultimately affecting treatment and the success of relationships.
Maybe that sounds like a lot of fluff to you. I thought so. Then I read Two Types of Love: Compassionate and Passionate and learned I was right. Essentially, research has discovered that being kind and caring is different from being hot and heavy. This is a truth I grew up hearing in church.
It has to be discussed though, because while we all enjoy the idea of compassionate love, some people seem allergic to it. I suspect that’s because it is a lot easier to receive than to give. “I don’t have time,” “I worked all day,” “I’m not letting them dip into my pocketbook!” seem reasonable.
It’s not “normal” in our American society to reach past oneself and do for others on more than a superficial scale. People tend to look at me like I’m an alien and worry for my self-esteem when I freely give away my stuff. When I give of my time, some remarks sound as if they think I’ve done something heroic.
Compassion. It’s a feeling, but can lead to making a real difference in the world when followed by action. Some “fluffy” famous persons were known to act on compassion. Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Theresa, and Jesus were a few.
We generally do not like the idea of being living sacrifices. Yet even more research tells us that acting on compassion makes us healthier both physically and mentally. Putting forward the best interests of others strengthens our resiliency to stress.
Behaving with compassion is an acquired skill. It can be taught. Like any other lesson, the student has to want it. Motivation to practice has to come from somewhere. A few terrific ideas are described in better detail in an article on another website. My paraphrase:
- Search for what you and the other person share in common
- Do not fear being negatively affected
- Look at the story instead of stats.
- Focus on the need; blaming lets us feel superior and show less tenderness and concern
- Trust you are capable of making a difference
- Notice and savor how good it feels to act in compassion
- Don’t be a sponge or doormat; you matter too
Do we want this challenge? We might want to wear a fluffy “good person” badge, but compassionate love is apparently very costly.
Sorry, I promised you a fluffy post. Maybe next time.
NOTE: I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental health care.
If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help is yours.
*pictures from qualitystockphotos.com