How to Develop Compassion: A Fundamental Tool for Relationships

Compassion is sensitivity to the suffering of self and others. Its purpose goes beyond comprehension, which is why it mobilizes the individual towards a commitment to alleviate and prevent such discomfort.

Still necessary, compassion is not well viewed socially. For many, it arouses conflicting emotions and becomes an unpleasant feeling. Rejecting the possibility of feeling it in the first person and making others feel it deprives the individual of a basic tool for his emotional balance.

How to develop compassion

This week, Pilar hurtado, Collaborating physician of Mensalus Institute for psychological and psychiatric assistance, Presents compassion to us as a fundamental tool in our personal relationships and encourages us to receive it out of love for ourselves and for others.

In fact, for many, the concept of compassion has a negative connotation (“I don’t want them to feel compassion for me”). Why is it so complicated to integrate this concept?

Yes, this is a very common phrase. It is true that by our Judeo-Christian roots, compassion is not well seen, it seems to underestimate or despise those who suffer. However, compassion, from a Buddhist point of view, is the love and affection from which one listens to one’s pain and the pain of others, it is the sensitivity to suffering, with the commitment to alleviate and prevent -lo. Its essence is far from prejudice, contempt or invalidation, and is directly related to motivation and love.

In other words. It is a behavior aimed at producing well-being for the patient (it is repeated, either oneself or another person). In fact, compassion is a necessary tool to achieve personal calm. Otherwise, we would be continually plunged into a duel of titans.


For a double war: the struggle between the different states / faces of the self (“I blame myself for”) and the struggle of oneself against the world (“I blame others for”). Of course, living like this is exhausting. Therefore, compassion provides a state of peace and tranquility from which we obtain the basic well-being to open up to other contexts, improve our personal relationships, and feel fulfilled.

What else does self-compassion involve?

Self-compassion refers to the loving treatment we give ourselves when things are not going well for us and, as a result, shame and self-criticism surface. Self-compassion is an act of personal listening that sets aside guilty thoughts to promote respect. It is a clear sign of self-care.

Its structure is very complete. If we break it down, we find an emotional component, a cognitive component, and a behavioral component. The balance between these three elements is what makes it an effective tool.

Tell us more …

First, compassion is an emotion that arises from the perception of the suffering of others and which elicits an impulse to alleviate the suffering that we perceive. On the other hand, it involves a cognitive component made up of several facets: attention to the suffering of others, the evaluation / analysis of this suffering, and the recognition of our capacities to intervene and relieve it effectively. Finally, compassion is also defined by a behavioral component that responds to the commitment and decision to take action to eliminate suffering.

Differences between compassion, self-esteem and empathy

Are compassion and empathy the same?

It’s easy to confuse compassion with empathy. Empathy is the ability to put yourself in another person’s shoes, it is the ability to understand and respect their thoughts, feelings and behavior. Being empathetic means intellectually understanding the suffering of others.

Good. Compassion is a bit more. Compassion differs from empathy because, in addition to understanding the perceived suffering, it awakens an impulse to carry out an action that deals with that suffering wisely.

Compassionate action can neutralize the cause of suffering, but its main motivation is to accompany the pain with courage and strength while being present. As we have underlined, it is about a mobilizing feeling: it seeks care and attention.

And what is the difference between self-compassion and self-esteem?

Self-esteem increases when we do things right. Self-compassion refers to how we see ourselves and deal with (the way we relate to ourselves) when things haven’t gone well for us. With it is cultivated a relationship of acceptance and not judgment towards us (whether we succeed or fail).

Self-compassion is one of the fundamental ingredients of a positive self-conception and, with it, self-esteem. Without self-compassion, will we take care of ourselves out of love and affection?

A way to live more authentic relationships

In general, how can we develop compassion?

At the individual level, meditation is perfect for developing this ability. Also, experiencing the compassion and impact that it generates through group work is certainly another great way.

In recent years, various compassion training programs have been created for oneself and for others (both in the general population and in the population with mental illness). The results showed a reduction in anxiety, anger, hostility and depression in the participants, as well as an increase in the capacity for mindfulness (mindfulness).

Specifically, Paul Gilbert (2015) developed Compassion-Centered Therapy (CFT) from an evolutionary perspective and an emotional regulation model for people with a high degree of shame and self-criticism.

Gilbert tells us that in order to develop compassion it is necessary to practice mindfulness of the suffering of the other. This is one of the first points to train. From there, it is possible to show empathy in order to intellectually understand their suffering. Finally, as we have explained, taking a new step results in the design and implementation of behaviors that seek to alleviate the perceived suffering. These are behaviors that can be aimed at finding physical contact and / or conveying a message of, “I care and care about your pain.”

For all of this, it is interesting to investigate our personal experience and foster confidence in our wisdom in a safe space. Group work provides this space.

What would you say to all those people reading this interview who initially feel uncomfortable with compassion?

The practice of compassion offers an internal dialogue with therapeutic power capable of alleviating suffering and increasing happiness regardless of external circumstances. Compassion training creates a balance that, from the outside, is difficult to understand.

For this reason, I encourage all these readers who fear compassion to do a work of introspection that brings them closer answers, and I invite them to give themselves the opportunity to grow this essential tool of personal relationships, far away. of the. and criticism.

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