We sometimes understand that compassion is a quality that makes us vulnerable, Condescending with what we are, with what happens to us. Something like “running away from school”. Therefore, stopping to think of a compassionate person may conjure up images of fragile or weak people.
In the dictionary we can find the definition of compassion as a feeling of sadness which produces to see someone in suffering and which prompts us to alleviate their pain, suffering or to remedy or avoid it in some sense. But it’s really not just that.
The importance of compassion
In reality, compassion is not a feeling that is necessarily identified with sadness, But rather with feelings of courage, courage and respect for ourselves and others. It goes beyond our primary instincts.
In fact, for one of the world’s pioneers in self-compassion research (Kristin Neff, 2003), compassion for ourselves is based on:
- Being aware of and being open to our own suffering
- Be kind and don’t condemn us
- Be aware of sharing experiences of suffering with others, rather than being embarrassing or feeling alone, showing our common openness to humanity.
Outraged, Compassion-Centered Therapy (CFT) designed by British psychologist Paul Gilbert, It was designed for people who had complex and chronic mental issues resulting from self-criticism, shame and also from conflicting environments.
Having said that, it seems then that not being ashamed of what we think and feel about ourselves is one of the things that makes us brave and courageous.. But there is a lot more behind compassion.
Emotional regulation systems
Research suggests that our brains contain at least three emotional regulatory systems to respond to things we perceive from the following systems (Paul Gilbert, 2009):
1. Threat and self-protection system
This system is responsible for detecting and react quickly to struggle, flee, become paralyzed or cope with a situation, because of anxiety, anger or disgust. The fear of being damaged in one way or another would be their main fuel.
When this system is more activated than others, we are often in contact with the world and the people around us who seek protection and security against possible threats to our physical or mental integrity. As if we were in danger.
For better or for worse, it’s a primitive system that prioritize threats over beautiful things (Baumeister, Bratlavsky, Finkenauer & Vhons, 2001), and it is clear that in the days when we lived surrounded by beasts willing to devour, this was very useful to us.
2. System for activating incentives and seeking resources
This system tries to offer us feelings that drive us to gain resources to be able to survive, thrive and meet our basic needs as human beings (Depue and Morrone- Strupinsky, 2005)
It is a system that seeks to feel rewarded with things like sex, food, friendships, recognition or comfort that activates the threat and protection system when, for whatever reason, we are prevented from realizing. these things.
In other words, this system helps and motivates us to meet our basic vital needs as social beings, but sometimes an excess of it can lead us to desire goals that we cannot achieve and to disconnect from it. what we do. (Gilbert, 1984; Klinger 1977). Therefore, we can feel frustrated, sad and overwhelmed when we feel that we are getting as involved as possible in our work or our projects and that things are not going as planned.
3. System of comfort, satisfaction and security
this system it helps us provide peace of mind and balance our lives. When animals do not have to defend themselves against threats or necessarily accomplish something, they can be content (Depue and Morrone-Strupinsky, 2005).
This system arouses feelings of satisfaction and security to make us feel that we don’t need to fight to get something. It is an inner peace that generates feelings of lack of need and increases connection with others.
Training in this system can make us compassionate people and can be very effective for our well-being.
The kindness, tranquility and security that we can perceive from our surroundings towards ourselves act on the brain systems which are also associated with feelings of satisfaction and joy generated by hormones called endorphins.
Oxytocin is another hormone related (along with enforphins) to the sense of security in social relationships that makes us feel loved, wanted and assured of others (Carter, 1998; Wang, 2005).
In fact, there is growing evidence that oxytocin is linked to social support and reduces stress, And that people with low levels of it exhibit high levels of stress response (Heinrichs, Baumgatner, Kirschbaum, Ehlert, 2003).
Why does being compassionate require courage and bravery?
Therefore, be courageous when it comes to building relationships with the world around us, building relationships, being open, not rejecting or avoiding, or pretending to care. in the lives of others, may be related to feeling good about yourself and it can also prevent the development of psychological pathologies in the future. Whether we like it or not, we are and remain social beings. And that’s where compassion would come in.
That is, thanks to this system of comfort, security and satisfaction, we can train ourselves to develop the qualities of compassion and not to be carried away by primary instincts which seek to satisfy our desires at all times. and our unmet needs. But for the latter, large doses of courage and bravery are needed.
Large doses of courage and courage in the sense of being able to recognize oneself that in terms of well-being, it is sometimes better to give up what one wants (to let oneself lead by systems based on the threat or the realization ), to give priority to what we really value (system of comfort, satisfaction and safety).
- Baumeister, RF; Bratslavski, E; Finkeneauesr, C. and Vohs, KD (2001) “Bad is strong tan Good”, Review of General Psychology, 5: 323-370.
- Carter, CS (1998) “Neuroendocrine Perspectives on Social Affection and Love,” Psychoneuroendocrinology, 23: 779–818.
- Depue, RA and Morrone-Strupinsky, JV (2005) “A neuroconductive model of affiliate binding”, Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 28: 315–395.
- Gilbert, P. (1984) Depression: From Psychology to Brain State. London: Lawrence Erbaum Associates Inc.
- Heinrichs, M .; Baumgartner, T .; Kirschbaum, C. and Ehlert, U. (2003) “Social support and oxytocin interact to suppress cortisol and the subjective response to psychosocial stress”, Biological Psychiatry, 54: 1389-1398.
- Wang, S. (2005). “A Conceptual Framework for the Integration of Research Related to the Physiology of Compassion and the Wisdom of Buddhist Teachings” in P. Gilbert (Ed.), Compassion: Conceptualizations, Research and Use in Psychotherapy (pp. 75-120 ). London: Bruner. Routledge.