What is the ripple effect of your emotional bearing?

Cynthia (pseudonym) came to me in a state of inconsolable distress over an act of cruelty that she had seen on television. She recalled how the images haunted her every waking hour and how she felt utterly distraught.

The event that had so appalled her had taken place on the other side of the world. Besides the fact that it had already happened, it was something about which she could do nothing. However, her ensuing suffering had consumed her with the ripple effect spilling over to her family.

When we become overly sensitive we tend to soak up all the misery and suffering around us which in turn renders us weak and powerless. Difficult as it may be to maintain compassion with distance, it is important to realise that the flood of subsequent thoughts about the issues that initially disturb us, has been generated by ourselves.

If we keep up an internal monologue wishing for different versions of what has happened, we are not accepting reality, which is futile.

I am not saying that we must numb ourselves to the suffering of others and resist feeling, but rather allow the feeling to pass through us without adding to it. If you can do something to improve a situation, then do so through the power of compassion which does not include fear or pity.

A version of the Buddhist meaning of compassion is ‘to see clearly into the nature of the suffering by standing strong, being fully present and not attaching to outcome.’

You cannot help to alleviate the suffering of others by internalising their pain. Borrowing suffering compromises your ability to help. No matter how small your contribution towards the good of humanity may be, it’s a start in the direction of empowerment.

“Pain is inevitable, joy is available, suffering is optional – but you’ll have to provide it for yourself.” ~ Dalai Lama


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