Compassion Fatigue

By Phil Towle, 28 March 2011

Today is the third and final installment of a three-part series on “compassion fatigue,” a “disease” that we’re all supposedly “suffering” from in the wake of earthquakes, tsunamis and other crises that compel us to care about others, to the point of “exhaustion”. In case you haven’t read parts one and two, they’re posted below. If you have, you can read again or fast forward down to part three.

Compassion Fatigue, Part One: The Fiction Of “Compassion Fatigue…”.

“Another well meaning behavioral ‘diagnosis’ has been handed down…Its purpose to identify an apparent psychological problem…Yet, for many, just one more opportunity for excusing ourselves!…. ‘Compassion fatigue’ is the latest to discourage responsibility!”

PT, March 2011

“Compassion Fatigue” gives fresh meaning to…
“Giving till we (actually do) hurt”…
Exhausting ourselves from “excessive” caring…
“Too much” giving to others at our expense…

Thankfully diagnosed,
In the nick of time…
Before this insidious “disease”…
Wipes out all semblance of our superior society,
Built upon righteousness of self serving…

Can you imagine what crises we would face…
If our entire population became infected,
By an epidemic of selfless care giving…?
OMG! What would happen
To our sacred American values…?

I dare you to find the word
“You”… in “America!”
Aha!
And, what about “me” and “I”…?

What would we stand for, if not…
Our fundamental principles of
“Me(a)ness”,
“Taking…”
Especially taking advantage…
To the point of indifference, apathy,
And genuine lack of concern…

Can you imagine how long we would last,
If we spent a large portion
Of our best time and effort
Looking after one another,
Till we got sick from ‘compassion fatigue’?

Man, I’ve got to pull myself together,
Get my head back on straight….
Steer my heart back to
Where my love really needs me,

Making sure….
I’m ok…

I mean I’d like to help you,
But, please see this from my perspective…
If I were to expose my ego
To the pathology of humanitarianism,
There just won’t be anything left of me
To help you…
Any way….

Compassion Fatigue, Part Two: How I Overcame “Compassion Fatigue.”

“No wonder I’ve been feeling exhausted…and, I thought I was sick and tired of US selling out our collective soul…to greed, coldheartedness, maltreatment and disregard of one another’s needs…Now, I come to find out that I’m wiped out because I’ve been over doing my compassion…! And, I worried I wasn’t giving enough….?”

PT, March 2011

“Sorry maam!
I can see you’re struggling…
I really would like to help you and your little girl…
But, I’m afraid I can’t…
You see, ‘Doc’ says I have a bad case of ‘CF’…

You haven’t heard of Compassion Fatigue’?
An awful lot of it going around lately…

I wish I could even act like I care about you,
But, God only knows
What illness this could lead to…

You see…
Apparently, we’ve been experiencing
Severe side effects
From careless people,
Showing way too much empathy…
For those in need …

In direct defiance of
What has made our United States!
What it is today….

You know,
Taking care of those whose only need,
Is to continue taking from everyone else…
‘Cause that’s what really keeps us successful…

About this embarrassing ‘caring’ crusade…?
It was bad enough when we called it ‘caretaking’…
At least that ‘care’ word ends in what we do best…

But, wouldn’t you know,
Right under our upturned noses,
Caretaking has morphed into
Care giving!
And, giving has obviously
Spawned its own deadly life form…

Well, thank God,
Or, is it my doctor…?

We caught my compassion fatigue
Before I really got sick…”

……………………..

“So, Doc!
What do I do to heal my CF?”

Turn down any opportunity
For any act of kindness…?
Gotcha!
When confronting someone who needs help,
Turn my other ‘other’ cheek…?
Check!
When experiencing symptoms of compassion…
Turn on an episode of ‘Jersey Shore’…?
Yeeeech! That’s serious bad medicine, Doc!…

Absolutely no humanitarian thoughts or actions…?
And, if I desperately need a compassion fix…
Make sure I give…
With several conditions attached…?
Thanks, Doc!
One last favor…
“How close are we to developing an apathy pill?”

Doctor: “I don’t know…
And, I could care less!”

Compassion Fatigue, Part Three: The Pathology Of Compassion?

“Scary thought! Too much compassion for others is dangerous…? How come this actually long standing diagnosis is NOW becoming fashionable? And, how in the heck do we start treating this “pathology” at a time when we most need to take good care of one another?”

PT, March 2011

“Compassion Fatigue” is an increasingly popularized “diagnosis” of those wearing out, from ostensibly giving too much of themselves…

“CF” does call deserved attention to our professional and volunteer service workers, often underpaid and under appreciated…
Who have understandable difficulties balancing their over giving with under nourishing…
Inside a society, consumed with exercising their “taking” reflex…

However, the implication that even excessive compassion is somehow pathological…
And, therefore that we ought to pull back from our care giving…
Deserves very careful scrutiny…
Especially at this time of humankind’s critical need
For more and better physical, emotional, mental and spiritual “first aid…”

My take is that:
Compassion Fatigue is less the result of giving too much,
And, more about where the giving comes from…

My truth is:
That I give “too much,”
When subconsciously (or consciously)
Trying to fill my own need…
To be wanted or needed…
Thus, investing more than my share
So that you are somehow beholden to me…
Like me and/or appreciate me more…

While, my increased “saintliness,”
“Medicates” my feared unworthiness, guilt, or shame…

……………………..

I notice that when confident and self loving…
I am generous… without conditions,
Without expectations…
Essentially tireless…
Boundless in goodness…
Actually reenergized by acts of charity,
Guaranteed to refuel my spirit…
Dramatically reducing any “requirement” for rest or recuperation…

However, when I think I’m obligated to do something for someone…
I bring along my own burden of discontent…
Clearly contaminating my compassion…
So that my poisoned attitude,
Not you, nor your need…
Is responsible for my stress…

Compassion has nothing to do with my fatigue!

Though it makes good sense that the quality of our giving depends upon how well we take care of us…
Mother Theresa, Gandhi, the Dalai Lama…
And, countless role models of compassion, of less notoriety amongst us,
Would confidently offer that giving to our fellow man,
Is fulfillment within itself,
Not to mention our inherent spiritual obligation…
To be delivered joyfully
Precisely because…
Nothing is expected in return…

And, why not?
Unconditional love is intrinsic to our human nature…
There is none of you who have not rejoiced
At the unsurpassed pleasure you’ve “received”
From your gift of giving…

Compassion toward our fellow man
Is more than blessing enough…
It doesn’t take organized religion or its spokespersons to remind us of what we already know…
And, if any remaining doubts…
All we need do is ask ourselves:

“While she was indeed many times exhausted from her tireless effort…

Did ‘mom’ ever complain of compassion fatigue?

___________________

Copyrighted work published at PhilTowle.com, republished with permission.

“Phil Towle is an internationally acknowledged ‘Performance Coach” who mentors excellence in sport, entertainment and business…” Find more of his creativity and guidance at philtowle.com