By Eran Magen
You open yourself up to the pain of others, in order to be a comforting presence in the middle of a terrible experience. It helps them, and it drains you. It is exhausting to experience so much secondhand suffering. Over time, it sucks the color out of your own life, leaves you depleted, less able to connect with the next person and to enjoy your own life.
Compassion fatigue. Whether it’s the compassion in us that gets fatigued, or the fatigue caused because of compassion, the phrase rings true. Sometimes, compassion fatigue results in a growing internal resistance to witnessing the suffering of others. We avoid seeing them, hearing them, smelling them; and when we must, we avoid considering their suffering with any depth. We become numb to it, and witnessing the agony of someone else stirs no greater a reaction in us than seeing a pebble fall and strike a rock. Our own joy becomes flatter, duller. We avoid the pain by blunting our ability to feel, and it becomes harder and harder to see the good and to believe in it.
Compassion fatigue is a form of depletion. Depletion happens when the rate of drain is greater than the rate of replenishment. So there are two things to do: Drain less, recharge more.
Connecting with the suffering of others is draining, and more so when we are more emotionally merged with the person we are supporting. On the spectrum that runs from “Totally Separate” to “Totally Read More »