the dark side of compassion — and how you can help

in #compassion6 years ago


“person holding white printer paper” by Sydney Sims on Unsplash

Do you have a friend who works as a caregiver, a disaster relief volunteer or a healthcare professional?

If yes, your friend is heavily exposed to “Compassion Fatigue” — the dark side of compassion. You play a big role in helping your friend from falling into the pits of “Compassion Fatigue” so she won’t lose her compassion and empathy. This is a result of prolonged exposure to disaster, trauma and “bad news”.

“Bad news” include accidents, bloody scenes/wounds, sufferings and anything else along these lines, you’all know.

How can you help your dear friend who might be suffering “Compassion Fatigue”?

“Compassion Fatigue” has many names — collapse of compassion, secondary traumatic stress, and disaster fatigue. Here’s a one-liner to describe “Compassion Fatigue” (derived from my understanding of different sources),

“A state of tension towards sufferings as a result of constant exposure of disaster, sufferings and traumatic events.”

If your friend is particularly empathetic and kind, her line of work exposes her to a lot of sufferings that might stress her out emotionally and physically, eventually became totally numb. You have a role to play in supporting her to thrive in her career and regain her compassion.


“women's red scoop-neck top” by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

Well, first. How to find out if your friend is affected by “Compassion Fatigue”?

Your friend will exhibit a few of these behaviors so keep a lookout on her,

  • Blames others excessively
  • Isolates herself from you and others
  • Keeps everything to herself, refusing to express her feelings
  • Using substance abuse such as drugs and alcohols to numb her pain
  • Always complains about her administration and management functions
  • Behave compulsively — overeating, overspending, sexual addictions, gambling
  • Doesn’t take care of her appearance and hygiene
  • Experience repeated nightmares and flashbacks of traumatic events
  • No longer finds anything pleasurable to do, inability to have fun
  • Always tired, mentally and physically
  • Denies she has problems

These are all behaviors that you can catch if you pay enough attention to your friend. Remember, if she’s denying she has problems she’ll never seek help. I humbly ask of you to extend your help unconditionally even if she rejects you because denial is just one of the many symptoms.

If you’ve locked on a friend who is behaving like what I wrote earlier, now you need to equip yourself with the knowledge and skills to bring back her compassion and herself.

If you’re suspicious but not too sure, ask your friend to do these 3 tests to help you identify.

How do you help a friend who is suffering from “Compassion Fatigue”?

There is always something that you can do to help those around you — Tifa Ong

Share what “Compassion Fatigue” is to your friend. Awareness is the first step to healing.

  • Offer to listen to her feelings and validate her existence. This could be difficult for you, but I have a few tricks up my sleeve that I always use — Focus on emotions (not complaints) and accept everything she says as information. Ask questions that dive deeper into her emotions such as “What is it that’s making you feel this way?”
  • Ask for her needs
  • Bring her to a professional therapist if nothing improves.

There is an extent to how much you can help. With your support, her self-heal journey will be a lot easier.

What can your friend do to heal herself?

Healing oneself is supported by three pillars — Self, Family & Friends, and Environment — Tifa Ong

You’ve covered one of the big pillars, Family & Friends. Now, your friend gotta do her part as well.


“woman wearing white and black shirt jumping near seashore” by Artem Bali on Unsplash

  • Take a break (if severe, long break) and get out of the workplace. Go somewhere that she’s always wanted to go and tear her mind away from traumatic events.
  • Be open to express her feelings and information to you.
  • Set a personal boundary, between work and personal life. After work, do something that she loves and enjoys.
  • Be present in the now. Leave any sufferings and traumatic events she’s encountered yesterday and start a new fresh day today. Just as John C. Maxwell said “Yesterday ended last night”.

I was shocked when I first heard of compassion fatigue. I guess there is a limit to how much compassion and empathy a human can give. I’d imagine compassion and empathy like a tank of water. For every compassion and empathy felt, it’s like pouring the water out to a few cups, aka people who are suffering. When it’s empty yet you’re still trying to pour out “something”, it turns its back to the owner. As a result, compassion fatigue comes in.

The good news is, compassion fatigue is 100% curable and avoidable with awareness, preventive steps and good support from friends and environment. You are now aware, equipped with steps and mentality to support. I wish you all the perseverance and strength you need to continually support her.

Share your experiences with someone who had “Compassion Fatigue” and how you dealt with it here.

Your words have power to help others in ways you’ll never expect. — Tifa Ong

Sources:
http://www.compassionfatigue.org/

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