Compassion

Compassion is the understanding of others, with the cultivated awareness of suffering.    Perhaps  more  accurately,    Compassion is empathy with the awareness of suffering.

The western concept of “empathy“, popular in the writings of twentieth century humanists, philosophers and psychologist has its own active verb tense. “to empathize” or “empathizing“. compassion does not have a verb tense in English… perhaps ” to sympathize“… but I will stick with Compassion, here.

To empathize is to imagine another’s experience,  compare that experience with his/hers and to be affected.   One empathizes with another person(s), organism(s) and their circumstance. It should be noted, that from a stand point of certain schools of thought,as in Zen Buddhism, Humanistic Psychology and existential- phenomenology, an organism is always considered with his circumstances. One is always interacting, affecting and being affected by his environment . This is “experience”, the participation of an organism in its world. “Phenomenology” is big ugly word for the study of experience(s), from subjective lenses.    “Empathizing”, is being affected by and imagining another(s) experience(s).

Another overlapping concept is “perspective-taking“. “Perspective taking” is imagining another’s experience and world-view.   Perspective-taking is objective and rational in method; and deliberate in avoiding any emotional affect and judgments.    To take another’s point-of-view and study while holding back any personal bias and presumption would be perspective taking. (see also Husserl’s bracketing or epoche`)
Is it at all possible to remove all bias?    Some psychologists argue that perspective taking is a primitive form of empathizing .

Alfie Cohen, Author of “Brighter Side of Human Nature“…… poses another  phenomenological approach to empathy that he calls “feeling-into“. To “feel-into” another’s circumstance, personal happenings, gestalt or being-in-this-world. Feeling-into is an full cognitive investigation of another’s subjective experience.

Back to Compassion

I do believe that there are people who can empathize or feel-into another’s situation without compassion.
A study of the psychopathology of some dangerous criminals might support my claim.   For example: there are a few who feel powerful or aroused when they imagine themselves as the victims of their violent attacks. in this case there is empathy and perspective taking, for pathological pleasure, but no compassion.

To act with compassion is to act and empathize, while recognizing and considering suffering. To act with compassion is to act and be affected by the suffering of others.

Understanding suffering is at the core of any study, religion, or way-of-being that is called Buddhism.  Thus compassion is a much talked about subject-matter . Understanding the nature of suffering is fundamental to Buddhist practice.
Note below a translation of the four Noble Truths of Buddhism

Four Nobel Truths of Buddhism .

  • Suffering Exists in Life
  • The Source of Suffering is attachment
  • The Emancipation of Suffering is attainable
  • The Path or the “Eightfold Path” (wisdom, conduct, development)

 
In Christianity, (at least from my non-religious outsider’s stand appointment), A great deal of importance is placed on the suffering of Jesus at the end of his days. In interpretations,   God seeks to empathize with man in the Life and times of Jesus. Followers seek to understand God in part by empathizing with the life and Crucifixion of Jesus. The very important Christian theme of Redemption is tied to suffering and compassion just as it is the teachings of Jesus, in the “Sermon on the Mount“.

Compassion is care for others. What can, at times, be overshadowed is the care for ones own well-being.   IMHO: It is important to act in the same compassionate manner for his or herself, as he does for others.   Just as important as anything written here:    The care and wellbeing of one’s self and others includes happiness, pleasure, curiosity and a spectrum of experiences…. not just suffering.

Compassion maybe a cornerstone of ethics along with self- esteem and reciprocity. If we truly love and esteem ourselves (that is, our being) ;    If we treat each other in the manner we wish to be treated, then we may presume that no one likes pain and suffering.   We’d care for ourselves and others, and act accordingly— rich in understanding perspectives beyond our own.
It would be unethical to deliberatively harm another (or one’s own being) that we have compassion and care for.

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Intersubjectivity and Interpersonal Brighter Side Repost

Repost…
Intersubjectivity and Inerpersonal Bright Side” was origionally posted: dec 5, 2011.

 
Look upon other people and see that we are all  humans.  We  roughly appear to have the same forms and physics, the same sets of uniquely  human behaviors ( such as use of language). Upon deeper inspection, by biologists  who study DNA, There are traits and characteristics that are universally Homo Sapien or  human.
Meet and talk with other people and discover that people have cognitive differences of each person; Travel and note the cultural  differences of people.
If  you are one who has used medications and therapies for serious health problems, you will quickly learn the unwritten rule : “what works for one may not work for another, everyone is different“. One can infer each Homo Sapien is  biologically different from the next, Same  goes for their sum total of subjective  experiences. The individual  has characteristics that are unique.

I am  pretty sure  that a universal model does not apply when talking about all people, most of  the time. But we also, in talking about the human race per se , or groups… education  ,communication or interactions ..need to talk about more than just the individual. I certainly want to know more than the individual that is me.

Self and Other, Person to Person

As I am  a subject of my  own permeated world that I participate in,  other persons are the subject of their own. As  subjects we have considerable influence upon the world. a subject acts upon other things.  In  the shared circumstance, such as that  of  a  conversation, or any other interpersonal experience, Each must treat the  “other” as a subject of overlapping or joined existence– an intersubjective circumstance.  Intersubjectivity.

On the hand, a we appreciate, as it were, [another  persons]  otherness, and on the other hand we appreciate the humanness we have in common

Brighter Side of Human Nature. Alfie Kohn chapter titled The Self and Other
Kohn goes on the explain  intersubjectivity in a meeting  (conversation, circumstance, Dasein etc) .  After the two fold contrast of Self and Other arises; and two subjects recognize an intersubjective  meeting, A   twofold attitude with the contrasting  of  sameness and difference arises. This is not a state between sameness and difference, according to Kohn, rather a “dynamic tension of the two”.

One  who appreciates both dimensions of otherness and common humanness is able to appreciate a given individuals subjectivity […] a subject is an actor, a knower, a center of experience and while two individuals share  these features each is  also a different subject.

I would postulate  that one is  often comforted in the  sameness beyond humanness in a intersubjective moment.  A subject maybe comforted in the sameness of culture, age, gender, ethnicity, ideology.  Perhaps, for better or for worse,the  Sameness    we find in other people confirms ones own identity.
We are at the same time excited by the novelty of otherness, sometimes startled…. sometimes curious. If   man is  to reach  beyond his own hands grasp , it could be said one seeks  out  otherness beyond himself. In interpersonal relationships, we very often find another person’s Otherness, including the persons individual experiences and circumstances, compelling or alluring.

Beyond Objectification

Many Neuroscientists believe that they have located “Mirror neurons” in the human brain. These neurons are believed to activate when we observe   other people actions.  In certain developmental stages (the experts argue the exact ages)  one learns by observing others, an interpersonal  action.

The understanding  that: other people  that one contacts (meets and interacts with) in his/her  own experiences,  have  similar  experiences  of their own, more than any stone, tree , structure or object;
and that they impact and influence  as subjects within their own experiences… this is understanding  takes a practical leap of faith.
But this understanding, which requires assumptions supported by a subjects growing experiences, lifts one beyond dull  solipsism and egoism , to the richness of an intersubjective matrix, which is our human world.

Modern Physics may suggest a  “subject:object” or “I:it” outlook as impractical. All things  have influence on all other things in a field, whether the affect is grand or arbitrary.  Any subject acting on a body, whether a stone, tree, another person, earth, sun, is influenced by the other in return. Objects are not static or inert.
For the purpose of interpersonal subject:subject or intersubjective relationship We may  as, Martin Bubers suggest, choose “I:thou” interpretation over “I:it” .

The Brighter Side

The rich understanding of other people in their  Dasein beyond ones own existence is one thing and Learning from others another. We also have to live with each other in space and our societies.  If I am ” to treat others  in the manner I wish to be treated“, Wouldn’t I have to know what is it like to be in another circumstance?

I am Reading Alfie Kohn’s The Brighter side of Human Nature“. Which postulates an individual’s existence is ideally positioned somewhere between the poles of  Egoism and Altruism, and the motivations of an individual lies somewhere between self-interest and pro-social selflessness.
He writes about the importance of  “Perspective  taking” including Empathy (or feeling into)
three types of perspective taking:

  • Spatial and perceptive:  imagining what its like to be in someone else’s physical circumstance.
  • Cognitive:  imaging how another people (and organisms) think,feel and act from their perspective including strengths, limitations
  • Empathetic: Being affected by another’s circumstance.

Perspective taking is understanding another’s perspective, while Empathy is “feeling into”, or being affected by another persons perspective or circumstance. In quoting by Robert Salmon Perspective taking and Empathy…”Are  form[s] of social cognition intermediate between logical or moral thought ”

Cohn synthesizes the work of scientist(including doctors , biologists) , psychologist, educators, and  philosophers and the book is   heavily annotated.  Cohen further illustrates the importance of  understanding intersubectivity in interpersonal relationships, to promote the pro- social(or altruistic) and motivations and actions of individuals. He makes a strong case for an the Altruistic interests of the individual beyond self interest. I would recommend the book for all, but especially humanists, individualists and existentialists.

To be a subject in Existence is  moral participation. To act upon and with others requires Dignity, Reciprocity, and Tolerance, (Ethics) in addition to subjects self -interests and mutual interests with others.

Intersubjectivity and Interpersonal Brighter Side

Look upon other people and see that we are all  humans.  We  roughly appear to have the same forms and physics, the same sets of uniquely  human behaviors ( such as use of language). Upon deeper inspection, by biologists  who study DNA, There are traits and characteristics that are universally Homo Sapien or  human.
Meet and talk with other people and discover that people have cognitive differences of each person; Travel and note the cultural  differences of people.
If  you are one who has used medications and therapies for serious health problems, you will quickly learn the unwritten rule : “what works for one may not work for another, everyone is different“. One can infer each Homo Sapien is  biologically different from the next, Same  goes for their sum total of subjective  experiences. The individual  has characteristics that are unique.

I am  pretty sure  that a universal model does not apply when talking about all people, most of  the time. But we also, in talking about the human race per se , or groups… education  ,communication or interactions ..need to talk about more than just the individual. I certainly want to know more than the individual that is me.
Read more of this post

friendship and trust a greater communication

nothing is more intimate to me than trust.

Trust is the cornerstone of my personal relationships and most meaningful friendships.

In friendships, I am not overly concerned about loyalties.
friends come and go and comeback again… life throws people around, people fall out of touch and meet up again.

Friendships are not a matter of convenience or contract….”What can I do for you, what can you do for me”.
Friends do make gestures, help one and other. However, for me its not the as important as trust.

my first question, that  I think of, for potential close friend is

Can I trust you.”
Can we trust one and other one this topic and others“.

if we trust one and other than we are free to truly listen to one and other.
when we trust each other, we need not to be on our guards
We can than  really listen to one and other, hear whats being said between the lines of a dialog….
empathize without the need to assert ourselves with judgments.

Thats when we really get to know one and other
and influence one an other.

Friendship is one sense, another form of communication.

At its best friendship is  one of the most sincere, trustworthy and meaningful forms of communications.