Compassion and Therapy

“Compassion is not a relationship between the healer and the wounded. It’s a relationship between equals. Only when we know our own darkness well can we be present with the darkness of others. Compassion becomes real when we recognize our shared humanity.”

― Pema Chödrön, The Places That Scare You: A Guide to Fearlessness in Difficult Times 

The teachings of Pema Chödrön set me on a path to be a better person and possibly a better psychotherapist and clinical supervisor. Seeing others as my equal, even those with whom I disagree or who cause me to feel distressed. Finding equanimity within is the foundational step to being able to have compassion, which I believe is similar to what Carl Rodgers called unconditional positive regard. As a therapist, if I cannot find this state, I cannot be fully present with my client.

Knowing my own darkness is another necessary journey. I know too well that those aspects of others that I find repugnant are merely reflections of my own shadow. Standing still and looking at other people’s shadows can allow me to see deeper into my own darkness if I do not separate my struggle from theirs. Even though we are all different, we share the same world, with similar problems and coping methods. Understanding comes from knowing myself and compassionately loving myself and then repeating that process for others. 

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