Compassion is a Funny Thing

By Jennifer Young, LMHC

Compassion IS a funny thing.

Not funny haha – but funny ironic. There are not many character traits that can be so needed and so manipulated. The world requires compassion. In many ways it is what links us all together. Compassion is the connection that strings us together. We feel when someone half way around the world shares their story of pain. And yet, compassion can be seen as weakness. Once you show your compassion, there are some people who see that as an opportunity to “get” something from you instead of connect to you.

Compassion is such an important trait to posses. It implies a caring for others that includes understanding, awareness and identifying with others. It is the acknowledgement that you clearly understand not only who they are but you understand their pain and their hurt. With your compassion you feel what others feel. With your compassion you not only feel what others feel but are compelled to do something to help them. Your compassion is a word of action, because you are a person of action. But it is this action that puts your trait over the top…this is point in which your compassion spills over…out of your cup and into the cup of someone who’s cup may be empty. For someone who is pathological your compassion is what they need. They do not have compassion for others so they take yours – using it to manipulate and strengthen their mask. They mask the horror of who they are with the fantasy of who you need them to be.

Herein lies the risk: He is just looking for someone to believe his story, and it is usually a really good one. He needs someone to believe that he is the victim and that he is worthy of “compassion” and “help” so that you will cooperate. Once you listen to his story your compassion kicks in and you will do everything you can to help him and join the team. Compassion is the feeling that drives your helpfulness and cooperation. Remember, for you, compassion is an action word.

Herein lies the benefit:Once you realize who and what he is, your compassion shifts. It is hard to have compassion for a thief and a liar. It is hard to have compassion for a con-artist and a manipulator. So, when the day finally comes when you see who he isyour compassion shifts. Again, your shift compassion combined with knowledge and resourcefulness leads you to get out of the relationship. You are no longer willing to participate in his charade, no longer willing to feel his pain. But the most interesting part about real compassion is that it will evolve into compassion for his disorder. The truth is that he has a disorder that will never go away; he is missing something that others have and has lived his life compensating for that deficiency. The symptom of his disorder is inevitable harm for those who end up in intimate relationships with himand it is still incurable. And so, after a while you will learn that the best way to leave and begin your healing journey is through compassionate disengagement. You will begin to understand that you would never ask a blind person to see anymore than you would ask a pathological to feel. You will accept the unchanging nature of the condition out of compassion…compassion that understands limitations. Compassionate disengagement means that you have chosen to see his disorder, understand his disorder and move towards healing the effects of his disorder by leaving. The action of your compassion has now turned towards your healing.

Take a minute and think about the “feelings” that you may still have for him. If compassion is still an overwhelming feeling then take a minute to focus on what you are resisting. Your continued compassion that pulls you towards him is a sign that you are not truly convinced as to who and what he is. Take a minute and list the reality of your relationship. You can list the experiences that have had that led you to believe he was pathological. List the undeniable behaviors or experiences that you have witnessed…and even the things he should have done that he does not. When you compare your list of reality to the behaviors that are typical in pathology the reality will be undeniable. With the facts comes compassion that his disorder is unchangeable and you can begin to disengage.

The trio of SuperTraits: Cooperation, Helpfulness and Compassion are traits that tell us what you have to offer others…and yourself. These traits represent your ability to give back, to care, to share and to understand. They are not the kind of traits that you would want to “go away”. They are not the kind of traits that you would want to stifle. These are the traits that have allowed you to understand others and make things happen. They have allowed you and driven you to make things better. They have created in you a light that others feel and are drawn too. So, as with all the other traits that overflow in you the solution is not to put the light out but to turn it into something manageable…something that is not so bright that those who have NO light are filled with YOUR light.