The essence of compassion part 2

The topic of compassion is of course very close to the purpose of this site âs it is an aspect of Love. However, this was instigated recently by the ‘Spread the Love Now!’ project of Wade of The Middle Way, Kenton of Zen-Inspired Self Development, and Albert of Urban Monk.Net. This site, as the ‘About’ page shows, has two writers, and we thought we’d each contribute something to this. So there are two articles about compassion, one for each of us. This topic is, after all, central to the purpose of this site – why else would we call it Loving Awareness?

If you haven’t read the previous entry on compassion, please do so. I’m going to add to it, starting with the first comment as a basis question – on the subject of child abuse. It’s a very good question, and representative on most people’s initial response to thinking of compassion in terms of awareness and acceptance, rather than having a duty to do something to solve a problem. I realize this is a touchy subject, and that what is written here may be controversial because of the massive cultural pain that exists. However, bringing compassion to such a painful area brings a huge amount of clarity to how it is applied in the world.

Compassion applied to child abuse

Question: So in awareness of children being raped, tortured or mutilated I should be ‘simply accepting that state, however horrible it appears, as a state of perfection in that moment’? Through this accepting of the ‘moment’ I have extended compassion?

The choice isn’t black or white. There’s no saying that if you ‘simply accept’ a situation, you must retire to a virtual monastery and live a life of doing nothing about it. Accepting or not accepting a state as part of the perfection of the whole dictates nothing about any future actions. You can be completely allowing of What Is, yet still raise a voice that cries out for attention to pain that is being generated. You can offer nothing but a presence filled with a full and loving acceptance. So the real question is more : do you fully accept the person and the experience, which is to say ‘do you love them?’, or do you have reservations?

I have mentioned sexual abuse in my own past. It is very human to see such a traumatic event as child abuse and react with anger and a desire to punish. Yet such an action is rarely for the child, as much as justifications may say so. It’s for the performer of the action. The child rarely knows what’s happened. She knows is that an intense and painful experience has been etched upon her soul and that there is no way to undo this experience. There is no going back. In many ways, her life and her abuser is now intertwined; there is a bond that comes from the trauma.

The key here is that this experience is now a part of the child, including the link with the abuser. When there is no acceptance, the child feels there is no love for this part of her. There once was love for her, but now there is none, in her eyes. Therefore part of her is bad. This is the how the perception of a child works. When there is no love of the experience, resting in a complete allowing of What Is, then there is also no love of the people involved, which includes the child. It’s a reaction of the family which perpetuates the legacy of the abuse. In many ways, even unintentional denial of abuse is more painful in the long term than the actual abuse itself. It is a lack of compassion where a child expects it most.

 

The unfortunate aspect of abuse is that such a reaction is very normal. Parents may resist taking in the reality that a child has been abused. Their children are so dear to them and their identity that such damage is inconceivable. It may mean to them that they are ‘bad parents’, or that they have ‘failed’. Or they could simply refuse to see someone they love be part of something so awful. To their child, it simply feels like they’re now unlovable because their parents cannot accept them anymore.? When love that was once counted on disappears, a child makes inevitable conclusions about being unlovable.

In the future of the child, then, the part of them that is “unlovable” grows in such an atmosphere. If the abuse itself can’t be looked at, then all emotions stemming from that experience are also excluded. The child may be expected to “get over it” – the result is usually a conclusion that the pain is also unlovable, and therefore should be walled away. Sadness, reflexive body reactions, and boundaries may have the same conclusion. The part of the soul that is “unlovable” grows like a stain, because anything connected to the original experience of abuse cannot be given room without compassion. More and more filters, restrictions, and blocks appear to protect the world and the family from the “bad” parts of the Self. This is a natural outgrowth of not allowing the full nature of a child.

Compassion, based on a full allowing of all aspects of the abuse experience, communicates something much more simple : I see you completely, and I love you simply as you are. There is nothing needed more in healing than this.

We hope this helps you understand compassion more from looking at what happens where there is no acceptance.

 

Question: Why can’t parents accept such trauma? Why is so difficult to do so?

It is impossible to be accepting of trauma happening to others without accepting the possibility of it happening to you. This is empathy. Denying this possibility of pain and violence to yourself may temporarily create a sense of safety in your mind, but it also disconnects you from others who have this experience. You cut yourself off from the ability to give and receive support and warmth. This is why, for example, those who have been through sexual abuse and learned to love who they are, abuse included, offer the most empathy for others also with this experience. It doesn’t need to be this way; empathy comes from simply not resisting the experience and seeing its perfection.

Violence is part of humanity – it is part of the world we have collectively created. There is no escaping this. Denying the reality of suffering leads to an incredibly lack of resources to reacting appropriately to it.

A Tibetan Buddhist monk who lived in a monastery in India with no TV or news participated in an experiment. His brain waves were measured as he was shown videotapes of genocide and wartime rape. The scientists were amazed that his brain showed himself as deeply peaceful throughout. His response was that he was already fully aware of the possibility of this happening to others and himself, and that he felt incredible compassion to others because of this. Awareness creates compassion.

Awareness is not a theoretical thing. Knowing that extreme poverty occurs from an economic standpoint is very different from allowing the full experience of confinement and violence while not living in poverty. Awareness expands the spectrum of your experience – it does not limit it.

Of course action is a good thing in many cases. Mother Theresa and Gandhi lived lives of action based on compassion. It would not be loving to send a child back into an abusive situation, nor to avoid efforts to ensure such a traumatic event did not occur again. The question is, is this done out of compassion or as an attempt to push away the reality of the experience? Doing things out of obligation, assuaging guilt, or pushing away pain is not a place of deep compassion. Remember when you have felt others do things to ‘help’ you from this place.

The following parable in the quotes page illustrates a deeper level of compassion.

Once a master and a disciple were walking through a city and passed by a leper who was obviously close to starvation. The leper cried out loudly, in a voice full of tremendous suffering. They gave what they could and moved on.

After a short time, the disciple was flustered and still thinking of the leper. He was suffering as he gave to the leper, and still suffered. Watching his master throughout the encounter, there was no sign of suffering, no pangs whatsoever. Instead there was a deep peace and an enjoyment of the sun. Finally he asked his master, ‘Why are you not being affected by that tremendous suffering? Do you not care?’

The response was: ‘Of course I care. The only difference between me and you is that you hear them when they cry out, whereas I hear them always’.

What could be more compassionate than that level of awareness?

If you prefer a more personal, day to day story about compassion and a personal reaction, you may wish to see the previous article, ‘An allowing space‘ .

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21 Comments

  1. Tremor, thanks for sharing this. You answered the original question quite well. You perfectly described my mother. She was so in denial of her own pain that she could not see the sexual and emotional abuse that was happening in our home. She had totally shut down all of her emotions. The sad thing is that when you turn off what we label as negative emotions, you shut down all emotions. As early as the age of 3, I knew that my mom didn’t feel and I made it my job to protect her. I was in my 40’s when I got the awareness of what that job meant to me and I chose to stop doing it.

    • tremor January 3, 2008 at 4:03 pm - Reply

      We do tend to learn “jobs” and “icons” (images) to live by. I in some ways was lucky – I had such a conflicting image on what to be that I started questioning how I was living very early. In other ways, this sucked – I was very confused and felt a lot of pain. But there’s blessings in everything.

      We’re as interconnected inside ourselves as we are with the universe. So when we label any part of us as “bad”, pretty soon we’re having doubts about everything inside us. That’s when compassion is great!

  2. kinzi January 3, 2008 at 12:25 pm - Reply

    Brian, thanks for providing this link. There is a lot of good stuff in there, I need to think on it a bit when I am not stressing with a deadline. 🙂

    You wrote: “Compassion, based on a full allowing of all aspects of the abuse experience, communicates something much more simple : I see you completely, and I love you simply as you are. There is nothing needed more in healing than this”.

    I this those two statements are key to initial healing, but as you mentioned on your comment on my post,there will be more said later as the process includes looking at compassion in a way that includes correction or wrong thinking patterns. When they choose NOT to see themselves, refuse the reality, become invisible, when they refuse the simple love that is offered.

    I like what you say here, too: “The question is, is this done out of compassion or as an attempt to push away the reality of the experience? Doing things out of obligation, assuaging guilt, or pushing away pain is not a place of deep compassion.”

    Good words. May your journey be brightened today. If you don’t mind me praying for that, I will. 🙂

    • tremor January 3, 2008 at 5:26 pm - Reply

      When I said “There is nothing needed more in healing than this” I meant that love, simply in a profound state of welcome and acceptance, provides the space for correction of wrong thinking. This is because people have wrong perceptions because there’s no space to see things as they are. When there’s a war zone going on inside, you don’t think, you just react. The space of love provides an atmosphere where changes in perceptions and patterns simply happens. It can take time for them to be truly welcoming of this, of course.

      Thank you!

  3. Misslionheart? January 3, 2008 at 4:58 pm - Reply

    Thankyou for visiting my site and leaving a comment!

    I’ll be back…

  4. Albert | UrbanMonk.Net January 3, 2008 at 8:17 pm - Reply

    Thank you for this Tremor, so much wisdom and perspective. One of my favourite entries to the GWP for sure.

  5. Tremor, you have been tagged to participate in the Seven Random and Weird Things about you that your readers don’t know about you. Check out my blog article for the rules.
    http://patriciasingleton.blogspot.com/2008/01/seven-random-and-weird-things.html .

  6. Hi Tremor:

    Thanks for sharing this well-written post with Carnival of Healing, posted at Intensive Care for the Nurturer’s Soul.

    Blessings,
    Hueina

  7. JHS January 5, 2008 at 9:34 pm - Reply

    Thanks so much for participating in this week’s Carnival of Family Life hosted at Pajama Mommy Community! Be sure to drop by and check out some of the other wonderful entries this week!

  8. Kris January 10, 2008 at 12:54 pm - Reply

    Just a question, do you feel love and acceptance towards the person who abused you? (This is not meant to be a mean question at all, I hope you don’t take it that way.)
     
    For this is where the Buddha would have resided…then he might have used compassion to help heal that person as well.
     
    Namaste,
     
    Kris
     

    • tremor January 10, 2008 at 1:00 pm - Reply

      I wouldn’t say I feel complete compassion, as I’m still fairly split from myself. I know I have no desire to punish him. I also don’t want that much contact with him – he’s autistic, and so there’s really little ability for further understanding or exchange. But part of compassion is to acknowledge the bond in that experience, which I do.

       
      There’s certainly some danger in thinking that one should heal one’s abuser, but I don’t think you meant it that way. In my own balancing, I know I’m helping him and the world. That’s enough.
       

  9. I have read several times over the past months that when we do something to heal ourselves, then we heal the world. This takes me back to the idea that we are all one. Love, which starts with self-love, really is the cure for what ails the world. I admire your courage Tremor. I am inspired to work more on my own healing when I hear your story.

    • tremor January 10, 2008 at 1:20 pm - Reply

      Thank you Patricia! I get inspired by your blogs as well!
       
      I’d also add that part of the essence of oneness is that there’s no difference btween self-love and love for others. In other words, loving others is one of the most Self-ish actions we can take. But only if it truly serves us and denies nothing about our own needs, health, and love.

       

  10. Kris, I do love my dad. That has always been part of the problem. I didn’t know how to deal with the ambivalence of loving and hating at the same time. I have worked really hard to reach a point of letting go of the hate which was really for both of us. When I stopped hating myself and started loving me then I was able to love both of us. That is true compassion for me.

  11. Barbara January 16, 2008 at 8:57 pm - Reply

    This is so true. I have been the victim of various types of abuse & emotional rape my whole life (starting with a pathological mother) which is what lead me to do abuse victim’s support.
     
    However, even today – my abusers, some who have been confronted legally – refuse to acknowledge any wrongdoing on their part. They not only minimize but mock me and slander me. Currently I am dealing with one who (stupidly) posted a threat of physical harm against me online (it was removed, thank goodness) because I won’t keep silent about it.
     
    Abusers have an opportunity to get help, heal themselves and their victims by embracing accountability – sadly, very very few will do so. Choosing to escalate the abuse in efforts to silence their victims.
     
    Lack of compassion – lack of empathy – all signs of pathology.
     

    • tremor January 17, 2008 at 6:29 am - Reply

      If abusers do so, who will give them compassion? We live in a society filled with the need for scapegoats. At first it’s scapegoating the victim because society cannot accept the trauma. Then it’s scapegoating the abuser once the abuse is accepted. It’s still blame and punishment, and this doesn’t do much to bring a truly compassionate society.

       
      That’s not to say that abuse is in any way “right” or “understandable”, but without the attitude of compassion in society, there’s no room to speak out about it. This even goes to abusers – if there’s no where to talk about their own pain, there’s more chance of it coming out in abusive manners. Compassion applies to all sides.
       

  12. Barbara January 17, 2008 at 7:38 am - Reply

    Tremor – fine to say but abusers deny the abuse and blame-shift to the victim.
     
    Only 2% really change and acknowledge. And I am sorry but after working with many abused & abusers, these people don’t want compassion – they want a free pass to continue their behavior with impugnity. See here

     
    Then the public turns on the abused telling them to keep quiet about the pain – which internalizes & amplifies it for the abused and just causes more PTSD & other trauma.
     
    Don’t get me wrong, I don’t believe in hate – I believe in understanding, compassion and turning away hate – but with the majority of these abusers, that isn’t possible because they won’t allow it. Any talk of change is mere lip service so they can buy some time to go right back to what they are doing.
     
    It is better to support the victim in speaking out, naming the abuse and the abuser and starting to heal.
     

    • tremor January 17, 2008 at 9:27 am - Reply

      Yes, I know that abusers do this. Mine did. When I say “compassion” I don’t mean an attitude that makes any excuses for actions done. The reality is that their actions brought on trauma and affected lives in a deep, unavoidable way. Compassion in this case doesn’t mean not being firm, but rather doing what’s best. If there’s no real possibility for positive change on the abuser – and this is the majority here – then it makes sense to take actions to make sure they won’t recommit. But it’s best if this is done out of compassion rather than punishment.

       
      I’ve also seen survivors who get so caught in naming the abuser and punishing them that they identify this with healing. Getting past all denial of the past that occurs is a very important step, and speaking out can be part of that. Doesn’t always have to be, but often it’s good. Healing, in my view, has nothing to do with punishment. Most molested people are in a continual state of self-punishment, it’s good to get out of that world entirely.

       

  13. My dad never admitted that he did anything wrong to anybody at anytime in his life. Compassion is not saying that what was done to me is right or ok. For me, it was looking at my dad and his life and seeing what made him the way he was. It was seeing him for the lonely, scared, rageful,abused child that he was. When I was 11 years old, I was more mature than my dad and I knew that I had become the adult and him the child. It means feeling sad for him for the life that he chose for himself. Sexual abuse is mostly about power over another person. He was so frightened that he had to commit a sexual act with a child, someone smaller and defenseless in order to feel powerful. How sad that is to me. The compassion for myself was there too in that I didn’t allow him back into my life or the lives of my two children.

    • tremor January 17, 2008 at 12:52 pm - Reply

      Thank you Patricia!

       
      There’s been channeling on saying that many abusers are simply so scared of intimacy and have such extreme lack of trust that they find the only way they can express that need is through someone helpless who is not threatening. There’s definitely a power aspect in that – protection against intimacy through abuse of power. This happens between adults too.

  14. Tremor, I linked my newest article called Blame Keeps You Stuck—Incest May Be A Part Of My Life Series—Part 7 to this article. My article is found at http://patriciasingleton.blogspot.com/2008/01/blame-keeps-you-stuck-incest-may-be.html
    Thanks for the inspiration.

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