I always thought I was pretty good at it, until I realized I sometimes was being compassionate but only partially. Not in a voluntary way of course but I guess I was missing a piece in my practice and it is a big piece. I learned I need to erase myself from the process on a personal level. What do I mean by that? Have you ever gone to someone while you were not feeling well just to share, vent, and let it all out? and while you were there being vulnerable the other person just chips in "oh I understand! I remember when (...) happened to me and I was feeling so (...)" and then they either go on with their story or keep listening to you but later interrupts again or while you are sobbing throws in another example from their life? I think we have probably all done that. I know I have done it many times thinking I was showing support, thinking it was helping to let them know they were not alone feeling that way. But true compassion means you hold space for that person and take your feelings, your examples, "you" out of it and leave the floor to them.
I experienced and noticed the difference when I started working with some wonderful people through my healing journey. For example my amazing psychotherapist (see contact info below). I remember a session, during the early stages of my healing, in whichI was spilling my guts out, crying, talking, feeling a deep emotional pain. She was calm, just listening, letting me get it all out, no interruptions, no advice. Once I was done I realized the silence...I realized that what she had given me was exactly what I needed. She was fully there with me and for me, mind, body and soul. Holding loving space with no judgment of her own. I find these are the most healing moments for me. All of a sudden, in the aftermath of allowing myself to feel, my body starts to process by using that energy, that love...it starts healing itself. The body knows what to do. It just needs the right conditions, the right energy and space.
This was the key piece missing from my being able to fully practice compassion for others. I have noticed the difference when practicing this skill with anyone pouring their soul out to me. They actually are not used to it! And what I mean by that is they are not used to someone just being there, quiet and listening. I had a few people stop in the middle of their outburst and ask me "is everything ok?" They were waiting for me to interrupt, to give them advice or just chime in at some point. And I simply respond "I am just listening, I am here for you" and then they go back to expressing themselves knowing it is safe and I am here...all of me...just for them.
I encourage you to try this. See if you notice a difference in them or in yourself. See if you can catch yourself in that moment when all of a sudden you get in your head and either judge, think of some piece of advice, or start looking for an example from your own life and want to chime in. I would love to hear about your experience in bringing all aspects of compassion into your life.
May your healing move you with ease and grace wherever you are in your journey...
The Adlerian Counselling and Consulting Group in Ottawa