Compassion and health
Compassion is the core of the so-called Golden Rule: Treat others as you want to be treated yourself. Most spiritual and wisdom traditions have endorsed this Golden Rule as a guideline for happiness and well-being on a deeper level. In modern medicine and mental health services compassion is often marginalised. Health policies focus on control of costs with protocols for diagnostic and therapeutic processes and competitive striving for the most efficient way toward measurable results. Counterproductively demands are not diminishing and costs are ever increasing. At the same time human standards are decreasing. The focus has narrowed on how to cure the disease rather than how to care for the patient. Poor quality of care makes cure of the disease less likely, however. Increasingly the call is heard to bring compassion back as a core value in health care. Also it has become clear that one-sided emphasis on care for others without self-care can lead to ‘compassion fatigue’. It is vital for patients and health carers to acknowledge that true compassion cannot bypass self-compassion. A growing amount of research shows that self-compassion promotes our health and quality of life. Self-compassion is positively correlated with
- Psychological wellbeing and life fulfillment;
- Mindfulness, emotional intelligence and positive emotions;
- Self-respect and sympathy with one’s own shortcomings;
- Coping with adverse life events, such as academic failure and traumatic experiences;
- Being less afraid to make mistakes or be rejected;
- More social connectedness;
- Better immune response; healthier eating; less smoking.
Care, the source of all cure
Care is something other than cure. Cure means "change". A doctor, a lawyer, a minister, a social worker – they all want to use their professional skills to bring about changes in people's lives. They get paid for whatever kind of cure they can bring about. But cure, desirable as it may be, can easily become violent, manipulative, and even destructive if it does not grow out of care. Care is being with, crying out with, suffering with, feeling with. Care is compassion. It is claiming the truth that the other person is my brother or sister, human, mortal, vulnerable, like I am. When care is our first concern, cure can be received as a gift. Often we are not able to cure, but we are always able to care. To care is to be human.