The beauty of humanity is caring so much that there is no question of acting in service of life.
But, sometimes the boundaries we set to self-care or decrease fatigue from caring are walls that prevent us from both receiving and giving care.
Like empathy, compassion isn't about fixing. Compassion is a loving presence that humanizes us.
In my experience, sometimes our own trauma causes us to resonate so much with another's distress that we cannot be there for them even when our nature is to care.
Too much resonance with another or our own distress is empathy's downfall. Too much resonance traps us. Too much empathic resonance prevents the free flow of love.
What is interesting to discover and learn for ourselves is how empathy and compassion feel and what these experiences do for us.
Compassion and empathy are felt experiences. The beauty of being held in the the loving presence of one who is offering compassion without words is powerful.
As an empath without strong inner boundaries, I used to experience fatigue. Empathic fatigue causes burnout and while developing better boundaries is helpful, it is not necessarily enough to prevent fatigue or burnout.
What I've learned through experience is that Love is restorative and fuels us like no other super pill. It is why there are stories of persons who heroically did what we as humans think nearly impossible. Our caring or altruistic nature make us divine.
Love is a tireless energy.
That energy of Love is powerful and fuels our desire to care in compassionate and empathic ways without burning out.
It is the difference between holding my loved one in distress or feeling powerless to change what is distressing them. While I may not be able to change circumstances I can still be a loving presence that supports without crumbling within.
Love is our authentic power and it is unlike any other power we seek to have over others.
In my experience it is power-lessness over something be it a person or situation that can fuel distress.
Distress causes us to miss out on life. The good news is that it is right in front of us to dance with.
So, the moment I can bring my attention to the emotion (the body sensation caused by my thoughts), I begin to engage what is alive in me. The distress begins to lessen as it is in the presence of my own compassion. But, the moment I resonate too much with the emotion, I am swept by empathy's downfall and lose strength/power.
So, while empathy is healing it can also be a source of pain or distress.
A wonderfully humbling reminder that there are moments in all our lives when we cannot will things to change nor have the power, authority or ability to control what is. Some things are just not within our territory of influence.
What comes to mind is Byron Katie's The Work. As she says there are three kinds of business: mine, yours and God's. She says that if we are mentally hurting we are out of our business.
As Byron Katie puts it:
Whose business is it if an earthquake happens? God’s business.
Whose business is it if your neighbor down the street has an ugly lawn? Your neighbor’s business.
Whose business is it if you are angry at your neighbor down the street because he has an ugly lawn? Your business.
There is definite strength in what Byron Katie refers to as "loving what is." That is a liberating way to live and be in the world. Although, sometimes it seems challenging, it is much tougher resisting what is through our thoughts and feelings.
I know this to be true as my happiest moments are when I am disengaged from internal power -struggles with what is.
There can be no power-struggle whether internal or external when I understand my needs. Being in touch with my feelings and needs is self-empathy. Getting to the unmet needs is what is healing.
Love helps us understand moment by moment our needs so we can also be present to understand others needs.
So, when we feel fatigue or caught in distress, we can remember that we have either gone into territory that is not ours, or over-resonated with our own or another's distress.
While setting boundaries is loving, expressing them without compassion only causes disconnection with ourselves and others. We all have a choice whether to meet our own or others needs.
What restores our strength is Love. Love fuels our body to take baby steps and even leaps of faith.
Outward changes come about from steady inner progress.
We are all on a unique journey although needs are common to all humanity.
Are you clear in this moment about what you need and how to receive it?