Coming across this interesting interview with Paul Ekman on compassion (http://youtu.be/KR8P10HughE) I thought… what about… what about a story today… It was a long time ago, so long that I can not even put a date on my memory. I was listening, listening to the soft voice of this friend of mine. He was drowning in this swamp, this wide black swamp he kept describing at length, his voice trailing behind something he loved as much as something he hated. It kept changing, quick sand at places, water at others and I jumped in. He needed rescue, surely I could push him on the shore. I jumped in! And I felt the quick sand on the side, edging at my feet, I lost my footing for an instant as my friend kept talking and talking. Did he want to be pushed? Still I did it, and soon he was on the shore, only a toe left in the mud, and no rope to pull me up, no rope to rescue me… I was struggling now, slowly dragging myself up, so slowly. My friend had warned me though, he had told me the sand was heavy, the mud tricky. And I struggled more before reaching that shore, at last. Maybe I should have looked for a rope? Maybe I should have stayed on the shore throwing at him that light rope I will now carry in my back? After all we could have both sank in that swamp, swallowed by the treachery quick sand. Maybe I will stay on the shore next time with my rope ready. Yes I will.’*
You see… the rope on the shore and the jump in the swamp, that’s the difference between compassion and empathy. Going in the swamp with your friend, that’s being empathic -you are now feeling what your friend feel -you have jumped in, out of your resourceful state onto the swamp. When you stay on the shore, taking the time to understand the difficulties of the situation, to throw that rope the best way, you are being compassionate -and you will pull your friend through. So promise, keep your physiology of excellence, and keep out of that swamp!
* Metaphor adapted from a verbal analogy during training with Sara Haboubi, Quantum Leaps, Ireland – added information can be found at https://talking4good.com/2011/07/04/sara-haboubi-%E2%80%93-ireland-%E2%80%93-nlp-and-teenagers/