I’ve been wanting to talk about compassion since I started this blog. Because of a question.
A question my psychiatrist made me on my first visit. I had an appointment with this psychiatrist my therapist recommended because she thought it would be a good option for me to take medication since I wasn’t really making much progress. I was scared. Scared of what the medication would do to me. I saw my mom go through a really bad experience with antidepressants. So I was reluctant and resisting, but I agreed. I had nothing else to lose at that point. My life was completely falling apart so I decided to try it.
I remember feeling nervous. My mom accompanied me, but I was still feeling very much alone. Feeling like I was broken. I’m going to be honest, the first sessions only made me feel bad. And keep asking myself “what is wrong with me?”, “why can’t I focus on a job or college”, “why I can’t feel a reason to stay”. I was feeling like I was just waiting my time to pass by so I could leave this place. I just wanted to hide and not be seen by anyone.
When the psychiatrist called me in I noticed he seemed to be a very serious person. I was glad my mom had to stay in the waiting room because I knew I would have to tell my story all over again. Just so he could understand my situation. I had already done that with three other therapists that didn’t work out in the end. So I wasn’t too excited to tell the things I kept hidden for so long. I also didn’t like much the idea of talking about me, I would rather be the one listening. I wouldn’t really let anyone to carry my burdens for me. I remember I didn’t like the thought of people seeing me as weak or fragile.
After I explained a bit, he then asked me one last question. “What did this depression of yours teach you?”
It wasn’t something for me to reflect on, he wanted me to answer it. I was already uncomfortable by the seriousness of the situation and the cold eyes. So right when he asked this I was in shock and deep down I felt insulted. I could feel my ego and the voices of my depression getting triggered. The “victim” part of me showed itself. “How he dares to think positively and not see what this depression did to me”, “How in the world can this be a good thing”, “Isn’t he sorry? I’m not making a choice to be depressed dude.”
I was… I just didn’t want to see that it was all my doing. It was all my choice. To believe the things the world gave me…
I forced myself to calm all those thoughts and think for a second. Sense and clarity came back to my mind as I went back to my past to see what it had to teach me. So I answered.
“Empathy and compassion. It taught me to see someone else’s pain and suffering too, not just mine. It helped me to feel their pain and put myself on someone else’s place.”
Of course this may seem obvious for some of you. But for me it wasn’t clear at the time. It wasn’t clear that one of my biggest struggles could also be my biggest virtue. What I was going through wasn’t helping me to be part of the material world, but it’s key for seeing beyond the veil. It’s key for being connected to everything. To something greater than just fitting in society like we are taught to do.
I’m glad he didn’t say what the victim in me wanted to hear. I’m glad his posture encouraged me to let go of the role of the poor little victim I was embracing, to instead fight back and be brave.
This brings me to something I want to share. I read this a couple years ago on a website. I couldn’t find the source so be aware that this is not something I wrote, I’m quoting it.
“The wise monk said. “The empathetic suffering comes before the feeling of compassion”. The first stage of compassion is empathy. When there is empathy, there is also suffering. However, this kind of suffering caused by empathy turns into the fuel that will light up the fire of compassion. The empathy combined to what Tibetans call Sem-shuk, or “the power of the heart” can rise up compassion. The power of compassion it is beyond the self suffering and it is focused on solutions, on what can be done. He explained that when compassion comes to light, the suffering transcends and all you can think and feel is how to be useful and helpful. The suffering is the fuel for compassion, not its result.”
This topic also reminds me of a Goddess I admire with great respect. “Quan Yin. The one who sees and hears the cry from the human world.” She has many names and many stories. A true figure to be remembered and honored. Remember her if you happen to be suffering or going through a tough time in life. We are not alone.
And here goes my question. What virtues your pain is trying to teach you?