Thoughts on the power of compassion.

First, this is what I am listening to right now.  It is beautiful.

Before writing here, I was reading my latest Family Therapy journal issue.  A section caught my eye, and seems deeply relevant in both my own life and beyond:

Compassion means seeing and responding to suffering.  Without it, people become self-focused and egocentric, and relationships suffer from a lack of caring and forgiveness.”

Wallace, L. (2014). Family Therapy and the Science of Compassion. Family Therapy, 13(5), p.33.

This view of compassion speaks to Alfred Adler’s notion of “social interest” or Gemeinschaftsgefühl, in Adler’s native German tongue. Gemeinschaftsgefühl expresses a concern for one’s community and having positive regard for those around us.

Adler viewed social interest or Gemeinschaftsgefühl as a barometer of mental health.  In other words, we can determine out own level of mental health and the mental health of others simply by assessing our levels of compassion and interest in the well-being of ourselves and others.  The more a community exhibits social interest, the healthier the community and its individuals tend to be.

I am intrigued by this notion, partly because of how simple it makes to assess clients and myself on a daily basis. I am intrigued, also, because of my Danish heritage and of Denmark’s incredible display of social interest.  Studies on happiness have found Denmark to be among the happiest countries in the developed world, and the United States among the least happy. There is more to be read about this here.

Denmark is built upon a system of caring for others and from sharing from a communal pot (filled up with tax dollars), and all people are cared for in terms of education, health care, pension, and elder care.  Whether rich or poor, whether working for a good company or not, all people who have lived in Denmark for more than two weeks receive these benefits.  In Denmark, a person will never go bankrupt because of an illness or be without care or pension in the elder years.

The United States is a bit different, as those of us who live here are well aware.  One could say that social interest in the United States is spotty, or that evidence of it is not consistently planted within our societal framework.  Individual liberty is valued over the well-being of the whole.

Just some things I am thinking of today.

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