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Skill Level Beginner
- This is an audio course, no need to watch, just listen. Welcome to the latest addition to LinkedIn Learning. Podcasts. We've curated some of the best business podcasts and made them even easier to listen to. Each episode is split into sections. Use the links in the contents area to skip to whichever section you like. We're always looking for new ways to help you learn and we appreciate your feedback. Thanks for listening. (soft guitar music) - Sounds True presents: The Science of Compassion, a modern approach for cultivating empathy, love and connection, with health psychologist and Stanford University lecturer, Kelly McGonigal. Our program continues with session six: The Healing Power of Compassionate Purpose. (soft guitar music) - Recently, I gave a talk at a meeting of healthcare executives. And as part of the talk, I mentioned how helping others can be a source of both meaning and courage. And during the Q&A, a woman in the audience shared her experience of having to go to a shelter for victims of domestic violence. She was overwhelmed. She was ashamed to find herself in this situation. And she was afraid about what it meant for her future. And as she was checking into the shelter, a woman put her hand on her shoulder and said, "You're going to get through this. I know because I've been there." In that moment, the woman sharing the story had a powerful flash forward conviction that someday she was going to be that hand on the shoulder for someone else, someone who is just as overwhelmed and scared as she was in that moment. And that belief that one day, she would be helping another person in the situation she found herself in now. That gave her a sense of courage that helped her get through that moment. And to see that moment as part of a bigger story that had a greater meaning for her. Now importantly, it wasn't just the encouragement of the shelter volunteer who had been in her place, it was how that volunteers compassion awakened in her the desire to help other victims. And she knew that to do so, she had to help herself. And as she shared the story with all of us at the meeting for executives, it was clear how important this moment was to her in making sense of her experience surviving domestic violence. The power of compassion to transform our experience of suffering is the focus of this session. In the midst of our own pain, recognizing the suffering of others can help us realize greater self compassion, and a sense of connection to others. Helping others can change the meaning of our own trauma, loss, and pain. My hope is that the science and stories in this session will encourage you to think about ways in which caring for others can support you through difficult experiences. And if you haven't already, to inspire you to create a narrative of your own suffering. That includes being able to help others. This instinct to help others when you yourself are struggling, has been dubbed altruism born of suffering, by psychologists who study this phenomenon. Study after study shows that after any kind of traumatic event or loss, most people become more compassionate. They spend more time caring for friends and family. They spend more time volunteering for nonprofit organizations or church groups. They report feeling greater empathy for others. And importantly, this altruism seems to help them cope with whatever they're going through. The more time they spend helping others, or the more compassion and empathy they report feeling for others, the happier they are, and the more meaning they see in their lives. Now, this tendency to help others when you're the one who's suffering can seem like a puzzling phenomenon if you view altruism or compassion as a drain on your own resources. But as we've seen, this isn't the case. Helping others helps us as much as it helps the recipient of our compassion. As American civil rights leader Booker T. Washington once said, "If you want to lift yourself up, lift up someone else." Research a bounce with examples of how helping others can reduce hopelessness after a personal crisis. For example, people who volunteer after natural disaster. They report feeling more optimistic and energized and they're less anxious and angry and overwhelmed by the stress in their own lives. After the death of a spouse, being able to take care of someone else, anyone else, reduces depression. Among people who are living with chronic pain, becoming a pure counselor, a counselor to other people who are living with chronic pain, it relieves disability, depression, increases sense of purpose, and it also actually relieves some of that chronic pain. Studies also show that after a life threatening health crisis, like a heart attack, people who volunteer experience more hope, less depression, and a greater sense of purpose. One example of how important it is to help others after a tragedy stands out to me: April 15th 2013. That was the day of the Boston Marathon bombings that killed three people, injured an estimated 264 people, and terrorized not just the city of Boston, but the entire United States. I remember that because that day I was in Palo Alto, California, and I was teaching a course on the Science of Compassion. And when I showed up for class that night, I found that my students were overwhelmed. And they wanted to talk about the terrorist attack. And they described a lot of empathic distress that was caused by really projecting themselves into this experience. And I remember one student saying, "My son is a runner, he could have been there. And I was imagining him and what would have happened if he had been there." There was so much despair, so much overwhelm. I remember people saying they felt so lost because they couldn't do anything. But in Boston, things were a little bit different. Runners who had just finished the marathon and had been there for the bombings, many of them raced to Mass General Hospital to donate blood. A lot of Boston locals looked for ways to help. They offered stranded runners pizza and beer or a place to stay. And many volunteers returned to the finish line to try to find the race metals and the personal belongings, that terrified runners had to abandon in the chaos of fleeing the explosions. Now, one shocking study that I came across found that people who watched six or more hours of news about the Boston Marathon bombing, were more likely to develop post traumatic stress symptoms than people who were actually at the bombing and personally affected by it. That seems crazy, that just watching it on the news could be more likely to traumatize someone than being there. And when I read that, I began to wonder if one of the reasons for this is that people who are watching the news had no opportunity to help. They had no way to contribute to the relief of suffering the people who were actually impacted by the bombings. And they also were less likely to witness the compassionate acts of others. People who were actually there had the experience of seeing people care, seeing people help. They were part of the experience of how Boston came together, that came to be known as Boston Strong. Those who are actually affected were also the most likely to witness great compassion and caring in their own community. And in fact, a friend of mine who was there at the explosions, she performed CPR on one of the women who died. And she also helped save lives. And that experience propelled her in a different trajectory than what I heard in my Science of Compassion class, where people just seemed traumatized, and overwhelmed. She was also deeply traumatized. It makes sense. She was there and she witnessed horrific things. But she was also mobilized. It clarified her values, and what was important to her. She ended up getting more involved in programs that gave back to her Boston community. And she reported post traumatic growth, the sense that she had changed in ways that she valued as a result of experiencing something horrendous. And we know that this is much more likely among people who are able to help others after they experience a disaster or traumatic event.