Kelly examines the fears that people encounter when they start to broaden their compassion beyond what feels natural or easy, and highlights some of the most common fears of compassion and how to work through them. Also included is a guided practice you can use to help you embrace the lessons in this course, and recognize the interconnection of courage, fear, and compassion.
This course was created by Sounds True. We are pleased to offer this training in our library.
Skill Level Beginner
- [Male] 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'd appreciate your feedback. Thanks for listening. (light guitar music) - [Narrator] 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 seven, "The Power of Broadening Compassion." (light guitar music) - [Kelly] In the ancient Chinese text The Tao Te Ching, philosopher Lao Tzu offers these words of wisdom. With compassion, one becomes courageous. I believe this, but I've learned that the converse is also true. It takes courage to have compassion. We're heading into the part of this program that will deal with compassion that is difficult, whether that's having compassion for people who have harmed us or harmed others, compassion in the face of large scale suffering, and even compassion for ourselves. All of these forms of compassion require courage to go beyond our compassion comfort zone and stretch our capacity to care, to forgive, and to embrace. One of my favorite definitions of courage is the ability to make choices and take actions that are consistent with your goals and values, even in the presence of fear, and so, as we begin the process of cultivating truly courageous compassion, I'd like to start with an examination of the fears that people often encounter when they start to broaden their compassion beyond what feels natural or easy. In this session, we'll look at the most common fears of compassion and how to begin to work with them. I'd like to read you a few statements that describe possible ways of thinking about compassion and consider whether any of the statements feel true to you. If any resonate really strongly, make a mental note, or pause to write that statement down. First, some concerns related to having compassion for others. People will take advantage of me if they see me as too compassionate. I worry that if I'm compassionate vulnerable people can be drawn to me and drain my emotional resources. There are some people in life who don't deserve compassion. People need to help themselves, rather than waiting for others to help them. For some people, I think discipline and proper punishments are more helpful than being compassionate to them, and what about the following statements? Again, see if any hit home. Wanting others to be kind to oneself is a weakness. I fear that when I need people to be kind and understanding they won't be. I'm fearful of becoming dependent on the care from others because they might not always be available or willing to give it. When people are kind and compassionate towards me, I feel anxious or embarrassed. If people are friendly and kind, I worry they'll find out something bad about me that will change their mind. I worry that people are only kind and compassionate if they want something from me. Now, finally, listen to these beliefs about self-compassion and see if any resonate with you. I feel that I don't deserve to be kind and forgiving to myself. I fear that if I start to feel compassion for myself I will feel overcome with a sense of loss or grief. I fear that if I become too compassionate to myself I will lose my self-criticism, and all my flaws will show. I fear that if I become too compassionate to myself others will reject me. I fear that if I'm too compassionate toward myself bad things will happen. All of these items come from the fears of compassion scale, which was created by psychologist Paul Gilbert, and for decades, Gilbert has studied the nature of shame and self-criticism and the role that they play in mental illness and suffering, and along the way, he noticed that people who report high levels of shame, as well as those who've experienced some kind of trauma in their lives, many of them seem to have a very strong resistance to compassion. They were afraid of compassion in every form, feeling it for others, receiving it from others, or offering compassion to themselves, and in many cases, their past experiences had taught them that it wasn't always safe to trust others or that if they asked for help they would be rejected. It makes perfect sense that if you experience unkindness in your life, the vulnerability of compassion would feel unsafe, but Gilbert began to suspect that fears of compassion were not just a result of past suffering, but these fears were also contributing to present or future suffering. This seems to be the case. Gilbert's research shows that people who agree the most with the statements that I read you also report the highest levels of depression and anxiety, and more importantly, when they address these fears and they get more comfortable with compassion, it not only reduces their shame and self-criticism but also their depression and anxiety. Increasing your comfort with offering and receiving compassion, it also makes it easier to connect with others, and in one study, participants who reduced their fears of compassion reported feeling less judged by others, a sign that opening to compassion makes social connection feel less risky and more rewarding. I ask you to listen to the items from the fears of compassion scale and notice which ones resonated with you, and this is something I do in all my compassion courses and workshops because, let me tell you, it's not only people who are struggling with mental illness or trauma who recognize these fears in themselves. In fact, one group that Gilbert used to develop this scale was clinical psychologists, people who also happened to be very compassionate and who do practice a lot of courage around suffering, and still, many of them felt affected by at least some of these fears. Perhaps even more surprisingly, some of the most interesting conversations I've had about fears of compassion were with fellow teachers of compassion and the students who are in training to teach the Stanford compassion cultivation course. We all admit to holding at least one of these fears and struggling to overcome them. These fears of compassion are sometimes what drive us to explore ways to strengthen compassion. We recognize how they limit our ability to connect with others or to accept ourselves.