Existential Psychology

Choosing Compassion

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It’s easy to decide on compassion as long as the conversation is theoretical, often much more difficult when we are actually wronged. The common response is the thirst for revenge, often dressed up as the desire for justice, with all the associated negative thoughts and feelings. But we believe that if we can cause suffering to those who have caused us suffering we’ll feel better.

At bottom the desire for revenge is the desire to feel better, which makes the situation paradoxical in that negative feelings are generated as a result of the revenge response. Or put another way from the behavioral point of view, feeling bad and feeling good are incompatible states. And the more you inhabit the state of feeling bad the more it will reinforce itself, which is exactly what you’re doing when you focus on revenge.

This is why choosing compassion is not first and foremost about others but is about you and who you want to end up becoming, a person filled with love or a person filled with spite. If you want revenge then something really important has been taken from you, an insight that might lead to the further insight that this very instance of loss threatens to take even more away from you. True power is the ability to respond to circumstances as you see fit, not allowing yourself to be twisted into something you’re not because of the bad things that have happened to you.