December 20, 2021



Compassion is an important topic in research and the popular press these days.  We are learning a great deal about the power of compassion to enhance our emotional and physical wellbeing, our relationships and our ability to engage productively in our life in general.  Yet many people fear compassion.  They fear giving it and receiving it. They particularly fear giving it to themselves. Each person has their own story and their own important particular relationship with compassion.  But I think to begin to talk about this paradoxical fear of such a life-sustaining quality it is useful to start with some broad categories.

Over the next several posts, I will discuss the fear of compassion by looking at 7 common misperceptions and fears about compassion I have explored in my work with patients.  I will look at these fears and misperceptions through the lens of psychodynamic/psychoanalytic thinking.  By this, I mean that I will try to explore some of the deeply embedded resistances to compassion based on often unrecognized, deeply held beliefs, ones that don’t give way easily to rational discussion or supportive encouragement. There are many good rational reasons to be compassionate toward oneself and others, but somehow many people still struggle to feel able to give it and be worthy of it. We need to more fully understand and appreciate the place compassion takes in our psyche, and of the barriers to fully realizing the benefits of compassion practice and cultivation.  I truly believe that for our world to go forward, we need to shift our view of our place in it to more fully understand the implications of our interdependence on each other and the natural world.  This understanding is the foundation of the compassionate worldview.  The reality of our interdependence and the resulting need for compassionate relating is no less a reality than the absolute need of an infant for its parent.  Join me as I explore compassion from the perspective of these 7 fears, some of which apply more to fears of compassion for the self, some more to compassion for others:

  • Burnout
  • Shame
  • Dependency/vulnerability
  • Indulgence/loss of moral compass
  • Hurt and pain
  • Failure
  • Loss of Identity

Of course, I can only begin a conversation with you all in these posts.  I hope you can join me in further exploration in my course, Resilience Through Compassion Training, offered this fall in NYC.  Go to for more information.

Image by KAVOWO from Pixabay