Currently there is much speak of compassion and there seems to be an opinion that those in conventional healthcare have a need to learn about this quality in order to be able to manage their workload in a better manner.

When I heard of this, I thought it quite amusing, but was told by someone in the know that it was about teaching self-care to overworked individuals in the medical professions. This brought it home to me once again that the meaning of words can be interpreted in many different ways, depending on where you are at.

In my thesaurus (and this is a new computer!) the synonyms of the word compassion are: sympathy, empathy, concern, kindness, consideration, care, kind heartedness, benevolence, understanding, responsiveness, identification and so on. To me, all these words have only a tiny flavour of the meaning of the quality of compassion, except maybe the words understanding and responsiveness.

In my opinion, compassion is a gift and something that cannot be taught to anyone. I believe that those who study medicine because they wish to help others have it in abundance. Those who do it for other reasons probably not, and no amount of academic learning or workshops on the topic can trigger such a quality. Compassion means having a profound understanding/recognition of the suffering of others and the ability to respond. It can be viewed as a ‘heart’ quality and every human being has the potential to be compassionate, but this quality is activated via personal experiences only.

It is interesting that this has come up in regard to conventional health care. As far as I know most GP’s and other medics are hugely overworked. Equally due to the nature of their work, many can become desensitised, which is nothing but a coping mechanism. The result is often stress to the point of burn out, inadequate bedside manner, frustration, inadequate self-care and many other issues.

In the good old days, about fifty odd years ago, most GPs made home visits and other doctors and specialists had plenty of time for their patients, making a good living and being extremely good at their jobs. Most were highly compassionate and loved their work. In our modern day and age, although much progress has been made, the accent on profit and expansion has often been at the expense of human values and qualities.

If one compares the NHS now to what it was even thirty years ago, this speaks for itself. Somewhere along the line, the ideals and principles in regard to the best care have been misplaced by bureaucracy. It is well known that too much of this always leads to the detriment of what is right; since it numbs intelligence and common sense, not to speak of genuine care for others. In fact, excessive bureaucracy in anything, usually leads to involution of which box ticking is just one example that we all recognise.

To come back to compassion, the two best known beings that fully embodied the meaning of the word were the Buddha and the Christ. It follows that compassion is a quality that deepens as one grows towards a more enlightened state of being and that it is only something that one can demonstrate via one’s actions, words and presence. It is definitely something that we all recognise when we meet it.

Maybe a way forward for all health care professionals, other than hope that common sense will at some stage replace questionable management, is to look a little more at self-care,  communication with patients and bedside manner. In addition to this it may be of value to acquire a correlated understanding and experience of the world of subtle energy and how to use this to achieve greater personal well-being and to be more effective in practice. We are currently working on a project to make this possible…