Compassion of the Random Abstract
As a result, mammalian young infants did not have to be self-protective or self-sustaining, indeed there was a very different pattern of parental investment. First, parent and offspring needed to be attracted to stay close to each other rather than disperse. Second, resources and stimuli provided by the parent would have major impacts on the growth and physiological regulation of the infant 2. Third, in species where parents did provide food for offspring, in particular primates, infants are required to be quiescent for much of the time as they grow and develop e.
Fourth, because infants cannot move or provide food for themselves, the parent is responsible for providing such needs and regulating them, that is provide a safe haven. Fifth, as infants become more mobile, parents act as a secure base , facilitating gradual exploration of their environment 3. To facilitate these interactional sequences, k selected regulation processors operated through a sequence of adaptations. One of these major adaptations was the evolution of part of the myelinated parasympathetic system—the dorsolateral vagal nerve that links a range of internal organs to central control systems.
Indeed, the vagus nerve is connected to a range of organs including the heart and gut, and with the brain through its link to inhibitory prefrontal—subcortical circuits. One of the key functions of parental investment is sensitivity to distress and preparedness to act appropriately to relieve that distress. This is also the basic sentiment and core of compassion 4, 5 , and as we will discuss, compassion utilizes the same evolved physiological pathways as basic caring behavior.
Compassion has been defined in various ways, with many focusing on describing certain qualities and attributes that comprise compassion 6. Other definitions stress the motivational nature of compassion, exploring its goal and focus and the various competencies necessary for that motive to operate successfully. Compassion as a motivation is central to many of the contemplative traditions 7—9.
This is captured in such definitions as having a sensitivity to suffering in self and others, with a commitment to alleviate and prevent it 5. One way to better focus future research in compassion science is via evolutionary insights into its origins and functioning situated within its neurophysiological architecture 4, 5, 10, Along with compassion there are many human motives including self-protection harm-avoidance , sexual finding a mate and reproducing , and caring-based motives 5, 12, All motives have two basic processes, which when applied to compassion include 1 having a motive-appropriate signal detection input to suffering i.
It is now well recognized that a key process that assists with affect regulation is through caring affiliative and affectionate behaviors. This is reflected in the dynamic balancing of the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems that give rise to variability in heart rate [Heart Rate Variability HRV ; 14 ]. In fact, the autonomic nervous system enables emotion-related action tendencies, which, in the case of compassion, are approach and caregiving. The inhibition of heart rate through the activity of the parasympathetic nervous system has shown to be linked to the orienting response and sustained outward attention, which constitute a core action tendency of compassion Moreover, children with higher heart rate deceleration during evocative films showed increased subsequent compassionate behavior Interestingly, children with higher baseline HRV were rated by teachers and parents as more helpful and more able to regulate their emotions than those with lower HRV 21 and showed increased self-reports of sympathy, both dispositionally and in response to distress-inducing films This suggests that tonic HRV might represent the physiological signature of a trait-like compassionate responding.
Increased HRV in adults has been found to be specifically connected to the emotional state of compassion and not to positive affect in general 23 , supporting the correlation between vagal activity and state-like episodes of compassion. Moreover, recent findings 24 have shown that increases in vagally mediated HRV induced by Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation over the left temporal lobe, topographically close to the left insular cortex, was associated with increases in soothing positive affect: a feeling of perceived safeness and warmth which has been considered the emotional underpinning of a compassionate motivation.
Feeling safe is linked to HRV, and higher HRV is linked to a greater ability to self-soothe when stressed 14 , thus facilitating engagement with the suffering in one selves and others , while inhibiting the distress-related tendencies to fight with or withdraw from suffering. Specific strategies, such as breathing practices, friendly voice tones, and facial and body expressions, can activate the parasympathetic system, aiming to calm and soothe the individual, which improves HRV Moreover, when the sympathetic nervous system is activated under threat, this decreases the ability for higher order cognitive capacities, such as mentalizing to occur e.
Thus, the focus on activating affiliative processing systems e. HRV, as a marker of increased emotion regulation which facilitates, and is facilitated by, an approach motivation to suffering, might be considered one of the primary measures when assessing and training compassion. Measuring HRV in compassion science is uncommon, yet there are many important nuances that need to be teased out and examined between HRV and compassion, thus more data are required to help improve understanding the interaction and precision of links between compassion and HRV.
There is now considerable evidence that being the giver and recipient of caring behaviors, particularly compassion, has a range of health benefits 29, 30 and can affect genetic expression 31, Compassion training improves general well-being and social relationships 33, 34 , with increasing evidence of its effectiveness as a psychotherapy 11, 35, A recent review of several compassion-based interventions e.
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Practicing compassion also has an impact on neurophysiology due to neuroplasticity 27 , with a recent study showing that it has significant impacts on HRV Matos et al. What is required now is a more coordinated and integrated research program on the physiological changes that are brought about through compassion training.
There are various approaches to compassion training, with different approaches having different definitions and consequently different forms of assessment The assessment methods used in compassion training relies predominantly on self-report measures, such as the Self-Compassion Scale 37 , and a recent review that critically examined the assessment measures for compassion concluded that self-report questionnaires assessing compassion have serious psychometric weaknesses 6.
Thus, other assessment options need to be considered. One such approach is through physiological assessment; however, for this to be an appropriate assessment, it needs to align with the model of compassion used by the intervention. All the available compassion interventions are secular in design, however, theoretically these interventions have been typically influenced by Tibetan Buddhist traditions 11 , and as such the definitions of compassion in the majority of compassion interventions do not include links to evolutionary models or physiology Compassion-focused therapy is notably different to the other interventions, as the theoretical underpinning is based on an evolutionary model that links to physiology Thus, assessing HRV as an assessment would be appropriate for that model, as one could interpret the assessment outcomes to its model of intervention.
First, that psychopathology depression, anxiety, paranoia and underlying processes, such as self-criticism, negative rumination, shame, and worry, are linked to lower levels of HRV. Second, that compassion is correlated to HRV. Third, compassion-based practices can directly increase HRV and potentially other biological, physiological, and neurophysiological measures, such as cortisol, and diminish the expression of proteins associated with inflammation.
We will look at these in turn. To date, there have been several cross-sectional studies demonstrating lower levels of HRV in conditions, such as depression 39 , anxiety 40 , rumination 41 , and self-criticism Second, there have been some correlational studies demonstrating the links between compassion and HRV.
For example, trait self-compassion, measured by the Self-Compassion Scale 37 was found to be correlated to resting HRV and an increase in parasympathetic nervous system tone Third, experimental studies have also documented the impacts of compassion on physiology. For example, Rockliff and colleagues 42 examined the impact of compassionate imagery i. In this study, HRV was derived by inter-beat interval time series of electrocardiography and CMetx software Results were mixed with some participants having a reduction in HRV, while others showed increased HRV in response to compassion imagery.
Individuals who experienced decreases in HRV in response to compassionate imagery were those that had lower levels of social safeness, and had higher scores on self-criticism, self-coldness, anxious attachment, and psychopathologies. Another study 46 found compassion meditation increased positive emotions and HRV, and that effect moderated by baseline vagal tone. Finally, a recent study by Petrocchi et al. These results provide further evidence for the impact of compassionate-based exercises in activating the soothing affect system connected with parasympathetic nervous system activity, and influencing HRV.
There are now a number of compassion-based interventions that are aimed to improve well-being and social relationships, such as compassion cultivation training, cognitively based compassion training, mindful self-compassion, cultivating emotional balance, compassionate mind training, and others Each of these approaches have been examined in randomized controlled trials, with early findings indicating compassion-based interventions are a promising intervention to help increase well-being and reduce suffering Importantly, the only compassion training intervention model that has used HRV to date is compassion-focused therapy CFT.
As mentioned CFT 5 , has its theoretical underpinnings based upon evolutionary psychology and attachment theory, which is linked to physiological systems, which makes assessing HRV in its model suitable 5. To date, CFT is the only psychotherapy to actively target physiological processes in therapy; with a recent randomized controlled trial including participants showed that it was able to increase HRV for participants Matos et al. The intervention components described were included as they specifically focused on increasing compassion related competences and affiliative emotions which are specifically indexed by increased vagal tone and HRV [Matos et al.
Compared to the control group the CFT condition experienced significant increases in: positive emotions associated with feeling relaxed and also safe and content; self-compassion, compassion for others and compassion from others. There were also significant reductions in shame, self-criticism, depression, and stress.
Exercises that can help activate HRV include focusing and practicing breathing, facial expressions, posture, and visualization strategies 4, Thus, each of these specific practices require experimental testing to determine if each contributes to increasing HRV. However, insecure attachment and social safeness need to be explored as potential moderators of these effect. If other compassion training models wish to use HRV as an assessment outcome, theoretical considerations need to be made to evolutionary models and physiological systems. For example, if other compassion interventions begin to use HRV as an outcome there will be potential difficulties in understanding and interpreting the data if it does not link to a model of compassion which links to physiological systems.
Thus, with the increasing use of HRV as a physiological proxy for measuring compassion, other models might begin to become more inclusive of evolutionary and physiological models to understanding compassion. Recent technologies aimed at providing biofeedback in order to increase HRV are also showing promise 50 , although researchers are suggesting that technologies used to increase HRV are potentially more effective when combined with mindfulness or compassion-based techniques Importantly, what would be interesting in future research is to examine whether targeting increases in HRV alone can lead to increases in compassion motivation toward self and others, particularly behaviorally.
Finally, researchers examining HRV in compassion science need to consider the complexity of HRV and its dynamic relationship with vagal tone and emotion regulation. There can be a tendency as more researchers in the field of compassion science begin to assess HRV to refer to it as being a singular outcome, with higher HRV only related to positive outcomes. Indeed, there are times when high sympathetic tone is desired, for example, when helping to target states of helplessness I wish I could have met your mother myself.
She went to her doctors frequently and I was concerned and a little puzzled because she was so healthy. Other than well controlled hypertension she was in excellent health. I was home one week and she told me she was seeing her cardiologist. When she came home I asked her what he said.
P when she volunteered for the Red Cross. He was moonlighting while in medical school and ate all the cookies there. She would bring him sandwiches. After she came home from the gastroenterolgist she had diverticulitis I asked her if she was on meds. If she were your patient you would have enjoyed her. Thank you, Alex, I am grateful to have found this blog. Through it you have created a warm, gentle space for spirit to flow.
Marginalized people have difficulty trusting with good reason! So many people learn that trust leads to betrayal and pain. Me, a total stranger. I truly am blessed! Until you have compassion for yourself the credibility of your compassion for others must remain in doubt. Such a subtle sly one that is. To me, compassion is love for another in the sense of allowing them to be who they are. Non-judgment etc, just pure allowing what is to be.
Alex : Thanks for the compliment. The views of anyone named Alex need to be taken seriously. Giving money to homeless people? If not, we just share a bit of company for a while—me in my dress shirt and slacks, he dressed not quite that formally. Sometimes I bring along a cup of coffee or a bowl of soup but that is only when the spirit moves me—not a habit. Giving money? Not unless we talk and yes, mentally challenged people can talk, although sometimes it takes a bit more patience to listen.
The Science of Compassion Training
Some say that this is misplaced trust. But I find that, when given and spoken from the heart, my trust in people is seldom broken. Sometimes street people I have given some money to tell me later that they had indeed used it for drugs etc. Does that not mean that, by telling me that, there indeed is trust here? Last March I spent a month in a Mayan village high in the mountains of Guatemala. The poverty was heart breaking and there was alcoholism, lack of proper nutrition, virtually no health care and what not.
Almost all there are Catholic and practiced their age-old Mayan beliefs as well. But below that surface people truly lived their spirituality and, despite a cruelly hard life, I have never met more truly happy people. I was part of our group of four people volunteering for a program aimed at helping children mostly orphans deal with the traumas of civil war experiences and the results of natural disasters such as mud slides covering entire villages after hurricane Mitch a few years ago. We spent time with story telling and art, mostly in the local schools, and of course we played soccer.
Nothing big—no pay—no giving money. Sometimes I would just sit on a rock along the road, and people would stop and ask me why I—a Norte Americano—would sit there in the dust, and could they help me? My answer to you about this unusual kind of tourism is the same as my answer to street people: if you just simply sit with a person and open your heart, love and compassion happen automatically although it sometimes takes some time.
And, by the way, many people there asked me to help them gain the skills they need for a better life—not gifts of money unless there was a real emergency. Here is one true example of what I mean:. A person I know was driving down the highway and saw a man pushing an elderly woman in a wheelchair. It was pouring rain. On impulse the driver stopped his car, got out, gave the old woman an umbrella, smiled at her, and got back into his car and drove on.
THAT is compassion.
Try it. Then the Buddha came along and, ignoring the two monks, rushed to the deer and pulled the arrow out. You have been blessed with success and affluence while many people around you suffer and starve. To dismiss them because they take drugs to cope with their situation is not compassion. Many people are addicted to alcohol and prescription drugs. Yet, our society teaches us that those addicts are better than the addicts which take cheap drugs in allies to escape the reality of life. Rather than sitting in judgment of the homeless in your neighborhood, try accepting them for who they are.
Does it really matter? Is it not their right as a human being to make their own choices? If her drug habit really bothers you so much, there are plenty of ways you could help. A gift card for example.
Research Matters / Wanted: Compassion
Not very much, but a little. Greg : I think you misunderstood where I was coming from in my post. I was attempting to be honest about the difficulty I have in mustering up compassionate action in certain circumstances. I FEEL great compassion for her but am frustrated by my own inability to take what I consider to be compassionate ACTION toward her, which in my view makes my feeling compassion for her worthless to her and to me. But I remind myself that compassion must be developed and nurtured, which is essentially why I practice Buddhism.
By giving a homeless drug addict the means to continue her addiction, which I believe due to my personal and professional experience leads directly away from happiness, I would then be contributing to her misery and not her happiness, and that is definitely not compassion in my book. As I pointed out in the post, compassion applied without wisdom can often create more misery than it resolves. Very thought provoking, Alex, as always. I understand your wish to engage with people who need help, but you had your infant with you.
I give fast food coupons to people who ask for assistance. Fast food coupons are a nice idea. I think that what constitutes the most compassionate action a person could take will depend on what that person feels they have to offer. I continue to struggle to challenge myself to more consistently impart it. This just represents the current boundary of my growth. Thanks for your comment and compliment on the blog. Thank you for your thoughtful post. Interactions with homeless or requests for money happen to all of us and pose the question, how will we respond?
When this happens to me, I assess the need, as you said the Buddha would do. Sometimes, it is offhand, someone just collecting change without conviction. Sometimes, I feel panhandled. And sometimes, I hear or see the need there. It is what I would do for myself. One woman I remember took me up on my offer and we talked as we walked to CVS—an unlikely pair. She asked for a drink, chips, cough syrup, and then asked if she could get batteries: her cassette Walkman which she held, had died.
To me, happenstance is the only difference between us—our means, and that is transient. And batteries—for music—and cough syrup to stop coughing were her needs.
Emergent Organizational Capacity for Compassion | Academy of Management Review
Her needs met were both our happiness. So, often, I am thankful for what someone asks of me, because I could not have felt the way I did without her. I am pleased to find your thoughts on being compassionate. Acting in a selfless manner, yet being able to decipher what is truly helpful to that other person. I let them know that I care for them and want them to learn to do better. So punishing is not such a bad thing but is actually compassionate. When they need to function like other kids, I need to remind them.
This helps me continue feeling compassionate for them. Very confronting. I am far too often giving people what they want. Lists with This Book. This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Community Reviews. Showing Rating details. All Languages. More filters. Sort order. There are no discussion topics on this book yet. About Bilal Malik Mutawassim. Bilal Malik Mutawassim.
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