Your Brain on Compassion

People often use the words Empathy and Compassion interchangeably, but the experiences of empathy and compassion have very different effects on the body and the brain.  

Empathy refers to our ability to perceive and then feel what another is experiencing.  

Compassion goes a step further and involves an active wish for an end to that person’s suffering.
Empathy has an effect on the body that is depleting.  It lights up the “pain” regions of the brain, as if we were experiencing the pain ourselves.  

Compassion has an effect on the body that is nourishing.  It lights up the “love” regions of the brain.  It causes a release of oxytocin, which then causes a release of dopamine (lighting up the reward center of the brain), and serotonin (which reduces anxiety).

Many front-line aid workers, first-responders, and care-givers experience what has been termed “compassion fatigue” but should more accurately be called “empathy fatigue”.  The repeated witnessing of pain and distress overloads the nervous system and depletes our internal resources.  Science is now showing that Compassion practice can offset the depleting effects of empathy, helping people who witness suffering remain empathetic and healthy.

When we learn to use Empathy to connect with others, and then learn to switch to Compassion - wishing for an end to the suffering of others - we boost our own resilience.

We invite you to join us this week as we practice switching from Empathy to Compassion, in service of our own well-being and the well-being of others.

May all beings everywhere without exception experience the nourishing benefits of compassion, for self and others,

Your friends at CMP

This Week’s Session Schedule

Monday 12 PM and 1 PM Trumbull Library, Trumbull
Monday 7:30 PM Sama Yoga, 45 Grove Street, New Canaan
Tuesday 1 PM Ferguson Library, Stamford
Wednesday 12 PM New Canaan Library, New Canaan

Other Upcoming Events:

Darien Library Thursday Night Sessions @ 7 PM starting May 2nd!  Click here for our schedule.
Spring Silent Retreat!  Saturday May 4th  First Congregational Church of Stamford.  Registration and information here.

Guided Meditation Recordings:  
Click here for guided Compassion meditations.

CMP Compassion structure.jpg