Essays on love and compassion

Val Jean's love for others, in particular for his daughter Cosette, is what keeps him going and what rescues him in times of need. Another strong influence on Val Jean's love for humanity is that of the Bishop. It is obvious that he is basically a good person to start with, and that once the years of torment surpass him, the saintly man will emerge. Throughout this novel readers will find the religious value that Hugo is trying to come across. Continue reading this essay Continue reading.

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Many people push themselves to meet their own unreasonable expectations, berate themselves for their flubs and failures, and blow their difficulties out of proportion. In an odd sort of way, these people are rather mean to themselves, treating themselves far more harshly than they treat other people. However, we all also know people who take a kinder and gentler approach to themselves.

These two reactions to shortcomings, failures and problems might appear to reflect a difference in self-esteem but, in fact, the key difference involves not self-esteem but rather self-compassion. That is, the difference lies not so much in how people evaluate themselves their self-esteem but rather in how they treat themselves their self-compassion.

And, as it turns out, the latter appears to be far more important for wellbeing than the former. T o understand what it means to be self-compassionate, think about what it means to treat another person compassionately, and then turn that same orientation toward oneself.

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Self-compassionate people treat themselves in much the same caring, kind and supportive ways that compassionate people treat their friends and family when they are struggling. Whether their problems are the result of their own incompetence, stupidity or lack of self-control, or occur through no fault of their own, self-compassionate people recognise that difficulties are a normal part of life.

As a result, they approach their problems with equanimity, neither downplaying the seriousness of their challenges nor being overwhelmed by negative thoughts and feelings. Kristin Neff, a developmental psychologist at the University of Texas at Austin, first brought the construct of self-compassion to the attention of psychological scientists and practitioners in Since then, research has shown that self-compassion is robustly associated with every indicator of psychological wellbeing that has been investigated. People who are higher in self-compassion show greater emotional stability, are more resilient, have a more optimistic perspective, and report greater life satisfaction.

They are also less likely to display signs of psychological problems such as depression and chronic anxiety. People who are high in self-compassion deal more successfully with negative events — such as failure, rejection and loss — than people who are low in self-compassion. Just as receiving compassion from another person helps us to cope with the slings and arrows of life, being compassionate to ourselves has much the same effect.

In one study , we asked people to answer questions about the worst thing that had happened to them in the past four days.


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Self-compassionate people also indicated that they tried to be kind to themselves in the face of whatever difficulties they experienced, much as they would respond to a friend with similar problems. Self-compassion was particularly helpful for older people who were in poor physical health. Self-compassion might be particularly useful when people confront serious, life-changing experiences. For example, a recent study showed that those who had recently separated from their long-term romantic partners showed less distress about the breakup if they were high in self-compassion.


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  7. Others, meanwhile, seem to take ageing more in their stride, accepting their lapses, and treating themselves especially nicely when they have particularly bad days. Our research shows that people who are higher in self-compassion cope better with the challenges of ageing than those who are less self-compassionate: they had higher wellbeing, fewer emotional problems, greater satisfaction with life, and felt that they were ageing more successfully. In fact, as long as they were high in self-compassion, people with health problems reported wellbeing and life satisfaction that was as high as those without such problems.

    Because they were less self-critical and ashamed, those who were higher in self-compassion were also more likely to disclose their HIV status to others. Something about being self-compassionate led individuals confronting a serious, life-changing illness to adapt more successfully. T o understand how self-compassion works, consider how people respond to negative events. When we are upset about something, our reactions stem from three distinct sources.

    First is the instigating problem and our analysis of the threat that it poses to our wellbeing — what psychologists call the primary appraisal. Whether we are dealing with a failure, rejection, a health problem, losing a job, a speeding ticket or simply a misplaced set of car keys, a portion of our emotional distress is a reaction to the negative implications of the event.

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    Second, people analyse their ability to cope with the consequences of the problem. Third comes blame and guilt. When problems arise, we often think about the role that we played — the extent to which we were responsible and what, if anything, this says about us. People often experience additional distress when they believe that the problem arose through their own incompetence, stupidity or lack of self-control.

    This self-inflicted cruelty increases whatever distress the original problem is already causing. Treating oneself compassionately helps to ameliorate all three of these sources of distress. In The Compassionate Mind , Paul Gilbert, a British psychologist who has explored the therapeutic benefits of self-compassion, suggests that self-directed compassion triggers the same physiological systems as receiving care from other people.

    Treating ourselves in a kind and caring way has many of the same effects as being supported by others. When people do not add to their distress through self-recrimination, they can look life more squarely in the eye and see it for how it really is. Just as importantly, self-compassion eliminates the additional distress that people often heap on themselves through criticism and self-blame.

    Again, the parallel with other-directed compassion is informative.

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    Yet, people who are low in self-compassion talk to themselves in precisely such discourteous ways. One central feature of self-compassion that helps to lower distress is what Neff calls common humanity.

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    Each of us has our own measure of pain. Sometimes the pain we suffer is great and obvious; sometimes it is subtle. Our pain can reflect the coldness of our families, the trauma of our parents, the stultifying influence of much modern education and media, the difficulties of being a man or a woman. As a result, we often feel that we have been cast out.

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    To survive we have to cover our heart, build up a layer of clay, and defend ourselves. We lose the belief that we are worthy of love. Always remember to put your trust in compassion and self-love. From this comes a shift of identity, a release from the covering of clay, a return to our original goodness. The courageous heart is the one that is unafraid to open to the world.

    With compassion, we come to trust our capacity to open to life without armoring. This is not a poetic ideal but a living reality, demonstrated by our most beloved sages. Mahatma Gandhi had the courage to be jailed and beaten, to persevere through difficulties without giving in to bitterness and despair.

    His vulnerability became his strength.