People all over the globe talk of a better and more compassionate world, whether from treating animals well, helping those in need, or taking care of the earth.

Compassion is a state of mind that could truly improve human existence, and from a personal level, can offer enhanced emotional well-being.

What is compassion?

Compassion is an emotional state that emerges when sensing the suffering of others. More specifically, it includes knowledge that someone/something is suffering, identifying with the sufferer, and connecting to how the other may be feeling.

It is a co-suffering of sorts, which prompts the desire to help the other and alleviate the distress.

A disconnect and loss of hope

Acting compassionately is easier said than done. It doesn’t necessarily come naturally to have compassion for those we don’t have an emotional bond to, or when we probably have much to personally worry about already.

Often, the problems of the world, or circumstances we find people in, can seem hopeless and unsolvable. It can feel much easier to put on our emotional armor and neglect the issue.

Not only that, but being truly compassionate might mean we have to put others needs before our own. This is difficult for anyone living in a faced paced, competitive, and capitalistic society.

Could the concept of individualism and autonomy, which pervades American culture, lead to less compassion?

“Us” vs. “Them” mentality

Much of the conflict in the world is instigated by an “us” vs. “them” mentality. It’s easy to justify the pain and suffering those others may endure when we perceive them as different and part of the “out” group.

These differences are very often overestimated, and regardless of socioeconomic status, gender, race, ethnicity, or religion, the overall similarities are much more prevalent than any differences.

By beginning to view life as interconnect and unified, instead of segmented and separate, it offers a chance to experience more positive well-being and more positive emotions toward others.

Connecting with others

One important aspect is how much we connect and identify with others. When we can connect with another person’s suffering through empathy we begin to feel compassion to help others.

For instance, if someone is helpless to change their circumstances people may feel more compassion. This is why children in troubled situations are viewed compassionately, or why animals garner compassionate protest.

It’s not their fault.

If we feel a person could have helped themselves, we may blame them for their own misfortunes. This can make it more difficult to experience empathy for their pain.

Experience empathy in three steps:

Recognizing:  Recognize how the other person is feeling. This means being able to identify the emotion they are experiencing and labeling it correctly.

Feeling: After recognizing the emotional state of the other person, empathy entails experiencing that emotional state and feeling how the other person might feel be feeling. Or in other words, try to understand their pain.

Acting:  This involves taking action to help the other person. Maybe they are feeling scared, depressed, angry, or in physical pain. Taking action to help them feel better and being considerate toward their situation is the staple of compassion.

We can all being to take a role in helping others in times of need, or feeling kindness and caring toward people when they experience pain. It may not be natural at first, but simply learning to connect with how others feel is a start, and soon you will be taking action to make the world a better place.



View Comments / Leave a Comment

This post currently has 4 comments.
You can read the comments or leave your own thoughts.


From Psych Central's website:
PsychCentral (February 2, 2011)

From Psych Central's website:
PsychCentral (February 3, 2011)

Billie Perry (February 4, 2011)

From Psych Central's website:
Where Would be Without Compassion? | Adventures in Positive Psychology (May 20, 2011)

    Last reviewed: 2 Feb 2011

APA Reference
Wilner, J. (2011). Cultivate Compassion for a Better World and Better You. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 27, 2015, from



Subscribe to this Blog: Feed

Recent Comments
  • Char: JW I hope you’re still here to see this. My mom wrote gospel songs and spent over 30 years hoping and...
  • Sad: I hope the same
  • Oakley Twoface: Real fashion is a culture, a culture for the public is getting more recognition. It is an art, which...
  • anonymous: my boyfriend sometimes does not communicate with me, when i call him he does not receive my call, i text...
  • Hermes Evelyne Bag: Every one of Ed Miliband’s pledges from his speech yesterday has popular public support,...
Find a Therapist
Enter ZIP or postal code

Users Online: 12240
Join Us Now!