January 20th 2014 our country celebrates Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day. This day we are reminded that we are our brother’s keeper. Committing your professional life in service of others, to be part another human’s healing process is nothing less than remarkable. As clinicians we have this opportunity everyday — to experience empathy and compassion.
Empathy is defined as the ability to share the feelings of another and compassion as sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it.
The healing process requires the body and brain to lay down new neural pathways, the brain must find new routes to allow one to relearn daily living tasks like walking or eating or talking. As clinicians we facilitate this miraculous process. We can only image the brainwork necessary heal after a CVA or a brain injury.
Interestingly, recent studies report that the heart sends far more messages to the brain than the brain sends to the body. Emotions create chemical responses allowing our brains to understand emotions like compassion and empathy. The studies go on to say that compassion and empathy are part of our DNA; that it’s a natural instinct to care for each other. It makes sense that without one another, we would perish.
Dr. King’s work embodied non-violence and love. Yes, I used the word “love” in a professional blog. But, I am not sure how else to categorize the compassion we share with our clients – our fellow humans.
We are not compassionate and empathetic because it is our job. Empathy can’t be mandated but it can be practiced. When we realize we are interconnected, that we are our brother’s keeper, we emanate palpable compassion. Our clients and coworkers can feel this, their bodies might even feel it before the brain knows about it. Thank goodness the brain is not in charge all the time.
I wonder if “burnout” is a result of feeling separate?
Just like our clients’ brains, we must practice certain thoughts and actions to strengthen our neural pathways. Good thing as practitioners we can practice compassion every workday.
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