The Role of Compassion in Responsibility

August 11, 2009 at 5:28 am | Posted in Philosophical Problems | Leave a comment

I realized on Sunday that my last post may have sounded a little harsh, as though I believe that bipolar people need to use brute force to get well for others’ sake. In fact, compassion often plays a key role in acting responsibly. Here’s how.

Sometimes staying well means accepting limitations: for example, understanding that you need a certain number of hours of sleep a night, or that you’re better off avoiding certain people or situations. When manic depressives ensure that they acknowledge these limits, they often feel terribly guilty. Our culture tells us that we must work full time and raise a family to have worth. For people who can’t do either, or simply elect not to, the guilt and shame can be dreadful.

Part of compassion is reminding yourself as often as necessary that placing limits on your activities doesn’t make you a bad person, or a selfish one; instead, it means that you’re taking care of yourself to avoid further episodes. Many people find it impossible to impose these limits without a learning to cultivate a compassion that much of the culture lacks. It’s a tough task, but a necessary one, and I’ll admit right here that I find this practice difficult given the negative thoughts that stomp around in my brain on occasion. That said, I like these two articles, one from Zen Habits, and another from The National Association for Rights Protection and Advocacy. The first is for everyone; the second is for caregivers and advocates. Both are excellent.

Paradoxical as it might seem, I find it impossible to do my duty without self-compassion.

Love to all.

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