“Bodily haste and exertion usually leave our thoughts very much at the mercy of our feelings and imagination.”
— Mary Ann Evans (a.k.a. George Eliot, 1819–1880)
Besides the technical term, which is often used in the caring professions for carers who burn out, we can see compassion fatigue in everyday life through the mode of supposedly caring too much; if at all that is the reality.
It is a fact, however, that so many of us care so much about life that we constantly push ourselves to the point of burnout, having been drawn in to the intricate web and commotion of myriad activity. It is certainly the anxiously attached that are most prone; those high achievers who desperately seek a sense of belonging. It seems an irony, then, to understand that those who care most are those who try the hardest and end up pushed beyond their capacity.
Those who care most are most susceptible to compassion fatigue.
It helps to understand that we, the carers in society, need to protect and provide for our mental process, because it underpins our emotional process, which supports our spiritual process.
Understanding the Importance of Mental Process
As the quote above alludes to, the denigration into fatigue of our thought process means we end up vulnerable to our feelings and imagination. When fatigue is matched with the imagination it is never a positive result. The imagination coveted by fatigue paints by broad brushstrokes of fear. Instead of our thoughts influencing our feelings, which is the way it should be in retaining emotional control, our feelings begin to ride roughshod over our thoughts. Our thinking sinks into the mode of dilemma.
Our mental process is the clue to our emotional process.
We can lose control mentally for instances here and there without much of a problem; without losing control emotionally. But if we push too hard, and, being out of control mentally is more the rule than the exception, we learn to accept operating out of chaos. Things steadily get worse.
We have allowed our thinking processes to be compromised so much our feelings then come to the fore—through anger, pity, complaint, etc—and we have learned to stop being so disciplined in our thinking.
Our emotional world hinges on our mental world, just as our spiritual world hinges on our emotional world.
If we have adequate scope regarding our thinking processes, and we don’t feel pressured emotionally, we have a much better chance of staying in control and averting the disaster of compassion fatigue.
It’s not a bad thing to care; indeed it is good. But we are useless to the people we care for if we get burned-out. We are much better off working within known limits, yes, even at the risk of disappointing people.
A safe thought life provides for a stable emotional life, just as a stable emotional life provides a meaningful and fulfilling spiritual life. The best way to battle compassion fatigue (supposedly, caring too much) is to restore balance to the thought life.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.