Lately I seem to be drawing more clients who are suffering, to some degree, from Compassion Fatigue. Compassion Fatigue is the Cost of Caring. People in helping professions, caregivers, those that provide supportive services to others, people involved in Welfare are all susceptible to developing stress as a result of their work. One cannot pour from an empty cup, an empty cup leads to stress, burnout and even breakdown. "Compassion Fatigue is a state experienced by those helping people or animals in distress; it is an extreme state of tension and preoccupation with the suffering of those being helped to the degree that it can create a secondary traumatic stress for the helper." Dr. Charles Figley
People in helping or caring professions or roles (especially those involved in direct patient care) are exposed to distress, suffering and negativity on a daily basis. Continuous and consistent exposure to others suffering and distress can diminish a helper's ability to be an effective caregiver (both to him/her self and to his/her patients, and this leaves caregivers feeling vulnerable, ineffective, incompetent, exhausted and overwhelmed. Compassion Fatigue is an occupational hazard or natural consequence of overwhelming stress resulting from caring for or helping traumatized or suffering people or animals. Empathy can result in vicarious trauma: "The repeated exposure to difficult stories changes our view of the world". Saakvitne & Pearlman
Primary stress (crises and trauma's in one's own life), secondary traumatic stress (vicarious stress) and cumulative stress (repeated exposure) all contribute to developing Compassion Fatigue.
Many helpers, caregivers and empaths focus on others at the expense of their own well-being, often believing both that they 'know' all the answers (have the knowledge, coping mechanisms and inner resources) and that their own personal needs and satisfaction are selfish or self-indulgent.... so they put themselves on the back-burner. Many of these wounded healers are also their own harshest critics and won't grant themselves any slack... they hold the idea that if you can't stand the heat get out of the kitchen.
For those of us in helping/ caring professions and roles, acknowledgement of one's own needs and the recognition and improvement of self-care (both in and outside the workplace) is key to creating wellness and balance. Self-care is all about self-awareness, nurturing oneself, replenishing oneself, having a life and "me" time outside of work and making healthy lifestyle choices. So often we forget that CHARITY BEGINS AT HOME, and that we are absolutely no good to anyone else if we are ourselves burnt out, overwhelmed, dysfunctional and not coping. Self-care actually increases a caregiver's ability to care for others...it is a necessity and NOT an indulgence!!! By the same token, Helpers can become hurters (or apathetic, numb, intolerant etc.) because "hurt people hurt others".
The empaths, altruists, nurturers, teachers, carers, helpers and healers are my ideal clients (rather than the fat cats, the lawyers, the corporates, the magnates, the proprietors, the traders and the politicians). I have realized that these are the people I choose to surround myself with. These are my soul mates and BFF's. These are people I venerate, respect and adore. In recognition of these altruists, empaths and humanitarians; and to help them keep doing the good that they do, I will soon be launching my COMFORT project aimed at building and restoring Compassion Fortitude.
Here is my version of Steve Jobs famous quote (which incidentally, I ❤ )...
Here’s to the humane ones.
The altruists. The helpers. The healers.
The givers in a greedy world.
The empaths who feel things differently.
They are not fond of injustice,
And they go where angels fear to tread.
You can embrace them, discredit them, venerate or mock them.
About the only thing you can’t do is dismiss them.
Because they nurture things.
They care. They help. They teach.
They encourage. They soothe. They support.
They promote the potential of humanity.
Maybe they have to be humane.
Because the ones who have faith enough to believe in humanity are the only ones who can change destiny.