The Power of Compassion – Chapter 7 on Compassion Cultivation Training

Cover of the newly published book The Power of Compassion, my colleagues and I wrote Chapter Seven

So fun to get a sneak peak today at our chapter on Compassion Cultivation Training just published in The Power of Compassion! My colleagues and I wrote Chapter 7 as a review of the CCT program research and implications for health care providers. It was an honor to be published in this book. And isn’t the cover stunning!?

About the book:

“…compassion is indeed based out of a position of power; a personal resource and strength to sustain people in complex and difficult times in their lives but also a concept which is meaningful at an organisational level and to society at large. Compassion has a growing scientific basis, notably within psychology and neuroscience but its application is increasingly evident across a range of health and social care systems.

This book brings together the wisdom of compassionate science through the exposition of work by international experts on the development of evidence in the field of compassion research and training.”

Click here to read Chapter 7 of The Power of Compassion: Compassion Cultivation Training (CCT) Program Description, Research, and Potential Benefit for Health Care and Palliative Care Professionals. Sansó (Ed.) 2019

And here’s an excerpt from the section on Qualitative Research on the Effects of CCT:

“First person reports on the impact of the CCT program. In Waibel’s 2015 qualitative study of CCT, in describing the overall impact of compassion cultivation, participants in interviews noted increased feelings of connection with others, and described compassion as the ability to stay present —physically, emotionally, and mentally — when others are suffering (See Table 2).

One study participant expressed this saying, “In general I’m more often totally present with sombody.” Another participant described compassion as the courage to acknowledge and stay present with suffering:

Part of compassion is being willing to lean in to suffering, so that through the practice you actually cultivate courage. It’s your ability to stay with suffering, and your capacity to be able to do that expands.

Others described the impact of CCT in their lives with comments such as, “I’m not taking all this stuff as seriously as I used to and not getting all stressed out like I used to,” “I’m way less reactive,” “I’m a more calm person,” “there’s less internal distress,” and “gratitude has gone up on the scale tremendously — I feel it more when I do feel it. And I more frequently feel it because of the class.” Another participant explained, “It’s not like it’s a complete 180 for me, but it’s such a contrast to how I grew up and the learned instinct of self-protection.”

The offering of compassion to oneself is especially important for building “immunity” against burnout in fields where caregivers and healthcare providers are continuously confronted with suffering (Burack, Irby, Carline, Root, & Larsen, 1999). One participant, a healthcare provider at an organization where CCT is offered routinely, explained she and her coworkers who have taken CCT are “able to perceive each other as calmer and we’re really able to much more effectively problem solve. We’re also more effective in coming to solutions.”

The perceived benefits of CCT described by Waibel (2015) include examples of interactions with classmates, family members, friends, and strangers that can act as a mirror to let the individual know whether or not the compassionate response is happening. Participants described learning that is open, ambiguous, incomplete, changing, and lived in interactions. Learning is also expressed in comments about shifting from thinking to being, or from thinking to inquiry. In this view, knowledge is not a thing to be attained, but a flexibility: the ability to shift perspectives and points of view in moments of reactivity or difficulty. Findings reveal that in CCT, knowledge emerges in thought and action and is grounded in bodily experience and relationship.”

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