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Compassion and Ethics: Scientific and Practical Approaches to the Cultivation of Compassion as a Foundation for Ethical Subjectivity and Well-Being

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Abstract

Recent years have seen a rapid growth in interest in the study of meditation and its health benefits, attention now broadening beyond simple relaxation techniques to other forms of meditation that involve the cultivation of positive mental states and emotions such as compassion. The scientific study of compassion suggests that compassion may be of crucial importance for our individual physical and psychological health. Moreover, because compassion relates fundamentally to how we as human beings relate to one another, its cultivation entails an ethical dimension that may be just as important as the medical and psychological dimension. In this article we supplement the emerging scientific literature on compassion by laying out a case for understanding compassion as a moral emotion intimately tied to the question of ethics and the cultivation of ethical sensibility. Second, we examine the individual and social benefits of compassion that support such a view. Thirdly, we describe in detail one method for the cultivation of compassion: Cognitively-Based Compassion Training (CBCT). We conclude by presenting current research programs employing CBCT and point to possible future directions in the study of compassion and its cultivation.
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Journal of Healthcare, Science and the Humanities Volume II, No. 1, 2012 145
Compassion and Ethics:
Scientic and Practical Approaches to the Cultivation of
Compassion as a Foundation for Ethical Subjectivity and
Well-Being
Brendan R. Ozawa-de Silva, DPhil, MPhil, MTS
Religious Life Scholar, Office of Religious Life
Research Fellow, Emory-Tibet Partnership
Emory University
Religion Dept., Callaway Center S306A
Atlanta, GA 30322
Tel: (404) 617-3818
Email: bozawad@emory.edu
Brooke Dodson-Lavelle, MA
Program Coordinator and Research Fellow, Emory-Tibet Partnership
Emory University
Religion Dept., Callaway Center S306A
Atlanta, GA 30322
Tel: (404) 712-9296
Email: bdodson@emory.edu
Charles L. Raison, MD
Assoc. Professor, Dept. of Psychiatry
Emory University
1365 Clifton Road
Atlanta, GA 30322
Tel: (404) 712-8800
Email: craison@emory.edu
Lobsang Tenzin Negi, PhD
Senior Lecturer, Dept. of Religion
Director, Emory-Tibet Partnership
Emory University
Religion Dept., Callaway Center S306A
Atlanta, GA 30322
Tel: (404) 712-9293
Email: snegi@emory.edu
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146 Volume II, No. 1, 2012 Journal of Healthcare, Science and the Humanities
Author Note
Dr. Charles Raison and Dr. Lobsang Tenzin Negis work related to Cognitively-Based
Compassion Training (CBCT) has been supported by grants from the National Center for
Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) (grant numbers: R01 AT004698,
R01 AT004698-01S1, RC1 AT005728-01), by UL1 RR025008 from the Clinical and
Translational Science Award program and PHS Grant M01 RR0039, and by donor support
from the Joni Winston Fund. Dr. Ozawa-de Silva and Dodson-Lavelles work related to
CBCT has been supported by a grant from Emory Universitys Religion and Public Health
Collaborative and donor support from the Joni Winston Fund. Dr. Raison serves as a
consultant to Biolex Therapeutics, LLC, and Pamlab. None of the other manuscript authors
have conflicts of interest to disclose. Dr. Ozawa-de Silva and Dodson-Lavelle express their
gratitude to Dr. John Dunne, Dr. Philippe Rochat, Dr. Barbara Dunbar and Erin Robbins
for their support related to this work.
Abstract
Recent years have seen a rapid growth in interest in the study of meditation and its health
benefits, attention now broadening beyond simple relaxation techniques to other forms
of meditation that involve the cultivation of positive mental states and emotions such
as compassion. The scientific study of compassion suggests that compassion may be of
crucial importance for our individual physical and psychological health. Moreover, because
compassion relates fundamentally to how we as human beings relate to one another, its
cultivation entails an ethical dimension that may be just as important as the medical and
psychological dimension. In this article we supplement the emerging scientific literature
on compassion by laying out a case for understanding compassion as a moral emotion
intimately tied to the question of ethics and the cultivation of ethical sensibility. Second,
we examine the individual and social benefits of compassion that support such a view.
Thirdly, we describe in detail one method for the cultivation of compassion: Cognitively-
Based Compassion Training (CBCT). We conclude by presenting current research programs
employing CBCT and point to possible future directions in the study of compassion and its
cultivation.
Keywords: compassion, empathy, ethics, meditation, education
Introduction
Recent years have seen a quickly growing interest in the scientific study of
contemplative practices. Although much of this work has dealt primarily with meditation
techniques for quieting and focusing the mind as a tool for reducing stress, increasing
attention is being paid to styles of meditation that actively cultivate positive emotions such
as compassion and that also appear to have significant health benefits. The scientific study
of compassion and of methods for cultivating it is important for numerous reasons: First,
compassion may be of crucial importance for our individual physical and psychological
health. Second, compassion relates fundamentally to how we as human beings relate to one
another when it comes to questions of happiness and suffering. As such, compassion and
its cultivation have an ethical dimension that may be just as important as the medical and
psychological dimension.
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Journal of Healthcare, Science and the Humanities Volume II, No. 1, 2012 147
In this article we offer a supplement to the growing scientific literature on
compassion by laying out a case for understanding compassion as a moral emotion intimately
tied to the question of ethics and the cultivation of ethical sensibility. Second, we examine
the individual and social benefits of compassion that support such a view. Thirdly, we
describe in detail one method for the cultivation of compassion that draws from this view:
Cognitively-Based Compassion Training (CBCT), an intervention designed to improve
well-being and ethical sensibility by leading participants through a systematic process to
cultivate powerful and unbiased compassion to others. Fourthly, we provide an overview of
our current research programs employing the CBCT method in elementary school, foster
child, adult, and other populations, and point to possible future directions in the study of
compassion and its cultivation.
Compassion and Ethics
Today in the early years of the 21st century, the common global situation of
humanity is such that the question of the place of ethics in our world is perhaps the most
central question of our time. An analysis of the most pressing problems facing humanity,
whether they are political, economic, social or environmental, shows that their causes lie
fundamentally in human choices, and those choices are largely shaped by values. Ethical
principles and values, however, can neither be bought through economic means nor
legislated and enforced through policy and laws. This means that the solution to such
problems can not merely depend on legal, political and economic systems or the reform of
such systems (although naturally such reforms could still play a beneficial role), but also
needs to involve the inculcation of values that reach the level of inner conviction. This is
above all an ethical task.
Note 1. Although contemporary understandings of secular ethics are often
restricted to agreed upon practices separate from the emotional and moral
subjectivity of individuals, as in the case of much of contemporary medical and
bioethics, the broader view of ethics presented here is in fact very old and can
be seen clearly in pre-Socratic Greek philosophy, where philosophy meant more
than a set of principles or abstract truths about the world, but rather referred to
a way of life that brought well-being and flourishing, embodied in the being of
the philosopher-teacher to his or her students. For a lucid examination of how
pre-Socratic philosophy gradually shifted from this ideal, see Pierre Hadots What
is Ancient Philosophy? (Hadot, 2004). The observation that all people (and even
animals) seek well-being and happiness, rather than suffering and misery, has been
made by philosophers and religious thinkers throughout the ages, ranging from
Aristotle to St. Augustine. It is agreed upon as a foundational maxim even by
individuals who hold wildly differing worldviews and views on religion, such as
the present Dalai Lama and the outspoken critic of religion, Sam Harris.
Here we are understanding ethics broadly, whereby ethics is not merely confined to
an external code or a set of principles of right and wrong, or correct and incorrect practices
(which, when upheld, can lead to harming others instead of helping them). Ethics can
instead be understood more broadly as a way of conceptualizing how human beings relate to
one another and their environment with specific regard to suffering and its alleviation. This
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is because, despite all the cultural and religious differences that may seem to stand in the
way of a common ethical ground for human life and interaction, one thing that humanity
shares in common is the wish for happiness and well-being for oneself and ones loved ones,
while not wanting harm or suffering for oneself and ones loved ones. Importantly, this
general definition of ethics can apply to anyone regardless of religious belief or lack thereof.
Moreover, such a definition shows that, since suffering and its alleviation are chief concerns
of individuals and societies irrespective of place, time, religion or culture, ethics must be a
principle concern of human beings everywhere. Although broad, this definition is not so
all-encompassing that it ends up rendering nothing ethical by rendering everything ethical,
since there will naturally be actions that have a greater impact on human suffering and
its alleviation than others. Furthermore, since the outcomes of actions can be difficult to
predict, the role of intention and motivation is important.
If we adopt this perspective on ethics, we see the centrality of human values and
in particular values like compassion. Compassion is a deep feeling of wishing to alleviate
the suffering of others (Gilbert, 2005; Goetz, Keltner & Simon-Thomas, 2010; Gyatso,
2001). Compassion can serve as a fundamental basis for human values and ethics, precisely
because a central problem of ethics is suffering and well-being. When compassion is present
in a persons mind, that person cannot harm or further the suffering of the people to whom
they feel compassion; on the contrary, their actions will work towards the alleviation of those
persons’ suffering. When compassion is absent from a persons mind, that person can engage
in actions that are harmful to others if they benefit the person him- or herself. It is such
self-serving actions, absent of compassion, that are responsible for most of the world’s ills,
whether they are economic inequality, armed conflicts, or environmental irresponsibility. This
is likely the reason that His Holiness the Dalai Lama has suggested in his book Ethics for the
New Millennium that compassion can serve as a foundation for a “secular ethics,” by which
he means not an anti-religious ethics, of course, but rather an ethics based on fundamental
human values irrespective of a persons religious beliefs or lack thereof (Gyatso, 2001).
Two central questions, or sets of questions, therefore emerge. First of all, is it
true that compassion is beneficial for an individual and a society, and if so, what are those
benefits, and do they outweigh the costs? Secondly, if compassion does have benefits that
outweigh the costs, then is it something that can be individually and socially cultivated? Up
until recently, such questions could only be addressed philosophically or theologically, but an
emerging science of compassion is beginning to address these questions in a practical way.
The Scientic Basis for Compassion
In his recent book The Age of Empathy, primatologist Frans de Waal surveys a
growing body of empirical evidence to argue that our common perception of evolution as a
Machiavellian or Hobbesian story of “every creature for itself,” with a self-centered drive for
individual survival as our most basic instinct, is largely distorted, if not altogether wrong (de
Waal, 2009). For de Waal, empathy is a crucial ingredient and basis for feeling compassion for
others, and in line with the presentation made above, de Waal sees empathy and compassion
as fundamentally moral capacities. He makes the case that the roots of moral sentiments
go back quite far in our evolutionary history: in his opinion, at least as far back as the last
common ancestor of birds and mammals, since both benefit from maternal care of offspring (F.
de Waal, personal communication). Morality, de Waal argues, rests on an ability to empathize
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with others, and this in turn depends on an ability to take another’s perspective (cognitive
empathy) and resonate with them emotionally (affective empathy). Although de Waal does
not claim that full-blown morality and empathy are present in non-human primates and other
species, he does see plenty of evidence for their pre-requisite capacities, namely motor mimicry,
consolation behavior, cooperation, a sense of self, and targeted helping (de Waal, 2009).
De Waal argues that his work shows that human nature is not rotten at the
core while covered by a thin veneer of morality, but rather that the roots of empathy,
compassion and morality run deep in our evolutionary history. If so, it should come as no
surprise that they also seem to run deep in our developmental trajectory, as shown by the
work of developmental psychologist Philippe Rochat. His work on the early development
of empathy, self/other distinctions, and social cognition illustrates a powerful need for
affiliation from infancy on. This “basic drive to be acknowledged in ones own existence
through the eyes of others” (Rochat, 2009, 314) in turn gives rise to what Rochat calls “the
mother of all fears,” namely the fear of social rejection and isolation, which can lead to all
manner of ills. Cacioppo and Hawkley (2009) note that, “Research indicates that perceived
social isolation (i.e. loneliness) is a risk factor for, and may contribute to, poorer overall
cognitive performance, faster cognitive decline, poorer executive functioning, increased
negativity and depressive cognition, heightened sensitivity to social threats, a confirmatory
bias in social cognition that is self-protective and paradoxically self-defeating, heightened
anthropomorphism and contagion that threatens social cohesion.” The fact that loneliness
and perceived social rejection and isolation can even lead to suicide (Ozawa-de Silva, 2008,
2010) should be evidence enough that as human beings our need for social connection and
acceptance is just as strong, if not stronger, than our instinct for survival.
Thus, there is good reason for the change in our scientific and philosophical view of
human nature away from one of self-centeredness and isolation to one of social connection.
As Jackson, Meltzoff, and Decety (2005) point out, “Evolutionary, developmental, social,
and neuroscience perspectives stress the importance for survival of investing positively in
interpersonal relationships, and understanding ones own as well as others’ emotions, desires,
and intentions.” Recent work in mirror-neurons, although preliminary, is being interpreted
to present even more evidence for this (Jackson, Meltzoff, & Decety, 2005), but they likely
form only one part of a larger emerging picture. As Rochat and Passos-Ferreira write, “Human
sociality entails more than the equivalence and connectedness of perceptual experiences. It
corresponds to the sense of a shared world made of shared values. It originates from complex
open’ systems of reciprocation and negotiation, not just imitation and mirroring processes
that are by definition ‘closed’ systems” (Rochat & Passos-Ferreira, 2008, p.191).
This change in our perception of human nature, suggesting that we are
evolutionarily and neurologically “wired for connectivity,” allows us to better make sense
of why practices that enhance our sense of connectivity with others, such as compassion
training, might show positive effects on our physical and mental health. In a study of adepts
who engaged in long-term compassion training, Lutz and his colleagues found that the
adepts generated strong activation in the left prefrontal cortex, a brain area associated with
positive affect and feelings of well-being, when they engaged in compassion meditation,
as well as levels of gamma synchrony previously unrecorded in non-pathological contexts
(Lutz, Greischar, Rawlings, Ricard, & Davidson, 2004; Lutz, Brefczynski-Lewis, Johnstone
& Davidson, 2008). In a study employing the CBCT method for cultivating compassion
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that we will discuss later in this article, members of our research team found that training in
compassion even among beginners results in significant improvements in immune function
in response to psychosocial stress (Pace et al., 2008, 2009). Social and clinical psychologists
have reported psychological benefits that arise from the related practice of self-compassion
(Neff et al., 2005, 2007). Neff (2011b) writes that research suggests that “self-compassion
provides greater emotional resilience and stability than self-esteem, but involves less self-
evaluation, ego-defensiveness, and self-enhancement than self-esteem.” More broadly,
scholars in the health sciences have begun paying an increased attention to the important
role empathy plays in health care (Larson, 2005; Norfolk, Birdi, & Walsh, 2007); medical
anthropologists have argued for the need for an increased focus on questions of existential
suffering and moral experience in medicine and care-giving (Halifax, 2011; Kleinman, 2006;
Ozawa-de Silva & Ozawa-de Silva, 2010); and the study of non-western medical systems,
such as Tibetan medicine, suggests that when such systems conceptualize the mind and body
as interdependent, rather than separate and unrelated, compassion can be seen not merely as
part of a so-called “placebo effect” but rather as a central element of patient care with effects
on health outcomes (Ozawa-de Silva & Ozawa-de Silva, 2011).
While scientists in diverse fields are more recently pointing out the importance
of compassion for human happiness and well-being, the idea that the cultivation of a
prosocial moral subjectivity is essential for the good life is very old in the history of ethical
thought, both in the west (Hadot, 2004) and the east (Gyatso, 2001). In the view of the
Dalai Lama, one of the champions of the idea of compassion as a foundation for ethical
thought and action, this is fundamentally because the essence of a meaningful life lies in
not harming others but rather, if possible, benefiting them (H.H. the Dalai Lama, public
talk, July 9, 2011, Washington DC.). As he points out, having a warm-hearted attitude
and a sense of affection and caring toward others eases our communication and interaction
with others, since we tend to see others more as potential friends and fellow human beings
rather than potential enemies and “others” who are alien, strange and different to us. Seeking
others’ well-being means that one is far less likely to engage in behaviors that promote
self-interest while harming others. Since such dishonorable and unethical actions always
have to be hidden from public view, one consequently also has fewer secrets to hide from
others, allowing one to be more transparent and open in ones interactions with others.
This in turn brings self-confidence and trust in one’s relationships, and that trust brings
genuine friendships. Since we are social beings, it is no surprise that the presence of genuine
relationships is correlated with more happiness, flourishing and well-being (Cacioppo &
Hawkley, 2009; Keyes 2005, 2007). Moreover, if one has peace of mind and compassion,
then even serious problems may not appear overwhelming; thus, such qualities may be key
components of resilience, which is in turn intimately related with well-being.
On the other hand, if one is overly self-centered, then one engages in actions that
promote ones own interests even when they harm the interests of others. This results in
feelings of guilt and worthlessness, as well as a need to hide ones actions from others, which
prevents transparency and openness in ones relationships. Since one takes advantage of
others, one naturally suffers from a consequent lack of trust in others. This distrust of others,
fear of being taken advantage of, fear of ones actions being revealed, and fear of rejection
based on ones harmful actions leads to a deep-seated sense of insecurity, which in turn results
in loneliness and hopelessness. In the end, this is none other than a state of languishing, the
opposite of flourishing, well-being, and positive mental health.
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These connections drawn out by the Dalai Lama have gained support not only from
basic science, as mentioned above, but also from clinical practice (Gilbert, 2005). In line
with this scientific and clinical work, the Dalai Lama goes so far as to say that because we are
social beings, a self-centered attitude goes against human nature. This revised view of human
nature, with social connection and compassion at its heart, is a refreshing approach to human
relations and ethics that could have a profound impact on our societies if taken to heart.
How to Cultivate Compassion
If we accept the mounting evidence in psychology, sociology and the health
sciences that positive emotions and values like empathy and compassion show psychological,
physiological and social benefits, and if we accept that we have an innate capacity for
compassion, then the next important question is whether compassion can be cultivated, and if
so, how. Religious traditions appear unified in their suggestion that compassion can indeed be
cultivated if actively pursued in the proper way. In a commentary on Geshe Chekawas “seven-
point mind training” instructions, the Buddhist teacher Se Chilbu writes (Jinpa, 2006, p.94):
Seated on a comfortable cushion, visualize your dear mother vividly in
front. First, to cultivate loving-kindness and compassion, reflect in the
following manner:
“Because she, my dear mother, first gave me this human existence of
leisure and opportunity, which she nurtured without any negligence, I
have encountered the Buddhas teachings. Because of this [today] it is
possible to grab happiness by its very snout. She has thus helped me.
Throughout all stages, when I was in her womb and after birth, she
nurtured me with impossible acts of kindness. Not only that, since
samsaras beginningless time, she has constantly watched me with eyes
of love, perpetually helped me with affection, and repeatedly protected
me from harm and misfortune. She has given me so much benefit and
happiness and has thus embodied true kindness.”
Reflect thus and cultivate a depth of emotion such that tears fall from your
eyes and the hairs of your pores stand on end.
There is also a small but growing body of evidence from modern science suggesting
that compassion can be enhanced through training, although much more work needs to be
done in this area (Lutz et al. 2004, 2007; Neff et al., 2005, 2007, 2011a, 2011b; Pace et al.,
2008, 2009). The claim that compassion can be cultivated is furthermore supported by the
notion of neuroplasticity, the relatively recent discovery that the structure and function of
our brains can be altered throughout adult life through sustained practice. Whereas it may
be difficult for animals to cultivate compassion to a high degree, humans have the distinct
advantage of having sophisticated cognitive capacities for reasoning and analytical thought,
and these capacities can be called upon to enhance our compassion beyond the limited
biological compassion that is restricted to persons tied to us by family, ethnicity, religion,
and other “in-group” markers, to a larger net encompassing broader and broader sections of
humanity, and even animals and the larger environment.
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There are doubtless many methods one could employ to enhance compassion
beyond the biological level to an impartial altruism, and in fact all religious traditions contain
methods for such cultivation. For general purpose applications, however, it is important that
the method not be religious in nature, and in fact it need not be. In our studies, we use a
protocol for the cultivation of compassion developed by Geshe Lobsang Tenzin Negi, drawn
from the lojong (Tibetan blo-sbyong) tradition of Tibetan Buddhism but rendered into secular
form for use by individuals of any, or no, religious inclination. The term lojong means “mind
training” or “thought transformation” and refers to a practice of gradually training the mind
in compassion until altruism becomes spontaneous. This process involves meditation, but
whereas meditation on a topic, such as impermanence, takes that topic as a content or object
of contemplation, compassion meditation does not take compassion as its object, but rather
aims at transforming the mind into a state of compassion: a compassionate mind (H.H. the
Dalai Lama, Teaching on Kamalashilas Stages of Meditation, Washington DC, July 9, 2011).
The first term lo or “mind” here refers to the complete dimension of an
individual’s subjectivity, whereas the second term jong refers to a complete transformation or
reorientation; thus the term lojong can be understood as the “transformation of subjectivity,”
the goal of which is a complete reorientation of the person away from self-centeredness or
self-cherishing” (bdag gces) towards altruism or “other-cherishing” (gzhan gces), similar to the
Christian term metanoia.
á
Note 2. Although the Greek term μετανοια is typically translated as “repentance,”
its etymology literally means to change or transform ones mind, and it can
therefore be better understood as a fundamental transformation of ones view of
the world and oneself beyond current limitations and thought patterns towards
a love of others. Understood this way, metanoia comes very close to lojong in
meaning. For more on the “transformation of subjectivity,” see Ozawa-de Silva and
Dodson-Lavelle (2011).
It is important to note that although individual contemplative practices arise within
specific cultural and religious contexts and belief systems, that does not mean that they
cannot be adapted and applied outside their original context while still retaining degrees of
effectiveness in producing transformations of subjectivity, perhaps because they rely upon
cross-culturally applicable embodied cognitive techniques that neither depend upon nor
require adherence to metaphysical and philosophical tenets (Gyatso 2001, 2005; Ozawa-de
Silva & Ozawa-de Silva, 2010; Varela, Thompson & Rosch 1992; Wallace 2006). Moreover,
such practices may retain their efficacy because they address suffering not primarily on a
(narrowly conceived) medical model of specific pains, illnesses, and disorders, but rather on
an existential level (Ozawa-de Silva & Ozawa-de Silva 2010).
According to the lojong tradition, although no one wants difficulties, we still
encounter difficulties because of not seeing reality as it is (Gyatso, 2000; Jinpa, 2006). As
a result we react to certain perceptions of reality with afflictive emotions such as anger. If
we take the time to reassess the situation or person to whom we are feeling anger, and view
it or them from another angle, we see that there are also positive dimensions there and our
perspective becomes less limited and one-sided. Our anger then naturally diminishes and our
mind becomes more peaceful. The key then is being able to investigate reality objectively.
Furthermore, lojong holds that certain mental states are incompatible and in fact opposites.
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Just as increasing the heat in a room naturally reduces the coldness there, or increasing
the light decreases the darkness, so does a reduction in anger or hatred create space for
compassion, whereas an increase in compassion reduces anger and hatred. Anger and hatred
are the motivating factors in violence; nonviolence, it has been pointed out, is not merely the
absence of violence, but the manifestation of compassion (Gyatso, 2001; Rosenberg, 2004).
The lojong tradition holds that since compassion is the wish to relieve another
of suffering, it depends on several things, most importantly (a) perceiving the suffering of
another; (b) having a sense of affection or closeness for that person; (c) and recognizing
that the suffering can, in fact, be alleviated. If one perceives another suffering, but has no
sense of affection for that person, one will either feel indifference to their suffering or one
may even take pleasure in their suffering (if, for example, they are viewed as an enemy). On
the other hand, when one perceives suffering in a loved one, compassion arises naturally
and spontaneously. Just as a lack of affection precludes compassion, so can a lack of insight
into suffering. If one has great affection for someone, but one does not realize that they are
suffering, one will not feel compassion for them. An example would be having great affection
towards a friend who is addicted to cigarettes, but not knowing that nicotine addiction is
very harmful to one’s health. Lastly, for compassion to be sustainable, one must also have a
recognition that the suffering can in fact be eliminated if its underlying causes are removed.
If one does not have this recognition, then even if one feels affection towards someone and
recognizes their suffering, ones compassion will eventually result in “burn-out” because there
it will be replaced with a sense of hopelessness.
Similarly, despite some variation in the emerging literature on compassion, there
seems to be broad agreement among scientists that the definition of compassion involves at
least the following aspects: a cognitive aspect (recognizing suffering in oneself or another),
an affective aspect (a sense of concern or affection for the other), an aspirational or
motivational aspect (one wishes to relieve the suffering of the other), an attentional aspect
(ones degree of immersion and focus), and a behavioral aspect (a compassionate response;
an action that stems from compassion) (Ekman, 2008; Gilbert, 2005; Lutz et al., 2004;
Lutz et al., 2008; Neff, 2011a).
Strictly speaking, it seems that the first two are the actual key required ingredients
or preconditions for compassion: one must both see suffering in another and have a sense of
concern for that other. If both are present, the generation of compassion is a natural result.
If either is lacking, compassion is impossible. The fourth (behavior) is therefore actually
the result of compassion, namely a compassionate response or an action taken on the basis
of having felt compassion. Since this exists in a cause-and-effect relation to compassion,
compassionate behavior is not strictly compassion itself; nevertheless such behavior may
provide a feedback-effect strengthening or engraining compassion, so it may be an effect
that can also become a cause for further compassion. The third, namely the aspirational/
motivational aspect, is the actual compassion itself: the wish to relieve the other of suffering.
This can range from a weak wish on a highly conceptual level to a powerfully emotional,
fully-embodied state. It can also be biased and restricted (biological compassion; biased
compassion; limited compassion) or unbiased and universal. Lastly, in addition to the
cognitive, affective, motivational/aspirational, and behavioral dimensions, there may be an
attentional” dimension: how focused and stable is ones compassion, or is it merely a fleeting
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state of mind, quickly crowded out by ones own emotional distress or various distractions?
Additionally, the stronger and more encompassing the affective aspect and the more
profound and penetrating the cognitive aspect (suffering can be realized on multiple levels,
and goes beyond mere immediate physical and mental pain), the stronger the aspirational
and motivational dimension (compassion per se) will be. In other words, genuine full-fledged
compassion would contain all five of these dimensions to a high degree.
Affective: How strong is the sense of endearment and affection towards the
other? How contrived or conceptual is the state of compassion vs. how fully and
physiologically embodied and non-conceptual is it? Is it spontaneous? Is the sense of
affection based on bias and partial (friend vs. foe; reciprocal or kin altruism) or is it
universal?
Cognitive: How profound is the cognitive basis for compassion? What levels of
suffering are being perceived? Is it merely immediate physical or mental pain, or
does it encompass the causes of that pain, which may extend to deeper structural
conditions? Is there a sense of hope based on the recognition that suffering can be
ended once its causes are eliminated?
Attentional: How sustained and long-lasting is the compassionate state? Is it a
fleeting moment, a sustained affective-cognitive state, or a long-term disposition
that actually comes to pervade one’s daily life?
Motivational: Is the compassion merely a wish, a deeply felt aspiration, or even
stronger, a fully-engaged and determined motivation to relieve others of suffering?
To what extent does the motivation extend to a willingness to sacrifice ones own
well-being in order to relieve the suffering of the other?
Behavioral: To what extent is it accompanied, followed on by, or reinforced by
other behaviors, such as compassionate physical action, compassionate speech or
compassionate thoughts (wishes, prayers, aspirations, plans)?
The key to lojong practice is therefore cultivating an analytical awareness
that counteracts the limited and biased perspectives that result in self-centeredness
and deepening that awareness until it becomes a deep-seated altruism that responds
spontaneously to the needs of others. To move from a position of self-centeredness to
compassion is neither easy nor quick, however. Therefore, a systematic approach is taken
that begins from where the practitioner is, and leads him or her step-by-step to the final
goal of altruistic, unbiased compassion.
The following outline presents some of the key points taught in CBCT in a
sequential and logical order:
(1) experiences of suffering and happiness do not merely depend on external stimuli
but on internal mental states (which cause immediate experiences of well-being or
suffering when they arise, and which also propel concordant actions that are helpful
or harmful to oneself and others, leading to future happiness or suffering);
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Journal of Healthcare, Science and the Humanities Volume II, No. 1, 2012 155
(2) increased freedom from destructive emotions therefore results in increased
happiness and less suffering, both in the short-term (due to not experiencing the
destructive emotions) and in the long-term (due to not experiencing the results of
harmful actions taken when under the power of destructive emotions);
(3) emotions and other mental states are not permanent but change momentarily and
can be transformed with practice;
(4) a strong determination to free oneself from negative emotions helps one to achieve
this (self-compassion);
(5) in wanting happiness and to be free from suffering, we and all other beings are
alike; there is no difference between us;
(6) we depend on others for everything we enjoy and exist in a web of interdependence
with others and the world;
(7) recognizing our sameness with others (5) and how we benefit from them (6)
decreases the illusion of distance we feel and leads to a sense of impartiality,
gratitude, and affection;
(8) partiality and bias do not only harm those we regard as enemies, but even those we
regard as loved ones, since bias is ultimately unjustified and distorts our interaction
with others;
(9) when we combine insight into suffering (1–2) with closeness and affection to
others (7–8) we recognize that others are suffering and naturally wish for them to
be happy, which is “wishing compassion,” namely the thought, “How wonderful it
would be if they were free from suffering.”
(10) when this thought of wishing compassion is strengthened it leads to “aspiring
compassion,” namely the deeply felt aspirational prayer “May they be free from
suffering.”
(11) when aspiring compassion is supplemented by taking responsibility for others, and
becomes active, it becomes engaged compassion, namely the heartfelt intention “I
will do whatever I can to alleviate their suffering.”
The process employed in CBCT calls upon and combines two styles of practice
taught in lojong. The first is the “seven-limb cause and effect” method, which involves
principally generating a strong sense of gratitude towards ones mother or another loved
one by reflecting upon their kindness (as in the quote by Se Chilbu provided above at the
beginning of this section), cultivating that into love and compassion, and then gradually
extending that love and compassion towards others. The second is the method of “equalizing
and exchanging oneself and others.” This involves “equalizing” oneself and others by
reflecting on how we are all fundamentally the same in wishing for happiness and wishing to
be free from suffering; and how oneself and others are equal in deserving happiness and to
be free from suffering. One further reflects on the disadvantages of an excessive self-centered
view and the benefits of a view that recognizes interdependence and our need for others and
then “exchanges” ones self-cherishing for other-cherishing (see steps 5–8 above). Whereas the
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156 Volume II, No. 1, 2012 Journal of Healthcare, Science and the Humanities
seven-limb cause and effect” method seems to employ the biological basis of kin altruism
to create a platform upon which to cultivate boundless compassion, the “equalizing and
exchanging self and other” method seems to employ reciprocal altruism as a basis. Since one
method may be more effective for some people than the other, both styles are combined
in CBCT. In the end, however, both techniques (and CBCT) intend a universal, unbiased
compassion that is not limited to kin or reciprocity.
Furthermore, the fact that each of these stages build on the previous insights in
a logical and stepwise fashion has led some of our research team to postulate that CBCT,
and the lojong tradition that it draws from, employs what we call “embodied cognitive
logics.” Elsewhere, we have written that “the idea of embodied cognitive logics rests upon
the notion that, just as human beings share physical commonalities, we also share mental
or psychological commonalities regarding the way we process meaning, affect, and ethical
decision making, many of which are rooted in our very embodiment. Furthermore, these
commonalities represent an embodied cognitive-affective-moral calculus—that is, a complex
and dynamic network of causal relationships that map out the ways a particular embodied
cognitive-affective state, once generated, influences other states by inhibiting or promoting
them.” (Ozawa-de Silva & Dodson-Lavelle, 2011, p. 17–18).
Ongoing Research
The CBCT program explained above is currently being used in a number of
research studies in a 6 or 8-week form. The protocol was first employed among a population
of undergraduates at Emory University beginning in 2005 to evaluate whether compassion
training could be employed as a method to address growing rates of depression in college
undergraduates. The results of that study have been published in Pace et al. (2008) and Pace
et al. (2009), showing that the practice of compassion meditation reduced neuroendocrine,
inflammatory and behavioral responses to psychosocial stress that have been previously linked
to the development of mental and physical disease. These encouraging results prompted
members of our research team to explore the possibility of employing compassion training as
an intervention among younger and older populations.
An NIH grant is funding a five-year Compassion and Attention Longitudinal
Meditation (CALM) study, now nearing completion, which is evaluating the CBCT
program in an adult population alongside two matched active controls: a second meditation
intervention that focuses on attentional training (and not compassion) and a health
discussion group. The adult CBCT program is an 8-week intervention that meets for two
hours a week. Each session contains pedagogical material presented by the instructors, a
guided meditation of around twenty to thirty minutes, and group discussion, with subjects
being asked to meditate daily for the duration of the program using guided meditation
recordings. The two active control groups follow a similar model, but without compassion-
related pedagogy and meditation for the focused attention-only meditation group, and
without any form of meditation for the health discussion group.
The CBCT protocol was also piloted in 2008 among adolescents in foster care
(ages 13–16) and in 2009 among elementary school children (ages 5–8) in the Atlanta area.
These programs followed the same conceptual sequence as the adult program, but with
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Journal of Healthcare, Science and the Humanities Volume II, No. 1, 2012 157
age-appropriate modifications. In both cases, CBCT teachers from our team went to the
childrens foster home or school class. For the younger children, classes met twice per week
for twenty-five to thirty minutes per session during the normal school day. Classes began
with a short meditation practice and a brief overview or introduction to the weeks topic,
followed by an activity, story, or game to facilitate learning and student engagement. Once
we had found an age-appropriate way to convey the topics of the CBCT protocol through
such stories and games, we were encouraged to find that even the young elementary-school
children were able to grasp the essential concepts involved in the protocol. The methods
employed and the results of these pilot programs are described in Ozawa-de Silva and
Dodson-Lavelle (2011).
The success of these adaptations has led to on-going studies investigating the
effects of compassion training in these populations. In 2010 the Georgia Department of
Health and Human Services and the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta, GA funded
a randomized, wait-list control trial of CBCT for seventy-two foster children, entitled “A
Study of Cognitively-Based Compassion Training (CBCT) to Enhance Health and Well-
Being in Adolescents in Foster Care in Metropolitan Atlanta.” The study, the results of which
have not yet been published, examined the efficacy of this training for reducing emotional
reactivity, psycho-social stress, and behavioral problems. Dependent upon the results of the
study, the aim is to extend this service throughout the foster care system and to offer similar
training programs to foster families, caseworkers, and administrators. On the basis of the
pilot program for young elementary school children, our team received a grant from Emory
University to run a study using an eight-week long intervention in the 2011–2012 school
year at a local school in Atlanta, GA to evaluate the effects of CBCT on prosocial behavior,
bullying, social exclusion, stereotypying and bias in collaboration with Dr. Philippe Rochat
and Erin Robbins, both of Emory University.
In May 2010 researchers from Emory University and the U.S. Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention (CDC) field-tested CBCT in Kosovo to investigate its potential
to heal the trauma of war. Based on the success of this trial, a more extensive project is
planned for 2012, pending funding, to evaluate CBCTs effects in the treatment of stress
and trauma as well as its potential to foster the cultivation of new modes of thinking and
behavior that will foster reconciliation and nation-building, thereby reducing the potential
for future conflict. The research team includes representatives of Emory, the CDC, the
Antares Foundation, and the Kosovo Rehabilitation Centre for Torture. Members of our
broader research team at Emory University, including Dr. Nadine Kaslow and Dr. Barbara
Patterson, are also investigating the efficacy of CBCT among suicide-attempters at a local
hospital in Atlanta and among trauma survivors in Kosovo, and have also begun to explore
its application in early-onset Alzheimer’s patients and in a prison population.
Note 3. Updates on these projects and links to future publications will be made
available at the Emory-Tibet Partnership website (www.tibet.emory.edu) and the
website for the Emory Collaborative on Contemplative Studies (www.emory.
edu/ECCS/). Additionally, full video footage of presentations on this work at the
conference “Compassion Meditation: Mapping Current Research and Charting
Future Directions” at Emory University in 2010 with the participation of H.H. the
Dalai Lama is available at: www.emory.edu/home/academics/dalailama/visit.html.
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Conclusion: The Need for Secular Ethics
Ethical values are indispensable for human happiness and well-being on both
an individual and collective level, and this is becoming even clearer as our world becomes
smaller and our communities become more diverse. Whereas in the past religion and families
played a central role in instilling ethical values in new generations, modern pluralistic and
multicultural societies must adapt to the times and find ways to instill ethical values in
coming generations in ways that are not partial to one religious tradition over another, or
over those who follow no religious tradition. The question of ethics will always be central to
religious traditions. In the public square, however, the question of ethics must be separated
from the question of religious adherence. New times call for new thinking: if we remain
unable to formulate a robust secular ethics, our future well-being, and the well-being of our
planet as a whole, may be in grave danger.
Compassion appears to be the most stable foundation for a secular ethics
that transcends religious, cultural, and philosophical divides, because it is based on the
fundamental human aspirations to have happiness and avoid suffering, because it is rooted in
our human nature and our evolutionary heritage, and because it is something that we have
the capacity to cultivate individually and socially as human beings endowed with intelligence
and reason. Moreover, there is increasing scientific evidence in the fields of medicine,
psychology and neuroscience that compassion is not only beneficial for others, but also for
oneself. Although this article focuses on one method for cultivating compassion drawn from
the Tibetan Buddhist lojong tradition, we feel strongly that all religious traditions (and several
secular ones) contain methods for the cultivation of compassion, and may serve as sources for
the development of secular programs such as the one presented here. Further interreligious
dialogue on this issue could prove very fruitful. Much more work in general remains to be
done in the area of compassion research, and we hope that this growing subfield attracts
more interest given its tremendous potential. Furthermore, since compassion, suffering
and well-being pertain to all aspects of our lives, we hope this research will be both truly
interdisciplinary in nature and socially engaged.
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Journal of Healthcare, Science and the Humanities Volume II, No. 1, 2012 159
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... Thus, it is very likely that compassion could prevent the eroding effects of this context, perhaps by a jointly creating a safe base for the supervisor-student dyad to work from. Furthermore, in an interpersonal space characterised by trust and safety, supervisors and students may be less likely to act unethically and stay true to their values (Dutton et al., 2007;Ozawa-de Silva et al., 2012). Indeed, Gilbert (2014) argues that competencies that generate compassion towards self and others helps us function at our optimum. ...
... The model does also not include outright harmful behaviours such as insulting communication and sexual misconduct. However, since compassion is viewed as a pro-social process, it is plausible to suspect that supervisors with high levels of compassion would be less likely to engage in unethical behaviours (Ozawa-de Silva et al., 2012;Halperin, 2014;Fröding and Osika, 2015;Klimecki et al., 2016;DeSteno et al., 2018). Indeed, based on its central role in many systems of moral thought, and since compassion has been suggested to be an evolved and hardwired moral compass, it has recently been coined "the highest ethics" by researchers in the field of contemplative psychology . ...
... other-focused compassion and Buddhist non-dual views, which have implications for both intervention design and choices of assessments in studies with interpersonal processes as outcomes (Quaglia et al., 2020). These philosophical issues might also provide challenges in the empirical investigation of sub-facets of social perception, appraisal, motivation, and action (e.g., emotion regulation), which relate to compassion (Ozawa-de Silva et al., 2012). ...
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The long-term and complex supervisor-doctoral student relationship is often characterised by tension and frictions. In higher education research, models, and interventions that take the potential beneficial interpersonal effects of compassion into account seem to be scarce. Hence, the aim of this study was to conceptualise the potential role compassion could have in the cultivation of an affiliative and sustainable supervisor-doctoral student relationship. The concept of compassion was investigated and analysed in relation to a contemporary model of supervisor behaviours. Furthermore, a systematic literature search in the scientific databases PubMed, PsychInfo, ScienceDirect, and Google Scholar was performed. The conceptual analysis revealed that the interpersonal domain, in which compassion could afford a shared sense of warmth, is neglected in previous definitions. Furthermore, the integration of compassion into a model of adaptive supervisor behaviour indicates a strong case for a salutary role for compassion in the supervisor-doctoral student relationship. However, the literature review showed that empirical data are lacking, and more studies are needed. The role of compassion deserves to be investigated empirically in this particular interpersonal context.
... Catarino et al. (2014) report, on the other hand, that although being compassionate towards others is linked to well-being, individuals can act compassionately with different motivations. Ozawa de-Silva et al. (2012) argue that compassion is a multidimensional condition and evokes motivational and behavioral components along with attention, cognitive and affective skills. Here, the motivation under compassionate behavior becomes critical. ...
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This study aimed to investigate compassion and submissive compassion as predictors of psychological well-being. Participants consisted of 252 people, 150 women and 102 men between 18 and 59 years of age. Correlation and hierarchical regression analyses were performed to examine the relationships between compassion, submissive compassion, and psychological well-being. The study found a positive and significant relationship between compassion and psychological well-being, and a negative and significant one between submissive compassion and psychological well-being. The results indicate, on the other hand, that compassion and submissive compassion were significantly negatively correlated. Based on the gender and age variables, compassion and submissive compassion explain 13% of the variance in psychological well-being. The results are discussed based on the literature.
... Although there is evidence that self-compassion mediates well-being (Baer et al. 2012b;Bluth and Blanton 2015), far fewer empirical studies examine the relationship between compassion for others and well-being. A recent study found self-compassion and compassion were not related (López et al. 2018), highlighting the need to test empirically the compelling conceptual arguments that social connections cultivated through compassion foster wellbeing (see Ozawa-de Silva et al. 2012;Seppala et al. 2013). If compassion operates as an integral component of Shapiro's model, either operating as an outcome or an antecedent of one's ability to reperceive, it should be included in studies of MBIs. ...
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Objectives This study qualitatively examined the relationship between home practice and reperceiving for teachers who participated in the CARE program. We used distress tolerance, mindfulness, burnout, efficacy, compassion, and self-care as proxies for (or direct representations of) underlying components of reperceiving—awareness, emotion regulation, and compassion. Methods From a larger study of 224 elementary teachers in a large urban district, 16 teachers were purposively selected for semi-structured interviews. Selected teachers fit one of three profiles: no adopted mindfulness practice; no practice at baseline but practice at post and follow-up; practice at baseline, post, and follow-up. Four coders employed a directed content analysis to (1) investigate the outcomes discretely, examining their prevalence within the three practice groups; (2) analyze the relationships between outcomes and whether these differed across practice groups; and (3) examine teachers’ descriptions of how they used the practices. Results There were no differences between practice groups in teachers’ reported amounts of stress, but differences were found across outcomes, specifically mindfulness and efficacy. The no practice group engaged in more suppression and felt less capable of handling their stressors. Teachers who adopted practice described an emerging awareness of their negative emotions, more facility to let go of their stressors, and greater affirmation of the importance of self-care and use of strategies to promote it. Compassion lacked prevalence across practice groups. Conclusions Adoption of mindfulness practice may impact teachers’ capacity to reperceive through emotional awareness and self-regulation, but additional research is required to examine the role of compassion.
... Similarly, Ozwa de Silva et al. (2012), refer to compassion as a 'moral emotion'. Accordingly, it is posited, compassion is itself a virtue, and is the basis for our universal human values and ethics, because of our shared suffering and wish for well-being in others. ...
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The study uses qualitative methods of semi-structured interviews, appreciative inquiry questions and thematic analysis to explore how compassion and trust can be fostered within society. As Western society is becoming more and more selfish and individualistic this study is concerned with how we could create a more inclusive and thoughtful society. There is an argument that positive psychology is itself contributing to the individualistic society where naval gazing and a focus on the self are having a detrimental impact on society as a whole. It becomes the responsibility of positive psychology professionals to progress to a more socially focused field, by including psychosocial well-being in the research. The study responds to this by exploring how positive psychology can be more focused on social issues by taking the perspective of a social constructionist, and through borrowing ideas from Lisa Feldman-Barrett and Tim Lomas. Both posit developing and introducing new language concepts to increase our emotional intelligence through concepts that are more inclusive and caring. The author of the study has done this by combining trust and compassion to create 'compassionate trust': trust that is underpinned by compassion. The analysis constructed the following themes: Trust is fundamental but nuanced; Compassionate trust has a cost; Socio-cultural system a barrier; Think global, act local; and Raise awareness: Teach and emulate right values. These represent the narratives of the participants where despite difficulties in the current socioeconomic system, there is hope for a better future through e.g. raising awareness and using education to develop more inclusive, compassionate and trusting values.
... CBCT is aimed at developing a compassionate and altruistic mind. It differs from many contemplative practices by its use of an analytical process to develop insight and active reorientation of thoughts, emotions, and values that cultivate compassion to challenge the roots of suffering-not seeing reality as it is, self-centeredness, and the belief that we are separate, independent beings (Ozawa-de Silva et al. 2012;Pace et al. 2013). CBCT incorporates a component of mindfulness in the first session through teachings on attention and mind stability, with the purpose of facilitating the development of compassion in the subsequent following five sessions, which focus on selfcompassion, gratitude, appreciation, empathy, and compassion consecutively. ...
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Objectives Both cognitively based compassion training (CBCT) and support-based group intervention have been found to be effective for African American suicide attempters in reducing suicidal ideation and depression, as well as enhancing self-compassion. This study aims to further our understanding of effective interventions by exploring participants’ responses to both interventions. Methods Exploratory analyses were conducted in a sample of low-income African Americans who had attempted suicide (n = 82) to determine how baseline demographic and psychological characteristics would (1) predict outcomes (i.e., suicidal ideation, depression, and self-compassion) regardless of intervention conditions and (2) moderate outcomes in interaction with intervention condition. Results Non-reactivity, a mindfulness facet, was identified as an intervention moderator for suicidal ideation and depressive symptoms, suggesting that CBCT outperformed the support group for African American suicide attempters who had low baseline non-reactivity (or high reactivity). Individuals who had high non-reactivity at baseline appeared to benefit more from both conditions in self-compassion as an outcome. There was a pattern that homeless individuals benefited less in terms of their levels of depressive symptoms and self-compassion as outcomes regardless of the assigned condition. When applying Bonferroni corrections, only non-reactivity as an intervention moderator for depressive symptoms was significant. Conclusions Findings reveal the relevance of mindfulness and to a lesser extent socioeconomic status in informing compassion-based intervention outcomes with this underserved population and the importance of intervention matching and tailoring to maximize treatment effects. Future large trials are needed to replicate findings and directions indicated from the current pilot study.
... The first term, lo or "mind", refers to subjectivity, and jong refers to transformation or reorientation. The goal of this "transformation of subjectivity" is to temper egoistic self-centeredness ("self-cherishing") toward altruism ("other-cherishing") [59]. ...
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Background: Cancer survivors and their informal caregivers (family members, close friends) often experience significant impairments in health-related quality of life (HRQOL), including disruptions in psychological, physical, social, and spiritual well-being both during and after primary cancer treatment. The purpose of this in-progress pilot trial is to determine acceptability and preliminary efficacy (as reflected by effect sizes) of CBCT® (Cognitively-Based Compassion Training) compared with a cancer health education (CHE) attention control to improve the primary outcome of depressive symptoms and secondary outcomes of other HRQOL domains (e.g., anxiety, fatigue), biomarkers of inflammation and diurnal cortisol rhythm, and healthcare utilization-related outcomes in both cancer survivors and informal caregivers. Methods: Forty dyads consisting of solid tumor survivors who have completed primary treatments (chemotherapy, radiation, surgery) and their informal caregivers, with at least one dyad member with ≥ mild depressive symptoms or anxiety, will be recruited from Tucson, Arizona, USA. Survivor-caregiver dyads will be randomized together to complete either CBCT or CHE. CBCT is a manualized, 8-week, group meditation-based intervention that starts with attention and mindfulness and builds to contemplative practices aimed at cultivating compassion to the self and others. The goal of CBCT is to challenge unexamined assumptions about feelings and behaviors, with a focus on generating spontaneous self-compassion and increased empathic responsiveness and compassion for others. CHE is an 8-week, manualized group intervention that provides cancer-specific education on various topics (e.g., cancer advocacy, survivorship wellness). Patient-reported HRQOL outcomes will be assessed before, immediately after (week 9), and 1 month after CBCT or CHE (week 13). At the same time points, stress-related biomarkers of inflammation (e.g., plasma interleukin-6) and saliva cortisol relevant for survivor and informal caregiver wellness and healthcare utilization will be measured. Discussion: If CBCT shows acceptability, a larger trial will be warranted and appropriately powered to formally test the efficacy of this dyadic intervention. Interventions such as CBCT directed toward both survivors and caregivers may eventually fill a gap in supportive oncology care programs to improve HRQOL and healthcare utilization in both dyad members. Trial registration: Clinicaltrials.gov, NCT03459781 . Prospectively registered on 9 March 2018.
... Compassion is a deep feeling of wishing to alleviate the suffering of others (Ozawa-de Silva, Dodson-Lavelle, Raison & Negi, 2012). Compassion can serve as a fundamental basis for human values and ethics, precisely because a central problem of ethics is suffering and well-being. ...
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Helping and supportive behavior that reduced the suffering of others laid the foundation for the interconnected society we live in today, so why does it currently feel disconnected and chaotic? One need not look further than the news in 2020 to see that we have unprecedented awareness of human incivility and violence. Small but significant acts of compassion toward strangers are necessary to move our world past the unprecedented pain in which it is currently suffering. Compassion makes us aware of suffering in others, but also brings forth the best in us: our kindness, our willingness to help, our connection to humanity. This wellspring of goodness is studied within and amplified by positive psychology, or the study of what is good in an individual, family or organizational system. Amplification of individual resources is necessary so that individuals have the resources to achieve greater resilience and enact more pro-social behaviors in the face of the challenges we see in our modern society.
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