Compassion in Chinese is translated as 慈悲, meaning to bring happiness to others and to alleviate sufferings from them. In the real world, there exist lots of sufferings; however, study of social psychology has revealed that “we respond not to reality as it is but to reality as we construe it.” (Reading 3.1, p.78) Even though we may not be able to change the real situation, we are still able to alter our perception and interpretation, and hence change our mood and feelings. Both happiness and sufferings are perceptions of our experiences and the world, and therefore, I devoted myself in bring perceptual happiness to people around me or anyone my words could reach, and alleviating their mental sufferings.
Actually, the idea of “being compassionate” had been on my mind for the past week, so instead of “Day of Compassion”, I almost had a “Week of Compassion”. I screened every word I said and everything I did, with the filter of compassion, before letting it out. I had become softer and more considerate, and desired to help people in need more. I guess the reason why I didn’t let this part of me out was I didn’t have this idea in mind all the time and sometimes I doubted if I was capable of helping others.
During the “Day/Week of Compassion”, I acted in two ways: spreading happiness (慈) and alleviating sufferings (悲). For the former, I brought joy by beaming at the world. Sincere smiles, in most cultures, are denoted as happiness expression or positive emotions; thus, my idea was to use my big smile to trigger or to prime (Reading 3.1, p.78) positive feelings and perceptions. If guns could prime hostile thoughts (Reading 3.2, p.289), I believe smiling can trigger kind and warm feelings as well. That’s what I did; I smiled, with my face, my words, my behaviors, at all the people I contacted, in real life or on the internet.
I wore a big smile when talking with people, and adopted positive and joyful words when making a speech on the internet, and so people felt comforted or inspired by my texts. I’d received feedbacks commenting that when being around me, people felt positive and lively energy, and seemly that there’s hope in everything; that was exactly the effect I wanted to bring to people.
For the latter, I applied cognitive empathy to others’ situations (Lecture 7.1) by putting myself in another’s shoes. I listened to people, and shared my similar experiences and feelings with them. Likeness begets liking (Reading 7.1, p.329), and liking is one of the principles of persuasions stated in Lecture 2.7 (9:07). Here, I wasn’t trying to persuade them into accepting my ideas, but to inspire them to see their worlds with new eyes when they were trapped deeply in the emotional swamp.
By finding common ground we share, I could cut in from there and see what other people see and then suggest a way adjusting their perception, and then their mood. For example, a girl at the crossroad of her life wrote to me, asking about career choices and spiritual path after reading my blog; I replied and met her in person, telling her my story, which resembled her current situation, and also let her know how confused I felt back then. Then, I shared with her how I got through those clouds above my head and found my way, which boosted her confidence and courage to face the unknown and uncertain future.
When taking those compassionate actions, I felt great happiness, satisfaction, self-fulfillment, self-efficiency (Reading 2.1, P.56), and even sense of oneness. However, sometimes I had to tell myself to detach from others’ situations before being too affectively emphatic (Lecture 7.1) and taking over their burdens as mine unconsciously. The goal of compassion is to help others; thus it’s important to remain aware and avoid being consumed by emotional vortex or others, and ending up helping no one.
However, I did feel great sense of achievement during “Day/Week of Compassion”, and I want to keep bringing positive perception, i.e. the way to see light in darkness, into more people’s lives; therefore, I’m planning to run a mini project, teaching people the benefits and techniques of “changing perspective and perception” in difficult times.
And by the spirit of altruism, students will be encouraged to pass on this knowledge to relieve more people from misery, which I think is a great compassionate move.
In class, I’d encourage the members to share their experiences in applying or spreading those techniques with each other. By sharing their stories, they perceive themselves as loving and helping people; they then believe it that way, and hence eventually become compassionate and content. This is the combination of self-fulfilling prophecy (Reading 3.1, p.109) & self-perception theory (Lecture 2.4).
As one Chinese saying goes, “Helping Others is the Origin of Happiness”; by helping others with compassion, one’s happiness grows. There’s mutual reinforcement between being compassionate and feeling happy.
Moreover, I wish this project would form a ripple effect, creating norm-based messages (Reading 2.3) that inspiring others to do the same – whether to learn how changing the perspective may help perceive the world differently or to spread this knowledge to others. People tend to follow consensus (Lecture 2.7, 05:30) and descriptive norms, i.e. what most other people do (Reading 2.3, p.105); if the ripple of happiness and compassion could pervade every corner of the world this way, the world will definitely become happier and less suffered.
“Day of Compassion” is a very meaningful activity; each of us manifests compassion in our own way, altogether forming a circle of compassion that covers every facet. I was happy to be part of it, and to help remove a small part of sufferings from this world. Moreover, now I realize compassion is a choice of mindset regardless of one’s capability; with that intention, everything we do could become an act of compassion.