The incapacity to be compassionate
One of the greatest and most genuine hindrances to people’s capacity to be compassionate arises from the superficial self-imagery and trite symbolism that most people unconsciously imbibe and that makes up their identity. This creates a false image of themselves. Doing so makes a genuine relationship with another disingenuous and unfruitful. Vain pretence of solidarity – even as a compassionate person – substitutes itself for genuine solidarity, all the while masking an inner spirit of selfishness and irresponsibility. And while such a person claims accomplishments in collective achievement this simply assuages their need to believe that they actually amount to something when they do not.
Dominated by this social imaging people allow themselves to approve of themselves only in what is prescribed by their society as beneficial and praiseworthy. Similarly, they disapprove of what society disapproves all the while congratulating themselves on thinking for themselves. In reality they have substituted the words, slogans, and concepts of their society for genuine experiences of their own. More specifically, they have deceived themselves into believing that these self-generated slogans have spontaneously arisen. These are convinced that when their nation wins a war that they have won the war, or when their sports team wins a victory that they have won a victory, or that when their nation is rich that they are better and more fortunate than others.
Most people cannot live without a large portion of such fiction in their lives.
Compassion, on the other hand, is a call to emptiness. This emptiness is not made up of points by which a person is able to contrast themselves and others, even though the specifics of people’s needs widely vary. Instead, compassion itself enters into a sort of a universal confusion whereby the one who is compassionate realizes and accepts the need for a universal compassion by which everyone benefits.
Actually being compassionate accompanies the acceptance not of disunity with others, but the letting go of the inadequate symbols of social unity by which people advance a facade of a more limited unity.
All modern psychotherapy today is founded on the recognition that in order to be fully and healthily integrated into society each person must be able to actually accept being alone (The Capacity To Be Alone, Donald Winnicott, 1958) . Being alone in this case is highly social in nature/context, because the understanding that you actually are alone in the world is healthily recognized, accepted, and nurtured in the presence of a loving other. Healthy children are able to busy themselves in the presence of a loving parent without making inordinate demands on that parent.
The single greatest indicator of the quality of a person’s emotional maturity is reflected in nature of their capacity to be alone.
Just as personal and social identity in adult life is severely skewed when this is not accepted, so compassion becomes not possible when the needs of the other are impossible to see because they simply and uniquely are not those of your own.