Doctors, Nurses and care givers of all kinds often report that they go through periods of apathy, hopelessness, anxiety and depression in response to constant exposure to human suffering. This is sometimes referred to as “Compassion Fatigue”. Even being exposed to lost of negative stories in the news can trigger symptoms in people. So what is going on?
Emma Seppala, Ph.D, has done groundbreaking work on using yoga and meditation to help veterans cope with post traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD). Her work is featured in the “Free the Mind” documentary, reviewed here. While the most common treatment is to prescribe drugs, research shows that the drugs very rarely, if ever work. But for patients who meditate and do yoga, there are some very promising results.
Professor Paul Gilbert, OBE has spent much of the last twenty years developing a therapeutic approach which he calls Compassion-Focused Therapy (CFT). CFT is not a stand-alone therapy as such, but offers another approach to working or organizing ideas for practitioners of all sorts of therapy. It has been a promising approach, especially when working with patients who experience a great deal of shame or self-criticism.
Andy Fraser and I spent some time with him at the recent Buddhism and Medicine Forum and asked him to explain a bit about CFT and its relationship to Buddhist practice. It is very encouraging to hear about how centuries old practices of mindfulness and compassion can be combined with modern psycho-therapeutic approaches with remarkable results.
The fourth installment of the Buddhism and Medicine series of conferences, a grand experiment bringing together Buddhist Masters, Doctors and Scientists, took place from May 31st through June 2nd at the Lerab Ling Buddhist Retreat Center in France. This year’s forum topic was “Compassion, Empathy and Health” and was attended by over 800 people.