Sunday, November 13, 2011

Compassion Fatigue

"Compassion fatigue refers to a gradual decline in a provider's capacity for compassion, and is a relatively common phenomenon among those who work directly with surviving victims of disaster and trauma.  It encompasses a breaking down of our physical, psychological, and even spiritual resources.

Physically, those experiencing compassion fatigue often struggle with a chronic sense of exhaustion and fatigue, insomnia, headaches, stomach aches, and frequent bouts of sickness (e.g. colds, sore throats).

Psychologically, they may feel irritable or overwhelmed.  Their baseline capacities for empathy dissolve into numbness to others' pain, and they can become cynical regarding surviving victims' ability to change and/or even perceive them as being responsible for many of their problems.

Responders experiencing compassion fatigue often report a sense of feeling scattered and being unable to meet their professional (e.g. paperwork) and personal (e.g. calling home) obligations."
"Systems thinking requires that we, as providers, understand our role(s) with the patient and family systems with whom we work.  Our own personal health (psychological and physical) is as important to attend to as those we serve."
Mendenhall, T.J., & Berge, J.M. (2010).  Family therapists in trauma-response teams:  bringing systems thinking into interdisciplinary fieldwork.  Journal of Family Therapy, 32, 43-57. 

Despite being a common and universal phenomenon in the face of trauma work, professionals perceive stigma associated to compassion fatigue.  How many of us would raise our hands and say, "I am experiencing compassion fatigue" and then seek help and support?

When I read the reports of "feeling scattered" due to compassion fatigue, I can't help but be reminded of soul loss.  Many indigenous and shamanic cultures believe that traumatic events may result in soul loss - when parts of our soul check-out for self-protection. There is no need to continue to walk around with a maimed soul.  The soul parts can return home safely with proper intervention - you need only ask, believe and accept this healing.

For more information about soul retrieval and finding a shamanic practitioner, check out Sandra Ingerman's website.

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