“Compassion fatigue” is a state of exhaustion and dysfunction—biological, psychological and social—from prolonged exposure to the suffering of others, notes the American Counseling Association, quoting Charles R. Figley, PhD, a leader in the field. First identified in the 1950s in nurses, and later in emergency care first responders in general, it is the shadow side of compassion, and it is permeating the culture at large.
In this digital era of 24/7 news feeds and instant replays that occur online, in line, and in your living room, we are a nation and a world that is compassion fatigued.
So now what? How do you manage it? There are several options.
You can build a life that keeps you distant, physically and emotionally, from the suffering of others. But the result is a world without compassion and who wants to live in that?
You can allow the suffering of others to break you down emotionally. But this is personally debilitating and does little to enable the compassion that makes life rich and life-giving.
You can manage and balance the darkness by processing the emotions that surface and implementing daily acts of self-care. In so doing, you care both for yourself and others.
The last choice is the only choice, really, if you want to encourage actions and ways of being that celebrate a more humane world story.