How compassion and wisdom can prevent anxiety

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While anxiety is like a coiled spring, compassion is like a flowering plant.  Photo by Nikola Jovanovic on Unsplash

Compassion is the ability to move your heart outward towards others, instead of focusing on yourself all the time.  Wisdom is the ability to move your mind outwards towards all the perspectives that exist, instead of focusing on your own perspective all the time.

They have special healing abilities because they directly affect your psychological makeup.  Compassion has a preventative effect on negative emotions, with the ability to stop anger, irritability, sadness and anxiety.  Wisdom has similar preventative effects, with the ability to reset the cognitive stance that causes anger, sadness and anxiety in the first place.

REDUCING ANGER

If you want to take the compassionate approach, then you are using your ability to empathise with others, in order to mitigate your anger towards them.  Anger is caused, in part, by the inability to appreciate others’ suffering, matched with an acute ability to appreciate one’s own suffering.  The standard mindset is ‘Look at me and how I am suffering; other people just have no idea.’  In contrast, the mind of compassion says ‘Look at everyone who is suffering; I had no idea, and I’d like to remove that suffering somehow.’

If you want to take the wise approach, then you are using your intellectual ability to see other perspectives, in order to mitigate your anger towards perspectives you do not hold.  Anger can be caused by the inability to see other points of view, matched with an enhanced training in one’s own narrow point of view.  The standard view of anger is ‘Look at my view and how it is not appreciated; other people are just idiots.’  In contrast, the mind of wisdom says ‘Look at all the different possible perspectives on life; I have so much to learn, and I’d like to keep a dialogue going.’

REDUCING SADNESS

A compassionate approach is able to focus on the sadness of others, which has the effect of taking one’s mind off one’s own sadness.  A sad mindset says ‘My sadness is overwhelming; I have no ability to see anyone else’s sadness.’  A compassionate mindset says ‘Look at all the sadness in the world; I can make a start on alleviating it.’

A wise approach to sadness involves the ability to see things from a new perspective.  If you are mourning a loss, then you can try to understand that conformations of being, or lives, are like clouds in the sky, and falling in love with a being is like falling in love with a cloud.  They come and go, inevitably.  You are mourning a being that was never there in the way you thought they were.  A wise approach can use this understanding to appreciate the life that is, instead of mourning the life that isn’t.

REDUCING ANXIETY

Compassion draws the anxious mind away from the spiralling loop of panic.  It does this by relaxing the tension of self-focus.  An anxious mind is like a coiled spring, full of tension and reactivity.  A compassionate mind is more like a flowering plant – take a flower away, and another will grow in its place.

Wisdom teaches the anxious mind that the narrow realm of its worries is like a prison.  Wisdom increases the ability of an anxious mind to see the wide world for what it is – full of different interests which will carry on fighting each other, as long as the interest-holders hang on to their individual interests.  A more peaceful mind is able to let go of participation in these battles; better able to stand aside and watch self and others from a more detached viewpoint.

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SUMMARY

The twin skills of compassion and wisdom can reduce anxiety.

Anxiety is increased by an obsessive focus on one’s own wellbeing.  By focusing on the wellbeing of others, the hold of this focus is broken, and you can breathe again.

Anxiety is also increased by an obsessive focus on one’s own perspective.  By learning about the perspectives of others, your own perspective is enriches and widened, and you can walk out of the prison of your own narrow mind.

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