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Beginning in childhood, we are taught about the virtues of compassion, and we believe that compassion demonstrates a profound sense of empathy and the capacity to care deeply about another. Conversely, we see those lacking empathy as autistic, excessively narcissistic, and even psychopathic.
But we would do well to remember that the archetypal and etymological roots of the word “compassion” refer to an act of "suffering together." It is defined as “the feeling that arises when you are confronted with another's suffering and feel motivated to relieve that suffering" (The Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley).
While is a gift to feel deeply for another, it is also a great challenge to realize that another’s transgressions are so extreme that we no longer care to help or no longer feel the need to share in their suffering. From Simon Wiesenthal's concentration-camp experiences captured in his book, Sunflower: The Limits of Forgiveness, and from more than 40 years in clinical practice, I see that the capacity to turn away one’s care, one’s love, even one’s pity for another is often painfully experienced as an act contra naturam, since it appears that we’re turning our backs on our cultural and spiritual beliefs. Especially for these reasons, to consciously allow for an absence of compassion in a relationship with one who has hurt us, our family, and our culture so deeply may instead represent a great act of individuation.
In this presentation, I will discuss those situations that may have us turning away from compassion and how we can learn to carry and to see the spiritual value of such emotions.
Dr. Michael Conforti is a Jungian analyst and the Founder and Director of the Assisi Institute. He is a faculty member at the C.G. Jung Institute - Boston, the C.G Jung Foundation of New York, and for many years served as a Senior Associate faculty member in the Doctoral and Master's Programs in Clinical Psychology at Antioch New England. A pioneer in the field of matter-psyche studies, Dr. Conforti is actively investigating the workings of archetypal fields and the relationship between Jungian psychology and the New Sciences. He has presented his work to a wide range of national and international audiences, including the C.G. Jung Institute - Zurich and Jungian organizations in Australia, Canada, Colombia, Denmark, Ecuador, Italy, Russia, Switzerland, and Venezuela. He is the author of Threshold Experiences: The Archetype of Beginnings (2007) and Field, Form and Fate: Patterns in Mind, Nature and Psyche (2002). His articles have appeared in Psychological Perspectives, San Francisco Jung Library Journal, Roundtable Press, World Futures: The Journal of General Evolution, and Spring Journal, and his books has been translated into Italian, Russian and a soon to be released Spanish edition of his work.
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