Reaching our best potential

Cathy Brownfield

This article is rooted in a search for words such as compassion, empathy, and mindfulness. The term “mindfulness” caught on a snag. How can there be a controversy about the meaning of “mindfulness”?

            Compassion: moved or motivated to help others; sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it … a feeling and an action that stems from the feeling.

            Empathy: ability to relate to another’s pain vicariously, as if one has experienced the pain themselves … used just for the feeling.

            Published articles describe “compassion” as being unifying, empathy as divisive.

            Many years ago, a minister discussed from the pulpit about “worry” and “concern.” Worry, he said, is a waste of time and energy. You don’t do anything except, perhaps, to wring your hands, pace the floor. However, “concern” is actually doing what you can, then letting go.

            These terms – worry and concern – appear to agree with compassion and empathy. Empathy allows one to feel the feelings. Compassion allows the feelings, then recognizes the issue and does what can be done to help with the situation. Empathy has a dark side: with overthinking, the empath is affected by depression.

            Empathy comes from the unconscious mind. Empathy is a reflex. We react on impulse. Compassion, though, is “deliberate reflective.” We think about what we see and feel and respond to it. Ethnic or cultural background is not a part of it. Compassion is about response to the human condition which we all share.

            My understanding of mindfulness is that we are focused on the moment, not hung up on a distraction so we can process what we are facing and figure out what to do about it.

In his article, “Four Reasons Why Compassion is Better for Humanity than Empathy,” Rasmus Hougaard writes, “In a world full of unrest and divisiveness, learning, choosing, and actively practicing compassion is a way forward, an active declaration of what you stand for and a visible testament to the world you want to live in.”

So here is the controversy from “The mindfulness conspiracy” by Ron Purser at The Guardian:

“Mindfulness is nothing more than concentration training … disguised as self-help. Instead of setting practitioners free, it helps them adjust to the very conditions that caused their problems … only serves to reinforce its destructive logic.”

Purser does say mindfulness has its place in reducing suffering. But “the underlying cause of dissatisfaction and distress” is not all in our minds. Society creates it, too.

A final term I came across in relation to mindfulness is “self-discipline,” which is “the ability to control yourself and to make yourself work hard or behave in a particular way without needing anyone else to tell you what to do.” An Internet search lists the four components of self-discipline: self-control, motivation, persistence, and goals.

The “7 Self-Discipline Habits of the Super Successful” is found at, and are worthy of a little thought:

  • Work inside your passion.
  • Remove distractions.
  • Reward progress.
  • Do the hardest thing first.
  • Make decisions.
  • Work within your natural routine.
  • Know it takes action: just do it.

One of the purposes for the words Family Recovery Center shares each week is to encourage readers to think about our communities, our families, ourselves … about life and its issues that come thick and fast, so we can encourage and uplift each other. Happy thinking! And have a good week ahead!

Family Recovery Center offers mental health services as well as addiction services. The goal is for the health and well-being of all. For more information about the education, prevention and treatment programs for substance abuse and related behavioral issues, contact the agency at 964 N. Market St., Lisbon; phone, 330-424-1468; or email, Visit the website at FRC is funded in part by United Way of Northern Columbiana County.