Limits of Compassion

At today’s meeting we discussed the limits of our compassion for clients. Inevitably this varies between therapists and as much as anything it  reflects the least developed aspects of ourselves. For some of us, it is hard to find compassion for clients who are unable to tell the truth, for others the client’s behaviour is sufficiently distracting to block our view of the vulnerable person behind the behaviour. We looked at the unhelpfulness of allowing a testy relationship to escalate into a power struggle and the much more helpful attitude of allowing client autonomy, while the therapist stays calm and curious until the client’s world view becomes understandable. One theme was the impatience we can feel for clients who are not open to change, who are very rigid or cannot develop insight. We know that this is likely to be the client’s defense against pain but our lack of compassion here is presumably connected with our motivations for doing this work in the first place. Unsurprisingly, lack of compassion will result in incongruence in the therapist which will be picked up by the client and this inauthenticity will hinder or halt the therapy. We enjoyed thinking about compassion growing if the relationship can be sustained –  for example when clients who are originally inflexible later develop the capacity for change or insight. ‘It is a joy to be hidden, but a disaster not to be found’  (Winnicott)

Limits of Compassion