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Kaleidoscope of the Heart: Can you be 'compassionate' to others?

Rika Kayama (Mainichi)

One day while I was in my examination room, a woman who had earlier said she was going to see a doctor at a large hospital because she was worried about her dizziness came into the room looking less energetic than usual. In my mind, I was worried that she might have been told she had some kind of disease.

    But when I asked her, "What's wrong?" She replied, "I had a lot of tests done at that big hospital, but they said there was nothing wrong with me."

    Well, that's good, then why the gloomy look on her face? Before I could ask that question, she told me her story.

    "They did all sorts of tests with the latest technology, but the only thing the doctor said was, 'It's not a problem.' He didn't seem to be listening compassionately to me."

    I was convinced and said, "I see. I wonder if the doctor didn't understand how hard it was for you to suffer from dizziness for so many years."

    Then, she finally smiled and said, "That's right. The doctor here understands what I'm going through."

    It was the first time I had heard the word "compassionately" in a long time, and it left an enormous impression. If you look up the corresponding word in a Japanese dictionary, you will find two meanings. One is "a person who is closely related by blood," in other words, a blood relative or family member. The other is "to be attentive to someone as if they were one's own flesh and blood." Of course, what the woman wanted to say was in the latter sense that she wished the doctor had been more caring.

    When you think about it, it's hard to give your heart to someone unrelated, as if they were your own family. No matter how kind you pretend to be, the other person can tell there's something different. So, how can we make the person feel that we have been compassionate to them?

    We shouldn't necessarily imagine that the person in front of us is a family member. If you treat them like an actual relative, you might become too emotional and unable to listen to the person carefully and choose the best solution. It is important to be sympathetic, but also to stay calm.

    Being compassionate to people who are not your family is a deep issue when you think about it. And now amid the coronavirus pandemic, there are a lot of people who are thinking, "I want someone to be compassionate towards me." I would like you to think for a moment about whether you are being compassionate to others.

    (By Rika Kayama, psychiatrist)

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