The Psychoexemplary of Compassionating as Mexico Elects Its First Woman and Jewish President

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The importance of compassion.

compassion

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PSYCHIATRIC VIEWS ON THE DAILY NEWS

In my last column on Friday, statesmanship was presented as a leadership psychoexemplary. Perhaps I should have suggested a gender-informed alternative, statespersonship, for the news today is that in a landslide, Mexico just elected its first woman president, Claudia Sheinbaum. She is also its first Jewish president, with her grandparents escaping the Holocaust. Of course, we in the United States have had neither a woman nor a Jewish president. By education, she is reported to be an environmental engineer and took part in the UN Intergovernmental Panel Climate Change team that went on to share a Nobel Peace Prize in 2007. Peacemaking was covered as our first psychoexemplary. As a socialist, part of her platform was the promise to guide the economy for the benefit of the poor.

With our anticipated coverage on compassion for today, time will tell what moral goals her values and leadership will fulfill. Given her background, it would seem that compassion, especially for the poor, could well be one of them.

Compassion generally refers to not only feeling sympathy for the suffering of others but wanting to reduce it. That can extend to self-compassion. Animals, such as elephants, seem capable of it, suggesting it is an important aspect of evolution and survival of the fittest. Some of the fittest may very well be those who best form compassionate bonds with others. At least I hope so.

That definition of compassion seems to clearly refer to psychiatry, does it not?1 Compassionating is an essential ingredient to what medicine has traditionally provided, and research has affirmed its value. Human connection, especially live positive interchanges, contributes to well-being.

However, a concerning case can be made for a “compassion crisis in US health care.”2 This crisis has been born by the increasing domination of health care by for-profit businesses, putting more emphasis on efficiency like factories provide, rather than the specific needs of the individual patient.3

Compassion has also long been a key and distinct concept in Buddhist teachings. It is the basis of what the current Dalai Lama has tried to convey to the world.4 He feels that more compassion could be the salvation of the world.

Compassion is present in the sacred scripture of most all religions. However, like all the psychoexemplaries I am covering, it can have its drawbacks, too. The Jewish Kabbalah warns of compassion running amok, as for example the person who weeps more for the criminal than for the innocent victim. There can be too much giving.

Potentially, every clinical encounter can be one that is lovingly encased in some compassion. How to do so can be taught and modeled. Compassionating is one place where science and religion meet. That meeting can take place in both psychiatry and in politics. If such meetings are extensive enough, increased mental well-being will be their offspring.

Dr Moffic is an award-winning psychiatrist who specialized in the cultural and ethical aspects of psychiatry and is now in retirement and retirement as a private pro bono community psychiatrist. A prolific writer and speaker, he has done a weekday column titled “Psychiatric Views on the Daily News” and a weekly video, “Psychiatry & Society,” since the COVID-19 pandemic emerged. He was chosen to receive the 2024 Abraham Halpern Humanitarian Award from the American Association for Social Psychiatry. Previously, he received the Administrative Award in 2016 from the American Psychiatric Association, the one-time designation of being a Hero of Public Psychiatry from the Speaker of the Assembly of the APA in 2002, and the Exemplary Psychiatrist Award from the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill in 1991. He is an advocate and activist for mental health issues related to climate instability, physician burnout, and xenophobia. He is now editing the final book in a 4-volume series on religions and psychiatry for Springer: Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, Christianity, and now The Eastern Religions, and Spirituality. He serves on the Editorial Board of Psychiatric Times.

References

1. Sengupta P, Saxena P. The art of compassion in mental healthcare for all: back to the basics. Indian J Psychol Med. 2024;46(1):72-77.

2. Remignanti D. The compassion crisis in U.S. health care. KevinMD.com. April 25, 2024. Accessed June 3, 2024. https://www.kevinmd.com/2024/04/the-compassion-crisis-in-u-s-health-care.html

3. Moffic HS. The Ethical Way: Challenges & Solutions for Managed Behavioral Healthcare. Jossey-Bass; 1997.

4. Lama D. The Heart of Compassion: A Practical Approach to a Meaningful Life. Lotus Press; 2002.

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