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Sounds simple enough. And it is. Here is how:
Compersion and Jealousy
Compersion is such a recent concept, spell-check doesn’t even recognize the word and you cannot find a definition in mainstream dictionaries. This is the definition offered up by Modern Poly:
Compersion: adj., the experience of taking pleasure in the knowledge that one’s partner is experiencing pleasure, even if the source of their pleasure is other than yourself. The feeling may or may not be sexual.
While this concept is commonly understood by those who practice polyamorous relationships, it has not yet found mainstream acceptance. Yet it operates as does altruism and self-confidence, whereas jealousy, its evil twin, operates through its antithesis: selfishness and insecurity. The more I embrace compersion, the more I reject jealousy. This concept is equally compatible with monogamy as it is polyamory and non-monogamy.
Jealousy needs no definition; we have examples all around us. Jealousy is a destructive emotion. Jealousy seeks to deny, repress and hurt. Compersion, on the other hand, is constructive. Compersion seeks to give, share and provide pleasure. Imagine how many murders and assaults have been committed due to jealousy and insecurity? What if, instead, we embraced compersion as a society and encouraged the idea that if you love someone else, then you should want that other person to experience pleasure?
With jealousy, the bearer of the emotion makes others accountable for his or her insecurity. A lover is expected to conform to the stated or unstated expectations of another to avoid triggering a jealous response in that person. The jealous person is rarely required to accept responsibility for the negative emotion and conform his or her behavior instead. Outside relationships, however, we would not tolerate this, so why do we embrace it within the confines of dating and marriage? Consider the following analogies:
- A high school student is jealous of another student’s good grades. Instead improving his or her grades or otherwise dealing with this jealousy, the student with the good grades is expected to stop performing so well.
- A neighbor is jealous of the car another neighbor drives. Instead of dealing with this jealousy, the neighbor with the car is expected to stop driving it or to sell it entirely.
- An amateur athlete is jealous of the fame and success of professional athletes. Instead of dealing with this jealousy, the professional athletes are expected to stop competing professionally.
These make no sense. So why, therefore, in the context of dating, should a lover’s reaction dictate our choices and freedoms? Remember, jealousy are the selfish trappings of the ownership paradigm of monogamy. With jealousy, we believe we have an ownership interest that trumps our partner’s rights to control their own body, make their own decisions and extend their personal experiences with others.
We invest time and effort to create rules that we convince ourselves will help us feel safe and secure when, paradoxically, when another stays with us in the absence or despite the rules we find the greatest reassurance. Jealousy is of our own creation and we have the ability to examine it and discard it. When we allow it to control our thoughts and the actions of others we are inviting the misery and drama that jealousy brings.
Conversely, with compersion one person loves the other unselfishly and want’s the other person’s happiness. The person who embraces compersion recognizes his or her own individual limits and that he or she cannot provide all possible pleasure or happiness to those who he or she may love. The partner who embraces compersion chooses happiness – both that of their partner and their own. Knowing their partner has received pleasure brings them happiness.
If one is insecure, however, and does not trust what they bring to the relationship is unique and incomparable, then the idea of allowing the object of one’s affection to experience pleasure with another is threatening. The jealous person seeks to confine and restrict the other person to avoid feeling insecure rather than address their own lack of self-esteem or confidence.
Thus, the ability to embrace compersion is recognition of one’s own limitations. We cannot provide all the pleasures in the universe to those whom we love. Those who are self-secure is not threatened by their partner’s pleasure. Indeed, the person who embraces compersion finds happiness through their partner’s pleasure.
So, to choose happiness, we need only take pleasure in our partner’s pleasures. To reject misery we need only abandon the selfish trappings of our jealousy. It’s that simple. Reject misery. Discard jealousy. Choose happiness. Embrace compersion.
Modern Poly. (2011, March 26). Compersion. Retrieved on November 30, 2013 from: http://modernpoly.com/feeditem/definition-compersion
Originally published under title Compersion and Jealousy: The good twin and the evil twin on December 1, 2013 at Puzzle Pieces blog.