At work, my colleagues and I have been learning about compassion fatigue this past week. If you are unfamiliar with the term, it has to do with people who come into contact with those in trauma with great frequency. People in the medical profession often experience it, as well as those in my profession, which is teaching. Basically, it means that after you’ve seen a certain level of pain and suffering in other people, you become hardened to it. It’s one of the main reasons that many people leave the teaching profession, especially in their first years on the job. In a profession where most people go into it because they care about people and want to help them, compassion is in fashion all the time. Sometimes, you just can’t turn it off when you need to.
You might be wondering where this is going on a dog blog, and I’ll tell you. As social media brings us closer together, it also makes it easier to share things that are near and dear to us. My guess is that many of the people reading this have known someone online who constantly posts dogs needing help, either to find a home or for medical bills. You may have even unfriended or stopped following some people who constantly flooded you with posts that made you cringe or lose sleep because they feel that everyone needs to see and share each animal that needs help. There are even shelters and animal welfare agencies that do the same thing, running commercials that make you feel like you need an entire box of tissue before it’s over. It feels like the need is everywhere and that we will never be able to help everyone.
After a couple of really tough weeks at work and in my personal life, I saw one of those commercials and it made me feel like the life was being sucked right out of me. There has to be a better way to get people to pledge help, time, money and dedication than running ads like this. A commercial that showed someone having the best Saturday of their life out with their newly adopted dog would motivate me a lot more. If it were cleverly done and engaging, I’d be a lot more likely to share it, too.
I’m thinking that maybe we need to take a page from our dogs’ books, too. My dogs don’t suffer from compassion fatigue. They aren’t worried about all the ills of the world that they can’t fix. They care about cheering me up after a long day, but they aren’t losing any sleep if other people in the world are down. Suffering in others doesn’t make them feel stressed or anxious. They may not look at the bigger picture, but they see the part of it that matters to them. I love them for the unique way that they do see the world, and oftentimes, I think they have the right idea.