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Excerpt from Emotional Awareness pp. 211-215
Ekman: I would like to mention two other emotions that I think are relevant to the development of compassion. Often, though not always, when someone is thanked profusely, especially if it is done while others are present, the person being thanked can become overwhelmed and speechless, and tears may flow. The person who is expressing thanks feels, “gratitude,” but should we use the same word for the person being thanked? Certainly that person is grateful for being thanked, for being acknowledged.
My wife recently retired from a senior administrative post at the university, to return to being just a professor. At a public ceremony in her honor, many of the people thanked her; some of them broke down into tears, and so did my wife. I have never seen her cry so much. She was exhausted at the end. But they were tears of overwhelming joy.
Dalai Lama: (translated) If I am quite thankful to you, and I say, “I am so thankful. You have been kind to me,” and these things, the gratitude is within me. Then you, the person being thanked, in turn might respond with a sense of joy, feeling grateful for being thanked. It is a kind of exchange.
Two things are happening. From one side, a feeling of gratefulness or gratitude, and from the other side, a sense of responding to and recognizing the gratefulness that is felt. In these two cases, the object is different….
Becoming more Compassionate
Ekman: Let me suggest that the exchange of gratitude may help to move people toward becoming more compassionate. Helping is a compassionate act, and being thanked and feeling appreciated should strengthen the inclination to respond in that fashion.
In addition to gratitude, there is another emotion that seems related to cultivating compassion. The anthropologist John Haidt has written what he calls “elevation,” the feeling you have when you see someone else engaged in a compassionate act. It makes you feel good. It is different from other feelings of goodness. Do you have a name for this?
Jinpa: (a fellow Buddhist scholar and translator for the Dalai Lama) We call it “rejoicing.”
Dalai Lama: (translated) When I watch nature television or see a mother express affectionate dedication to her offspring, I feel a sense of rejoicing, because they are confirmations of the value of compassion…so what is the essence here?
Ekman: The essence is that we rejoice and are inspired by the compassionate actions of others.
Dalai Lama: Oh, yes, clearly.
Watch the Developing Global Compassion Series
Learn more about compassion on a global scale in this video series featuring Dr. Ekman and the Dalai Lama.