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  • Hello. This is 6 Minute English from BBC Learning English. I'm Rob. -And I'm Sam.

  • As awful as the corona virus pandemic has been, it's also highlighted the compassionate side of human nature - doctors and nurses helping the sick.

  • Yes, and people helping out elderly relatives and neighbours, raising money for charity or wearing a face mask to keep others safe.

  • But the pandemic has also highlighted a more worrying issue called 'compassion fatigue'.

  • Have you heard of that, Sam?

  • Yes, I think compassion fatigue is a kind of emotional exhaustion which reduces your ability to empathize or feel compassion of others.

  • Yes, exactly, Sam. Compassion fatigue has long been a problem for people working in medical professions and is the topic of this program.

  • We'll be hearing how the suffering and unhappiness we see on the TV news can increase feelings of helplessness.

  • But first, let me ask you my quiz question, Sam.

  • Humanitarian workers see human suffering on a daily basis and can easy fall victim to compassion fatigue.

  • Founded in 1971, Medecins Sans Frontieres is one of the biggest humanitarian organisations.

  • But what does Medecins Sans Frontieres mean? Is it: a) Medicine to the frontline?, b) Doctors without borders?, or c) Medicine first?

  • I remember newspapers calling it MSF and using its English name, which I think was, b) Doctors without borders.

  • OK, Sam, we ll find out the answer later on.

  • Compassion fatigue centres on the idea that we can feel too much empathy and that feeling can lead to emotional burnout.

  • According to psychologist, Margaret Heffernan, caring and fatigue are closely connected.

  • Caring for others means taking on someone's pain yourself and this can have unhealthy consequences for the carer.

  • Well, here's Margaret Heffernan talking to BBC World Service's, The Documentary Podcast.

  • See if you can hear the effects of compassion fatigue she mentions:

  • As you find people spending more and more time online, reading more and more and more depressing news

  • and they become more and more numb they also become more and more addicted to it.

  • And this develops a kind of state of mind that is a kind of... it's a form of learned helplessness,

  • because I'm consuming something that's upsetting me but I cannot do anything about it.

  • Margaret Heffernan mentions that spending too much time reading depressing online news can leave us feeling numb -

  • unable to feel any emotions or think clearly because we are so upset or afraid.

  • The news exposes us to human suffering around the world, which we feel powerless to help.

  • This can lead to something which in psychology is called learned helplessness -

  • giving up trying to feel better because your previous attempts have not worked.

  • This is all incredibly depressing, Rob!

  • It sounds like we have limited amounts of compassion.

  • Well, there are more positive ways of looking at it, Sam.

  • Here's an alternative view from Tom Rivett-Carnac, speaking with BBC World Service's, The Documentary Podcast.

  • I understand why you're saying that it s finite - but I also think compassion is a habit.

  • So dwelling with that, developing that habit -

  • yes, there are a lot of headwinds to that and the rapid acceleration of the news cycle, the focus on the next problem so quickly

  • draws our attention away from developing those deeper habits as humanity that gives us that courage and that strength to make these big transformations.

  • Like Margaret Heffernan, Tom Rivett-Carnac believes the news media is part of the problem.

  • Online newspapers and social media, speed up the news cycle - the reporting of a particular news story, from the first instance to the last.

  • As a result, we are constantly worrying about the next problem - and this can easily lead to emotional fatigue.

  • Tom emphasizes compassion as a habit to be developed, instead of something finite - limited or having a fixed size.

  • But such compassionate habits can be difficult to cultivate because they face many headwinds -

  • forces blowing in the opposite direction which stop you moving forward.

  • Headwinds such as the rapid news cycle which distracts us from developing compassion and courage.

  • Maybe the answer is to help in whatever ways we can, without becoming hard-hearted - like the volunteers of MSF.

  • Ah yes - your quiz question, Rob.

  • You asked what the French name Medecins Sans Frontieres means in English.

  • And I said, b) Doctors without borders.

  • Which was the correct answer! Well done!

  • Doctors Without Borders offer volunteer medical assistance in the world's worst conflict zones.

  • OK, Rob, let s recap the vocabulary, starting with compassion fatigue -

  • emotional exhaustion which reduces your feelings of compassion.

  • This can leave you numb - unable to feel any emotions because you are so shocked or scared.

  • Learned helplessness is a psychological term for when someone stops trying to feel better because their previous attempts failed.

  • Some people believe that compassion is finite - limited or having a fixed size.

  • And it can be disturbed by the news cycle - the round of media reports and reactions to a news story.

  • Which can be a headwind or opposing force, which stops us caring for others.

  • And that's it for this edition of 6 Minute English.

  • Bye for now! -Bye.

Hello. This is 6 Minute English from BBC Learning English. I'm Rob. -And I'm Sam.

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Compassion fatigue - 6 Minute English

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    林宜悉 posted on 2021/06/20
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