There is a great posting today on our fellow bloggers site Creating Reciprocity at: http://creatingreciprocity.wordpress.com/2012/02/19/the-contagion-of-sadness/
I strongly recommend you read it. I particularly liked these quotes from Karen Armstrong (whom I have previously posted about) in her 12 Steps to a Compassionate Life:
In Buddhism, compassion (karuna) is defined as a determination to liberate others from their grief, something that is impossible if we do not admit to our own unhappiness and misery…It is, of course, important to encourage the positive, but it is also crucial sometimes to allow ourselves to mourn…Today there is often a degree of heartlessness in our determined good cheer, because if we simply tell people to be ‘positive’ when they speak to us of their sorrow, we may leave them feeling misunderstood and isolated in their distress. Somebody once told me that when she had cancer, the hardest thing of all was her friends’ relentless insistence that she adopt a positive attitude; they refused to let her discuss her fears – probably because they were frightened by her disease and found it an uncomfortable reminder of their own mortality…
…make a conscious effort to look back on the events that have caused you distress in the past…Make a deliberate effort to inhabit those moments fully and send a message of encouragement and sympathy to your former self. The object of this exercise is not to leave you wallowing in self-pity. The vivid memory of painful times past is a reservoir on which you can draw when you try to live according to the Golden Rule.* By remembering your own sorrow vividly, you will make it possible for yourself to feel empathy with others.
There are many variants of the Golden Rule but they all boil down to the same message – Always treat others as you would wish to be treated yourself.
This is Karen: