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Compassion Fatigue

I remember well the first time I reached out to a coach. I was in the midst of burnout and had come to realize I could no longer cope on my own. I needed help. I was beyond feeling vulnerable and yet this is what I had to acknowledge. It's just damn hard and even anti-cultural to admit, I am vulnerable. I had to confront three dysfuctional social mores, not to trust, not to talk about my expereinces, and also not to share what I was feeling. I had learned early on, growing up in an alcoholic dependent family, that these three dysfunctions prevented any type of self care. The first was not to share your story, because if you did, you would talk about the situation you were experiencing. The second was to bury your feelings, God forbid if you got in touch with your feelings, you might feel your anger could destroy you. Finally, the third rule is not to trust. How could you trust when you were always waiting for another shoe to drop.


To tell one's story, to feel what one is experiencing, and to trust someone who would listen are the antidotes for recovery and the foundation of a successful coaching experience.

Marion Woodman captures the tension, the struggle, and also the importance of being vulnerable: "At the very point of Vulnerability is where the surrender takes place, that is where the god enters. The god comes through the wound."

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  1. Can you recall what, in your service to others, excites you and gives you joy? Sometimes when we are in the midst of compassion fatigue or burnout, we forget our original call to service. We become numb.

  2. Is there a gap between your present day experiences and what you imagine for yourself? Sometimes we feel lost and overwhelmed.

  3. Are you now experiencing symptoms that may lead to compassion fatigue, secondary stress disorder, and burnout?

Christina Maslach argues in Burnout: The Cost of Caregiving that the symptoms can be physical, emotional, and spiritual. The cultural and societal norm that we have to challenge is our belief that we don’t want to be a burden by sharing our story and to overcome the norm that we can DO IT MY OURSELVES!