Seeing & Looking
"You don't know how I feel." We have said this. We've been told this. Like you, I know the experience of being misunderstood or have my feelings discarded. I have misunderstood others as well.
Now, some of us, a small minority, are not able to know how others feel. They have no compassion nor a theory of mind. They are simply unable to know, or imagine, the mind and feelings of the other. This comes out in their actions.
To become more compassionate, I try to be aware of people's feelings and moods when I photograph a portrait. This might mean listening instead of photographing them. It can lead to putting the camera to one side. It could involve returning at a better time, or working at much slower or faster pace to match the pace of my subject. It can lead to making a game of the photography process or giving control in a session to someone who objects to being photographed. It always requires a change from self preoccupations to thinking of another person.
Compassion is not passion. While they may be two wheels on the same drive train of our mental energy, passion is more about the self and comes from inside. Compassion is about feeling for another and it's more often impelled from outside of us. It starts outside of us when another person is suffering, and we are moved to suffer along with them. Compassion is not altruism. It is not empathy.
Compassionate people are described as patient, kind, wise. I was not born with these traits, and I have to work at it, to practice to become more compassionate. I've found compassion an immense challenge. Often I find it hard to maintain compassion and transform it so it lasts.
Compassion Exercise: I began to keep a gratitude journal in 2019, keeping track of things for which I am grateful. I practice telling myself "I want to develop my compassion and I will practice."
Photos and Writings by Jim Austin Jimages