The Muffin of Compassion

Sometimes when I sit with clients a spontaneous image will float up into my consciousness that seems to be a metaphor of what a client is talking about. This is how I discovered the “muffin of compassion“.

Recently, I was sitting with a client and happened to offer her a simple statement of caring about something that was troubling her. Instead of pausing to “digest” the caring, she had breezed right by it and continued on with our discussion. My internal radar went off. “Wait a minute,” I interrupted. “Did you notice that I just offered you some compassion?”

For some reason, in my mind I suddenly saw the image of my offer of caring as a “muffin of compassion”, with a full dome top, blueberries and sugar coating. “Did you notice I offered you a muffin? Did you notice I offered you some caring?” I said. Holding out both hands, as if they were cupping an actual muffin, I said, “Here. Here is a muffin of compassion for you.” (At this point, we were both laughing.)

What she said next was a very common response – “But it’s only temporary!”, she protested (meaning that when she left my office, she wouldn’t feel it any more.) “Exactly!!”, was my response. “If you don’t take it in and swallow it (so to speak) now, it will only feel temporary. In fact, all caring will feel temporary if you don’t digest it. It will always feel like it doesn’t last.”

“I guess I don’t really trust it…,” she said.

Perhaps in the past, the muffins that she had been offered weren’t truly made of compassion, but contained instead pity, or judgment or control. Or perhaps they were delivered with strings, and pulled away when she reached for them. Perhaps muffins simply couldn’t be trusted. And perhaps now, she couldn’t tell the difference between a genuine muffin of compassion, and a false one.

And herein rests the challenge. If you can’t recognize and trust the true, caring, “muffin of compassion” that is being offered you in the present, you won’t truly accept it and digest it into your system. You’ll think, “It’s not real. I don’t believe it. She doesn’t really care about me.”, etc. Even the most delicious, golden muffin of compassion will languish unconsumed. And you will end up feeling empty, depleted and emotionally hungry, perhaps believing there is no compassion in the world, or at least none for you.

Shall we bake some muffins?

Photo credit: stu_spivack via Flickr

About Karen Caffrey

I'm a psychotherapist in private practice in West Hartford, Connecticut. I enjoy helping people become more fulfilled and resilient, so they can lead better lives.
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