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Compassion, Anger and Codependency, from the perspective of Tibetan Medicine.

Self-compassion and compassion - with an attitude of “We are one,” it becomes clear that helping you is helping me too. Your better health is better for my health too. Self-compassion is a need for our own health, in addition to seeing the interconnectedness of life and the need for compassion for others - as we are one.

Compassion is described in Tibetan Medicine as an understanding that all phenomena are made of the same five energy sources, rather than being just a feeling. Researchers Fernando, Rea and Malpas (2018) found that compassion consists of connection, presence, warmth, respect and caring. Tibetan Medicine advocates cultivating these qualities of self-compassion through daily practices. This suggests self-compassion involves an intellectual understanding of one's shared nature with other living beings. We all deserve care, including ourselves.

Numerous studies have confirmed a positive relationship between self-compassion, universal compassion, health and happiness in a variety of individuals like adolescents, adults, nurses, children and postpartum women. In studies of nurses specifically, higher self-compassion was linked to characteristics like not feeling burned out or needing approval from others. These traits were inversely related to measures of compassion fatigue.

Self-compassion involves an intellectual understanding of shared humanity combined with practices to cultivate qualities like warmth and caring towards oneself. Research has linked self-compassion to greater health, happiness and less stress or fatigue in caring for others.

Healing music interlude: Echoes of Silence, Handpan music, Malte Marten (Youtube)

“Compassion fatigue” or “Codependency”?

In the book Tibetan Medicine and You, we learn that compassion itself would not cause exhaustion or "fatigue", as is commonly referred to as “compassion fatigue”. Instead, in Tibetan Medicine, experiencing fatigue from serving others in what seems a compassionate role, is likely a result of codependency.

With codependency, we learned as children to take our lead from others before taking any action on our own - or we may have learned to hide. We had to learn to watch for emotional cues that might suggest safety or danger and then act accordingly - avoid the dangerous adult, or during a calm mood, see that now might be a good time to ask for food or other help.

Codependency may lead to later problems with addiction, poor mental health and irresponsibility to others or an excessive responsibility for others that leads to burnout or resentment and then irresponsibility or other problems may occur.

Those with codependency characteristics may feel burned out having gone beyond their personal limits in a need other people's approval.

Studies found codependency traits were inversely related to self-compassion in nurses. In trying to overly please or care for others, the nurses were not taking sufficient care of their own needs for rest. Lack of self-compassion could potentially lead one to take on more than they can handle in trying to help others.

Pinks and purples with some sparkle graphics with the text forming a circle.
Giving and receiving....makes us complete. @peace_every_day is my Instagram.

Tibetan Medicine views emotional and physical fatigue as symptoms that could not be a direct result of compassion itself, but rather it might grow from codependent behaviors and a lack of self-compassion, which can lead someone to overextend themselves. Without proper boundaries or care for one's own needs it is likely that burnout and illness may occur, and resentment may be forming that could lead to angry outbursts.

To love others we need to love ourselves, and it is true of caregiving as well.

Anger and self compassion are interconnected.

If we try to suppress angry feelings they are more likely to build up into bigger resentments which might lead to an angry outburst. Maybe as a child we would be punished if we spoke out in anger or with other strong emotions.

Meditating on anger - focusing on what we are feeling, where it is causing tension in the body, and what imagery may be linked to it - can help develop mindfulness and understanding of the root causes of anger. When we allow ourselves to see our unspoken feelings, we can allow ourselves to let it go instead of expressing, ruminating on, or suppressing angry or sad or lonely feelings. This cultivates self compassion.

Cultivating self compassion through practices like forgiveness and making amends can help heal the mind and may help us to face death peacefully without fear or remorse, rather than being plagued by unresolved anger or issues.

Studies regarding nurses' self compassion found that having more self-compassion was inversely related to characteristics associated with "compassion fatigue", suggesting higher self compassion is linked to less anger and stress. And/or that higher self compassion is linked to better self care and less of a physical burden of stress chemicals.

Whether we are working non-stop physically, or worrying non-stop emotionally, we are using up our energy and creating toxins from the metabolic activity. When we ‘burn our midnight oil’ working late into the night, we are using our internal resources, not just adding to the electric bill, or kerosene oil bill in days of old.

“Tibetan Medicine and You” - you, the health practitioner, or you, the general reader.

  • This post is based on the book Tibetan Medicine and You - A Path to Wellbeing, Better Health, and Joy, by Miriam E. Cameron and Tenzin Namdul, 2020.  (GoodReads) (

Miriam Cameron is a registered nurse with a PhD in nursing and philosophy/bioethics who has been studying Tibetan Medicine since 1994. Tenzin Namdul is a doctor of Tibetan Medicine. The book is a collaborative work with a goal of bringing the benefits of Tibetan Medicine practices to Western medicine practitioners.

  • Echoes of Silence, Handpan music, Malte Marten (Youtube)

This is the second post of a series, the first post:

  1. Learning Self-Appreciation Hawaiian Style Ho'oponopono....and other skills for building self-compassion and understanding anger. (

Disclaimer: This information is being provided for educational purposes within the guidelines of Fair Use and is not intended to provide individual health care guidance.


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