Date of Award
MA - Master of Arts
Parents witnessing suffering in their children activate the shared pain circuitry of empathy which may lead to “empathetic distress” (Singer & Klimecki, 2014, p. 875) precipitating hopelessness and despair. These common emotions in parents dealing with children’s illness or injury are the greatest predictors of depression (Abramson, Seligman, & Teasdale, 1978; Gilbert, 1992; Wilner & Goldstein, 2001). The author offers the Buddhist teachings of equanimity as an antidote to parental helplessness and despair. Equanimity engages compassion which activates the neural network of affiliation, love, reward, and positive affect (Anālayo, 2015; Desbordes et al., 2015; Feldman, 2017; Hanh, 1998; Klimecki, Leiberg, Lamm, & Singer, 2012; Kilmecki, Leiber, Ricard, & Singer, 2013; Olendzki, 2010; Rothberg, 2010; Salzberg, 1995; Singer & Klimenki, 2014). The components of equanimity include compassion, wisdom, and unfailing love (Anālayo, 2015; Desbordes et al., 2015; Feldman, 2017; Hanh, 1998; Olendzki, 2010; Rothberg, 2010; Salzberg, 1995). The addition of compassion, the intention to actively relieve suffering, helps maintain emotional sovereignty and protects from the common occurrence of burnout due to despair and hopelessness (Desbordes et al., 2015; Feldman, 2017; Hanh, 1998; Klimecki, Leiberg, Lamm, & Singer, 2012; Kilmecki, Leiber, Ricard, & Singer, 2013; Olendzki, 2010; Romm, 2007; Singer & Klimenki, 2014). This ancient Buddhist practice supports the restoration of intention and desire to effect change and offers a radically different approach to caring for both child and parent.
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Landman, Celia, "When the Whole World Tips: The Buddhist Teaching of Equanimity for Parents" (2019). Mindfulness Studies Theses. 5.