The piece of our psyche that observes friends, family, the kooky vacuum-toting neighbor on the elevator, with calm fascination (instead of making them sources of gratification or approval) is what some psychologists call the compassionate witness.

Becoming the Compassionate Witness
Being a compassionate witness to others will help anyone you meet feel seen and understood. To access it, simply take your attention off yourself and focus it fully on the person before you—not as an act of self-abandoning martyrdom (that's just another form of envy preemption) but as an opportunity for you to see how interesting people are once you begin to pay close and careful attention to them. You'll find that almost every interaction becomes less upsetting and more enjoyable.

For example, if Sarah had been watching Irene as a compassionate witness rather than wanting to knock some sense into Irene's head or worry about her own place in the social universe (i.e., husbandless, childless, fancy toaster-less), she would have seen Irene's behavior the way Lynn did. "Oh, look. Irene seems so awfully worried that her good fortune will make us dislike her." The moment Lynn articulated this dynamic, Sarah felt much more generous toward Irene.


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