Does relentless suffering in the world leave you feeling depleted? I have an invitation for you.

Agnes Otzelberger
The Good Jungle
Published in
4 min readSep 23, 2018
Compassion fatigue is a form of emotional burnout, which can feel like ‘losing one’s spark’.

Join me for Sustained Compassion— an introduction to the practice and neuroscience of overcoming compassion fatigue and its relatives.

I will be offering a free, 5 week online programme to support you in developing skills to overcome compassion fatigue, caregiver burnout and their relatives.

This programme is for you if any of the following applies to you:

  • In your work, you are in any way confronted with the suffering of poverty, injustice, violence or ill health in your community or around the world.
  • You are experiencing compassion fatigue or caregiver burnout (read more about them below), or related difficulties with sustaining your motivation and care.
  • You are curious about ways in which you can stay emotionally involved and motivated, without ‘shutting down’ or becoming cynical/depressed/depleted.
  • You would like to find ways to address conflicting or overwhelming reactions that arise in you in response to suffering.
  • You would like to rekindle or better sustain your passion and energy for your work.

This programme will be light-touch and flexible, over the space of 5 weeks, consisting of

  • three online sessions (of 1.5 hours, 1 hour and 1.5 hours respectively),
  • guided short practices you can do at home,
  • ad-hoc individual support as required

Together we will look at

  • developing self-compassion as a foundation for sustained compassion
  • understanding the ‘helping prison’ — how the roles and identities we assume in our work block compassion
  • cultivating a ‘deep well’ of compassion through a ‘giving and taking’ practice

This is a pilot programme I am offering as part of completing my studies with the Nalanda Institute for Contemplative Science. The practices I will guide you through are time-tested meditation techniques that provide lots of flexibility to be adapted to your needs and preferences. I’ll be supporting you to develop a way of practicing that works for you.

To take part in this free pilot programme, register your interest here by September 28th, 2018.

[2019: find updates and details for registration for new courses here].

Why am I offering this?

Neither emotional breakdown nor emotional shutdown are viable strategies for responding to suffering.

In professions routinely confronted with suffering, it is common belief that we have a choice between emotional shutdown and emotional breakdown. But neither is a viable strategy. The consequences of emotional breakdown are obvious. But emotional shutdown — or ‘compassion fatigue’ — is just another form of collapse. The price we pay for numbing our empathic emotions is high: with the pain, we shut out all the good stuff, too: joy, elation, gratitude, inspiration. We are left feeling flat and lifeless, bitter and cynical, or simply exhausted.

We can’t actually tire of compassion. But we need to learn it first.

What most people don’t know is that there are different types of emotional response to suffering. The thing we fatigue of is also called ‘affective empathy’ — our visceral, painful mirroring response to other people’s suffering. That’s what feels too much and gets numbed in response to suffering. But compassion, neurologically speaking, is a different emotion altogether, giving us a way to fully engage with suffering, while still feeling the energy and joy we need to live fulfilled lives. In a world where compassion fatigue disengages us from what is happening around us and in the world, this amounts to an act of political resistance. Instead of dragging us down, true compassion gives us access to infinite well of energy to do what’s needed. And as neuroscience now shows, it can be strengthened like a muscle. And that’s what we’ll be learning to do in this programme.

Who I am

I’m Agnes Otzelberger, a trainer and facilitator working to get our minds, hearts and bodies in shape for the social good we seek. 10+ years of working in the international aid sector, and in a range of public sector and non-governmental organisations, have given me a huge curiosity for untangling the paradox of systems that are set up to ‘do good’ and yet often seem to model that which they are against. Over the past five years, I’ve immersed myself more and more in the ‘inner’ and interpersonal practices that can help us bring our values and ways of being in this work into better alignment. I am passionate about the emerging meeting places between Western and Eastern psychology and science, and I’m currently completing a certificate course in compassion-based psychotherapy with the Nalanda Institute for Contemplative Science.

You can read more about my work or sign up for future updates on my blog, The Good Jungle: