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Control Is a Myth That Fuels Compassion Fatigue

compassion fatigue letting go

I read about 100+ books a year.

People keep telling me that’s a LOT of books. 

For me, it’s never enough.

I’m a legit book meme come to life. See here and most of these (#22!).

One of the things I’ve wanted to do forever is to share more of what I read with all of you.

So that’s what I’m going to do.

Starting now, I’ll be sharing the occasional short blurb from my favorite books.

May my extreme bookworm-ness be of benefit to yinz.

Side note: can we please make “yinz” happen? 

“Y’all” just doesn’t sound right when I say it with my New Jersey accent.


First up is an excerpt from Real Happiness at Work: Meditations for Accomplishment, Achievement, and Peace by Sharon Salzberg

“Another reason that we burn out is the false belief that we ought to have greater control over colleagues, bosses, clients, and outcomes than we do.

It’s only when we question the assumption of control that we begin to see how delusional it really is.

Before we heap blame upon ourselves at work, we might learn to ask: “Could I have controlled that? How could I have stopped that from coming up?”

More often than not, the answer is that we could not have prevented the unexpected for which we are nonetheless blaming ourselves…

A key to exploring the myth of control is seeing the many strands of conditioning, influences, and causes that make up any given moment.

As parts of a greater whole, we do not orchestrate all the grand motions of the universe.

On a good day, we have a measure of control over ourselves – what we choose and how we behave – but beyond that our powers are sadly limited.

The awareness of the bigger picture of causes and conditions can ease our habitual, scorching self-blame for inevitable mistakes and disappointments.”


For me, this passage is helpful because it allows me to keep showing up to do hard things by (paradoxically) accepting that I can’t control what happens when I do.

I understand that I can only control the process of how I do the work, not the outcomes of my efforts.

Having a spiritual practice helps me to stay with this challenging, bigger picture perspective.

And this bigger picture perspective reduces my compassion fatigue because:

(1) I’m able to release some of the guilt I feel about upsetting outcomes

(2) I remember that I’m part of a larger group of people who are doing this work and it’s not possible or up to me to save everyone (which means I’m allowed to rest!). 

This is a great book that I reference often in my classes.

You can find a copy here.



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