This trip has been profound in many ways. I would say if you want to learn compassion through opening your heart to the world around you come to Belfast. One would be hard pressed to remain unmoved when coming in contact with the intense emotions of the city. Each person in our group came here with their own expectations fueled by their interests in the field of Psychology. They also more covertly brought along their own worldview, some of which they were aware of and some parts of which they were not. I brought a history of travel throughout the world, an appreciation of other cultures and a desire to understand the people of Northern Ireland, or the North as many refer to it. But, as is many times the case, when you start to think you are completely open to an experience and comfortable with the unknown you are tested. In my case I was tested with the reality that my heart had become closed. By focusing on my studies I had become distanced through knowledge and had unknowingly closed my heart. When I first arrived in Belfast I felt confusion and anxiety as I began to meet all the amazing people here. I was profoundly touched by their courage and resilience in the face of the reality of loss. I appreciated their ability to strive for more and hope to achieve a better future for their children than what they had experienced. But even in my acknowledgment of those things I was still amazed when I felt my heart open again and the compassion I saw around me. as that happened.
Compassion is as a sense of intense sympathy and sadness for someone who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong need to help them. This emotion will inevitably open your heart to that person’s suffering. Compassion can break down barriers because it requires you not only feel another’s pain, but that you desire to stop it. In places where there has been war and strife compassion can heal the divide between signs for once you can see suffering through another’s eyes it is hard to want to hurt them. Despite all the hardship and pain I saw compassion in all the eyes of the people I met. For while they are still coming to terms with their history and past they have shared loss whic brings with it compassion. This experience of compassion despite that pain opened my heart.
Moving forward as a Clinician I want to keep this perspective. I have learned so much about building community and how this network can make all the difference in healing psychological wounds. I leave Belfast at the end of this trip looking forward to coming back to help in the amazing work they are doing here to rebuild and create a new identity and thank Belfast and everyone I met for reminding e about the most important parts of my field, listening and compassion.
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