Compersion: Feeling Joy For The Happiness of Others

Compersion is a positive state of mind. It's not too easy to achieve, but, by working on your emotions, you'll find that it's well worth the effort.
Compersion: Feeling Joy For The Happiness of Others

Last update: 05 January, 2022

The word compersion refers to the state of happiness produced by perceiving happiness in another. Arguably, it’s about empathy at its finest. As a matter of fact, it’s said that feeling satisfaction for the happiness of another is like being happy twice. For this reason, it’s an extremely positive and uplifting condition.

Some would say that compersion is the opposite of jealousy. In this case, we refer to jealousy of all kinds. For example, professional, social, emotional, sexual, etc. However, it must be clarified that not all types of jealousy are the result of discomfort in seeing another’s happiness. In fact, this is only typical of narcissistic jealousy.

Perhaps the type of relationship that best allows you to appreciate compersion is that between you, as a parent, and your children. Indeed, you tend to experience your children’s happiness as your own. You even feel happier about their achievements than yours. However, in other relationships, it’s not so easy to experience compression.

It’s a liberating emotion from the burdens of frustration, disappointment, fury and many others with that restrictive kind of tone that comes from jealousy.”

-Daniel Colombo-

Father hugging his little daughter

Fear and the other

You only tend to reject the happiness or achievement of others if you see some kind of threat in it. If you do, then you don’t only feel rejection, but also sadness and anger, or even both at the same time, as a reaction to the happiness of another. However, why is it that someone else’s well-being can create fear in you?

As a matter of fact, it only occurs if you adopt the position of seeing the other as if they were a mirror. In other words, when you identify with them. In this case, their achievement or happiness immediately elicits a comparison and you feel that they possess a sense of well-being that you don’t.

It’s then that the alarm bells go off. It’s as if their happiness acts as a way of confronting your own shortcomings or limitations. It becomes poisonous for you because you’re looking at yourself through them. If, on the other hand, you have your own autonomous look, you can separate both realities without a problem.

In that case, you don’t see yourself in the other, like a mirror, but you’re clear that you’re both different and, therefore, incomparable. However, when you feel threatened you might also adopt the gaze of a third party, the kind of authoritarian person who judges and compares. What you’re doing here is allowing this alien version of you to dominate, which ultimately makes you feel uncomfortable.

Compersion: what does it entail?

If you’re an autonomous person with good mental health, you know that your path, as well as that of others, is unique and unrepeatable. You understand that the evolution or happiness of others isn’t a personal affront to you and doesn’t put your own growth at risk. For compersion to occur, you don’t just need to recognize and legitimize the happiness of another, you need to be happy about it. For this to happen, you need love and maturity.

Sometimes, one person’s happiness is another one’s misery. This happens in competitive situations where there’s only one winner. However, it doesn’t have to cause discomfort when the ‘loser’ possesses the ability to value the efforts and talents of others. Indeed, they recognize that the other did better and are therefore deserving of their triumph.

The issue of compersion has also been tackled in a far more problematic field, that of couple relationships. More specifically, relationships that involve polyamory. In other words, where each partner has other partners without destroying their original relationship. Those who defend this type of relationship claim that they’re based on compersion.

Friends congratulating each other

Idealization and reality

It all sounds very civilized. Being happy for your colleague when they were promoted when, in reality, you’d hoped to get it. Or, feeling ecstatic because your partner had sex with a third party, while you were dying of boredom in bed. Or, dancing with joy when your neighbor wins the lottery, even if you struggle every day to pay your own bills.

On paper, all of this can and does happen. However, you need the right perspective for compersion to shine through in these kinds of cases. Indeed, no one would deny that it’s the most reasonable kind of conduct, and even the most profitable. The problem is that it’s not easy to carry out, at least not in a relationship that doesn’t involve a parent and child.

Perhaps it’s more realistic to propose the idea of cultivating your own independence. Understand that the progress of others really has nothing to do with you – although in certain cases they can serve as inspiration. Remember that being generous and recognizing the merit of others, makes you happier. That’s always a good starting point.

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  • Santiago Álvarez, L. (2018). El poliamor como construcción amorosa dialogada: Estudio cualitativo.