Compassionate Love within the Social Network

Social support can contribute positively to a person's health. Compassionate love is nested within social relationships, and it is not only the healthcare provider who improves health and quality of life, but also people within the sick person's social support network. This idea is central to providing healthcare systems and healthcare that value and nurture supportive relationships. Although material support in and of itself is important, scientific literature continually illustrates the value of emotional support. The concept of compassionate love as a contribution to quality of life and well-being can be particularly powerful, and in 2003 is being studied in a variety of social contexts, including a World Health Organization study of contributors to quality of life.

Both the giving and receiving of support can improve well-being and quality of life. Those who are sick generally do not want pity; they want others to help them and understand them and care about them, but also, unless totally incapacitated, they want to give to others, and want to feel of use. One study of pain patients conducted by Frank Keefe, Ph.D at Duke University, is examining the use of a "loving kindness meditation," a Buddhist-inspired practice that has patients dwell on compassionate love for themselves, close friends, those they have trouble with, and the whole world, to help those with pain experience less suffering. When sick people are enabled and encouraged to have good relationships with those around them, they can give to others within the constraints of their situation and this can be an additional positive outcome.

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