When I first heard about the word compersion, I was extremely relieved. There was not only a word for what I experienced, there were other people on this planet who experienced the same thing! If you don’t know us on a more personal level, you might not be aware that we live our life polyamorous. That means that we engage in multiple romantic relationships at the same time, while all our partners are consenting and aware, and they might have their own other romantic relationships as well. In this article I want to explain how we can experience compersion like feelings, within our Plural systems. I also want to talk a bit about the concept of time sharing, that we mentioned in one of the questions on the ‘get to know each other resource – list’
Jealousy & how to work through it
For some people the idea alone of polyamory can make them have jealous feelings. And for some Plurals, the idea of sharing with others inside can be an overwhelming one. Before we talk more about what compersion is, we have to talk a little bit about jealousy. Jealousy in and off itself is not a bad thing. It can work as a guide. It can teach you valuable lessons about yourself and your thinking process. But it’s also something that can work as a downwards spiral, something that can be hard to overcome especially once trust has been broken. Even if the trust was broken in a previous relationship or with a different partner/person. And in-system jealousy can be a real struggle for some systems.
If we share something within our own system, an experience or emotion, it works the same as love. It’s not visible, but you can feel it, like the wind. It multiplies when you share it. It is not cake. It is not something you can run out of. Just as good parents love all their children equally, different but similar, so can we within our Plurality. It takes effort, time, healing, but it’s possible. Part of that process is working through jealousy.
If we are not used to working with the emotions that come with jealousy or if we are unwilling to process these emotions and to soul search within ourselves, it’s easy and often an automatic response, to blame the other person for the feelings of jealousy that we experience. When dealing with jealousy the first step has to be, to acknowledge that you feel jealousy. Then examine the feelings, thoughts and patterns. Try to really look within yourself, do not focus on what the other person did wrong at this step. After you have determined why you feel this way, it can help to think about ways you can avoid these thoughts and feelings. This is always a two way street. Do not make a list with demands on what the other party should provide for you, without providing clear information on the actions you will take yourselves.
If you want to learn more about jealousy (in relationships) we recommend this ted talk:
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Compersion in Plurality
Compersion is a word used in the polyam community, to express the feeling of joy when a loved one invests in and takes pleasure from another romantic and/or sexual relationship. One could say it is the opposite of jealousy. I think it’s a shame, that this is the current definition as i think compersion can be experienced outside of romantic or sexual relationships. I think it’s something that Plurals can (learn to) experience within their system. Without it having any romantic or sexual connotation.
Compersion within Plurality means finding joy when another person in your system invests in and takes pleasure from activities or relationships in whatever form. It means I get happy when a friend asks me how someone inside is doing or if they can hang out with them. It means I find joy in sharing time and resources with the others in our system.
A concept we call time sharing. Which by the way also is a concept that exists in the polyam world. In that community time sharing is used to explain the concept of hanging out/going on dates with multiple partners at the same time. A great example is when a new movie comes out. Which partner are you gonna go to the movies with first? In Plurality, we sometimes face the same dilemmas. By being co-conscious and time sharing, everyone interested, gets to go to the movies at the same time. In both polyam relationships and in Plurality this can be a challenge. It’s something that takes communication, co-operation, co-consciousness, practise and patience. Timesharing is not something that needs to be established before one can start to feel and/or experience compersion. But it can certainly help.
How to practise the Dutch concept called Flip-Thinking
Compersion goes hand in hand with respect, appreciation, trust, openness and honesty. We believe you are not jealous, you feel jealous. If you can make that change in your mindset you can learn to ‘’flip-think.’’ Expressing emotions, what and how we feel is important. Just as it’s important to put things in perspective and context. Emotions are not set in stone. Emotions are certainly not always facts. Emotions come and go. They are like waves. Some are very high, others are just perceived that way. Sometimes the wave hits as hard as a tsunami. It can take a long time before the damage is repaired. By rebuilding we can (re)learn to enjoy life and each other. It’s also good to remember that in the end, the wave always rolls back.
If something happens that makes us uncomfortable or we were not prepared for it, then we look for a reason on why this happened. A lot of people feel insecure in that moment. That list people create in that moment, is a reflection of much deeper things. For example, some people say she is late because I’m not worthy of her time. While others say, she is late because she is lazy like my mom. They want an explanation. But if we look for that explanation solely in our emotions, we find incomplete truths. If one of my friends hangs out a lot with other people in my system i can try to ‘’flip-think’’ it.
For example: ‘’He enjoys spending time with her right now. This can mean she is a great person and they are having a good time together. However, it does not distract away from how good I also am. I also am a great person. Their relationship does not change me. Above all I feel secure in this relationship and/or in this system. Hence i will put effort in communicating my needs better, to all parties involved. Just because he spends time with her and they have a good time, doesn’t mean when he spends time with me that he won’t also have a good time. Many good people and things make people happy.’’ – It helps to make a list of those things that also make you feel good. It’s hard to come up with something when you actively feel jealousy. So having a list handy with innerworld and outside activities, and other things that help you distract and feel good, really helps in those moments.
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How to work with a maybe list
Your instinct and insecurities are two very different things. Both are a bottom belly feeling and so it can be hard to differentiate between them. If you have those kind of thoughts or feelings it might also help you to make a ‘’maybe list’’ – which includes all things that could be going on. As many as you can think off. This way you can counter the thoughts and possibilities that are on the forefront of your mind.
For example, I think my friend must not like me anymore because I made a joke that was not really funny and after that my friend did not contact me anymore. That’s the reason in my head, that joke I made back then. But it could also be that my friend, is busy, is at work, has no phone data, is not sure how to reach me personally in this big system, is tired etc. etc. etc.I have found that I am always able to find more random reasons of what’s potentially going on, then reasons that have to do with me. It can help to come up with reasons together as a system. Although sometimes, some people do just leave us cause we made a not so funny joke, most often it is because of something going on inside of them and it has not so much to do with us. Or maybe there was a not strong enough connection or compatibility to begin with.
The worse case scenario
I try to not assume what I think is going on, is really going on. Hence i give myself other options to choose from. Until I have a definite answer on what is actually going on. That moment my partner finally comes home and explains her phone battery died and there was traffic and she missed me so badly. That moment where the little angel tells the little d*vil on my shoulder, told you so! Instead of the other way around. We think we protect ourselves by expecting the worst case scenario. We feel by doing that, it can never get too bad and that we are prepared. But this is an illusion.
What we do in reality is feed our stress. Give our brain signals that we are in danger. This can lead to a bad night with worries and anger or full blown panic attacks. Which in the long run has even more negative effects. Back in the day, when tigers still slept in bushes next to our huts, it was good and needed for survival to feel that stress and to think, maybe there is a tiger in the bushes. But these days we stress about all sorts of things that probably won’t kill us. Yet it triggers the same brain response as that tiger in the bushes. This is a very simplified version of how this works in the brain. The book the body keeps the score talks more about this. To avoid this response, it can really help to objectively try to evaluate the situation and to make a list with maybe’s.
Together we are stronger
It’s also really important to talk about these emotions with inside people and possible outside people. In that communication, try to make understanding the goal, rather than agreement. Try to avoid words like always, never, everyone or no one. Overcoming these struggles is not an easy one. But it’s certainly a worthwhile one. Something you and the others inside can benefit from for the rest of the life you share together.
So pick your battles, start with a clean slate if you gotta, put some water with the wine and celebrate the little victories you together achieve. Together you have a unique opportunity at living life. A perspective of the world only your conscious can create. So dream big, love hard, share much and be the change you want to see in the innerworld!
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Finding compersion in first time experiences
Experiencing compersion inside our own systems is a beautiful experience. Something that does not only bring joy, but often also healing. It’s something that humbles me, that makes me feel connected with each other inside, like no other thing can. In our systems, we are often able to offer first time experiences to people. We truly find so much joy in letting someone experiencing a rollercoaster, driving through tunnels, eating ice cream, meeting friends and learning to build and maintain friendships themselves, for the first time ever and so many other things. Being in the safe here and now brings healing and helps us to stay orientated in the here and now, not just the ANP’s but also us emotional parts, if you follow the theory Meyers brought forth. Being encouraged by the others inside to pursue hobbies, dreams, relationships, community and happiness & then sharing in that together, is a glorious experience. It’s something we wish for you all. If you want to join an outside community, we invite Plurals to join our AlterNation Plural Safe Space group on Facebook. We hope this article gave you some ideas on how to go from jealousy to compersion within Plurality. – Emely.
Thank you for investing the time to read this. We hope it helps you and the people in your Plural system. If you want to support our work, we accept donations. – Together we are stronger. Power to the Plurals!