|Compersion is the capacity to take pleasure in the joy that one’s lover gets in the company of another lover. I’m using ‘love’ and ‘lover’ here in the broadest sense — intellectual, emotional, sensual, aesthetic, and/or erotic love. Compersion is by definition generous, un-jealous, un-possessive.
Imagine that you love someone completely, and that they passionately crave and enjoy the company of another for one of the following reasons:
How would you feel? Insecure? Inadequate? Threatened? Jealous? Angry? Hurt? Envious? Vulnerable? Turned off? Fearful?
Now imagine that this lover told you you were silly to feel this way, that his/her love for you was undiminished or even strengthened by his/her other loves, and that it would be good for you to also find other lovers whose company you enjoy.
Now how would you feel? Rejected? Humiliated? Ridiculous?
The key to compersion is to learn not to feel any of these negative emotions, and instead to feel delight in the pleasure your lover finds in others that enlarges his/her happiness and frees you from the expectation that you must be all things to him/her. This allows you to be, for him/her, exactly what you are that he/she loves, and at the same time frees you to find other lovers who spark something in you, not necessarily better than what you get from him/her, but different.
Now imagine that each of you has five other lovers, making a dozen people in all who you both love, either directly or because of what they do for the ones you love directly. And imagine that these twelve people in your polyamorous circle have made a pledge of polyfidelity (to love only these same 12 people, and to leave the circle if they choose to love others outside the circle, the community.
Do you feel better now? Does the ‘safety in numbers’ of the circle, the absolute abundance of love available to you, make compersion possible when it wasn’t when the circle was small or uneven?
In many recent conversations with people who are in, or were in, or think they might one day be in such a relationship, I’ve heard these three comments over and over:
I’d like to believe the first of these finding is just the result of lack of practice setting aside the negative feelings we associate with our lovers loving others, but I’m not so sure. I’ve felt pangs of these negative feelings myself, despite the deep and growing circle of loving and generous friends that are in my life.
Is there something wrong with me, or is this just the way men are — are our bodies just telling us to choose one person to love and battle other men jealously for her (or his, if you’re gay) exclusive love?
To try to get at the answer to this question, I considered what would be an evolutionary advantage — would polyamory or monogamy bode better for the health and well-being of the whole circle, community or culture? To me the answer to this is a no-brainer: polyamory groups should be better equipped and inclined to defend and advance the interests of the whole. So polyamorism should be the natural way to live and love.
So if this is true, what’s wrong with us (men in particular) that we now find it so hard to behave naturally? I suspect it comes down to “it’s the only life we know” — we won’t viscerally believe in polyamorous circles and communities, where compersion holds sway, until we’ve seen models, first hand, that show such communities work.
For those of us who want to make the world a better place, then, our job would appear to be clear: Try, experiment, learn from polyamorous circles and intentional communities until we have evolved some working models, with the bugs worked out of them and the natural rules of engagement for them re-discovered. We owe it to ourselves, our sad love-deprived world, and the generations that follow.
For the rest of my life, this will be, I suspect, one of my key goals, purposes, and intentions. In a world gone mad, where every conceivable political and economic approach to saving it has been tried and found wanting, this may be our last chance. I said yesterday that life’s meaning emerges from conversation in community with people you love. The rediscovery of compersion as natural human behaviour may therefore be the way home, to the place we have always belonged, and the essential way of living we have tragically forgotten..
Photo by Rhonda Miller from this remarkable Metroactive article about polyamory.
Category: Our culture
CollapsniksAlbert Bates (US)
Andrew Nikiforuk (CA)
Carolyn Baker (US)*
Catherine Ingram (US)
Chris Hedges (US)
Dahr Jamail (US)
Dean Spillane-Walker (US)*
Derrick Jensen (US)
Dougald & Paul (IE/SE)*
Gail Tverberg (US)
Guy McPherson (US)
Janaia & Robin (US)*
Jem Bendell (UK)
Michael Dowd (US)*
Nate Hagens (US)
Paul Heft (US)*
Post Carbon Inst. (US)
Richard Heinberg (US)
Robert Jensen (US)
Roy Scranton (US)
Sam Mitchell (US)
Tim Watkins (UK)
Umair Haque (UK)
William Rees (CA)
Archive by Category
My Bio, Contact Info, Signature PostsAbout the Author (2023)
--- My Best 200 Posts, 2003-22 by category, from newest to oldest ---
Hope — On the Balance of Probabilities
The Caste War for the Dregs
Recuperation, Accommodation, Resilience
How Do We Teach the Critical Skills
Collapse Not Apocalypse
'Making Sense of the World' Reading List
Notes From the Rising Dark
What is Exponential Decay
Collapse: Slowly Then Suddenly
Slouching Towards Bethlehem
Making Sense of Who We Are
What Would Net-Zero Emissions Look Like?
Post Collapse with Michael Dowd (video)
Why Economic Collapse Will Precede Climate Collapse
Being Adaptable: A Reminder List
A Culture of Fear
What Will It Take?
A Future Without Us
Dean Walker Interview (video)
The Mushroom at the End of the World
What Would It Take To Live Sustainably?
The New Political Map (Poster)
Complexity and Collapse
Requiem for a Species
What a Desolated Earth Looks Like
If We Had a Better Story...
Giving Up on Environmentalism
The Hard Part is Finding People Who Care
The Dark & Gathering Sameness of the World
The End of Philosophy
A Short History of Progress
The Boiling Frog
Our Culture / Ourselves:
A CoVid-19 Recap
What It Means to be Human
A Culture Built on Wrong Models
Our Unique Capacity for Hatred
Not Meant to Govern Each Other
The Humanist Trap
Amazing What People Get Used To
My Reluctant Misanthropy
The Dawn of Everything
Why Misinformation Doesn't Work
The Lab-Leak Hypothesis
The Right to Die
CoVid-19: Go for Zero
The Process of Self-Organization
The Tragic Spread of Misinformation
A Better Way to Work
The Needs of the Moment
Ask Yourself This
What to Believe Now?
Conversation & Silence
The Language of Our Eyes
May I Ask a Question?
Cultural Acedia: When We Can No Longer Care
Several Short Sentences About Learning
Why I Don't Want to Hear Your Story
A Harvest of Myths
The Qualities of a Great Story
The Trouble With Stories
A Model of Identity & Community
Not Ready to Do What's Needed
A Culture of Dependence
So What's Next
Ten Things to Do When You're Feeling Hopeless
No Use to the World Broken
Living in Another World
Does Language Restrict What We Can Think?
The Value of Conversation Manifesto Nobody Knows Anything
If I Only Had 37 Days
The Only Life We Know
A Long Way Down
No Noble Savages
Figments of Reality
Too Far Ahead
Learning From Nature
The Rogue Animal
How the World Really Works:
Making Sense of Scents
An Age of Wonder
The Truth About Ukraine
The Supply Chain Problem
The Promise of Dialogue
Too Dumb to Take Care of Ourselves
Republicans Slide Into Fascism
All the Things I Was Wrong About
Several Short Sentences About Sharks
How Change Happens
What's the Best Possible Outcome?
The Perpetual Growth Machine
We Make Zero
How Long We've Been Around (graphic)
If You Wanted to Sabotage the Elections
Collective Intelligence & Complexity
Ten Things I Wish I'd Learned Earlier
The Problem With Systems
Against Hope (Video)
The Admission of Necessary Ignorance
Several Short Sentences About Jellyfish
Loren Eiseley, in Verse
A Synopsis of 'Finding the Sweet Spot'
Learning from Indigenous Cultures
The Gift Economy
The Job of the Media
The Wal-Mart Dilemma
The Illusion of the Separate Self, and Free Will:
No Free Will, No Freedom
The Other Side of 'No Me'
This Body Takes Me For a Walk
The Only One Who Really Knew Me
No Free Will — Fightin' Words
The Paradox of the Self
A Radical Non-Duality FAQ
What We Think We Know
Bark Bark Bark Bark Bark Bark Bark
Healing From Ourselves
The Entanglement Hypothesis
Nothing Needs to Happen
Nothing to Say About This
What I Wanted to Believe
A Continuous Reassemblage of Meaning
No Choice But to Misbehave
What's Apparently Happening
A Different Kind of Animal
Did Early Humans Have Selves?
Nothing On Offer Here
Even Simpler and More Hopeless Than That
How Our Bodies Sense the World
What Happens in Vagus
We Have No Choice
Never Comfortable in the Skin of Self
Letting Go of the Story of Me
All There Is, Is This
A Theory of No Mind
Mindful Wanderings (Reflections) (Archive)
A Prayer to No One
Frogs' Hollow (Short Story)
We Do What We Do (Poem)
Negative Assertions (Poem)
Reminder (Short Story)
A Canadian Sorry (Satire)
Under No Illusions (Short Story)
The Ever-Stranger (Poem)
The Fortune Teller (Short Story)
Non-Duality Dude (Play)
Your Self: An Owner's Manual (Satire)
All the Things I Thought I Knew (Short Story)
On the Shoulders of Giants (Short Story)
Calling the Cage Freedom (Short Story)
Only This (Poem)
The Other Extinction (Short Story)
Disruption (Short Story)
A Thought-Less Experiment (Poem)
Speaking Grosbeak (Short Story)
The Only Way There (Short Story)
The Wild Man (Short Story)
Flywheel (Short Story)
The Opposite of Presence (Satire)
How to Make Love Last (Poem)
The Horses' Bodies (Poem)
Distracted (Short Story)
Worse, Still (Poem)
A Conversation (Short Story)
Farewell to Albion (Poem)
My Other Sites
This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons License.