A definitive step of your healing journey is giving back. Empathy is an inherent part of the human experience. From an evolutionary perspective it was the group of humans who learned to cooperate that had the highest likelihood of survival. The reason that many people seem so self-centered and self-serving is that they have been disconnected from themselves by anxiety and anger. It’s impossible to reach out to others if you are emotionally trying to just survive.




I’ve watched this Harvard commencement address given by JK Rowling in 2008 many times. It is one of the most inspiring speeches I have heard. She was determined to follow her own passion while at the same time remembering and honoring her past. I would encourage you to take the time listen to it. She is also a remarkable presenter.

Healing doesn’t entail “seeking happiness” at every step of the way. Life isn’t that way and adversity will never stop coming at you. The key is connecting to what is and some days are much better than others. Overcoming adversity also becomes part of your core. As you are able to more easily pass through “The Ring of Fire” and and learn to be with your pain, you will have the desire, energy, and ability to reach out to others.


“It is not true that people stop pursuing dreams because they grow old. 

They grow old because they stop pursuing dreams.”

Gabriel Garcia Marquez

I modified this famous quote based on my experiences with and observations of anxiety:

“It is not true that people stop pursuing dreams because they grow old. 

They grow old because their dreams are crushed by anxiety.”

— Gabriel Garcia Marquez

          (Modified by David Hanscom)


Compassion is the ability to see a situation through the other person’s eyes with an understanding of what it might be like to be in a similar circumstance. It is accompanied by a desire to help out.  Nurturing compassion has two parts: 1) engaging in practices that engender empathy 2) removal of the interferences connecting you with your own compassion. Hoffman Process

word-cloud-936542_1280Patients freed of pain want to give back—and in a big way. I have a patient who is paraplegic from an unfortunate series of events surrounding her spine surgery. Using the book, Forgive for Good made a tremendous impact on her outlook, mood, and pain. After she embraced true forgiveness her overwhelming urge was to help others in wheelchairs whom were suffering from chronic pain. She was happier in a wheelchair than she was walking, anxious, and angry. She then descended back into her Abyss of chronic pain for several years. I recently heard from her, and she has pulled herself back out. Once you’ve tasted true freedom and know how to return to it, your life will permanently change. Additionally, compassion for others will create a lot of distance away from your own suffering.

I have a few suggestions to consider, which might help you formulate your own ideas of how to give back.

  • Remain committed to your own journey.
  • Your highest priority is your immediate family. Even if you’re in pain, treat them well.
  • Make a random list of ideas of ways to give back that are interesting to you—write them down. They can be small actions and don’t have to be huge projects.
    • Pick the top five
      • Prioritize them
      • Pick one
    • Develop a specific plan.
    • Do it!!
  • Create a vision of what you’d like your life to look like in one year and five years.
    • Be as specific as possible
    • Develop an action plan

It’s easy to feel like JK Rowling was lucky and how can she not enjoy her life with the success she’s experienced? However, we all are aware of high-profile public figures who have spent their lives fighting addictions and many not surviving. What didn’t they possess? Luck is winning the lottery and again, the stories of many of them self-destructing are legendary. She didn’t have an easy start but she continued to stay connected to her passion in spite of many obstacles. Giving back is also still a high priority for her. Staying connected to your vision with persistence is an important key to moving forward with or without your pain.

Listen to the 2012 Hoffman interview.