The Power of Empathy

Re-post of origional article…

empathyEmpathy is the capacity to recognize and, to some extent, share feelings (such as sadness or happiness) that are being experienced by another sapient or semi-sapient being. Someone may need to have a certain amount of empathy before they are able to feel compassion. The English word was coined in 1909 by E.B. Titchener as an attempt to translate the German word “Einfühlungsvermögen”, a new phenomenon explored at the end of 19th century mainly by Theodor Lipps. It was later re-translated (Germanized) into the German language into “Empathie” and still in use there.

Empathy is one of the most important aspects of creating harmonious relationships, reducing stress, and enhancing emotional awareness — yet it can be tricky at times. I consider myself to be quite empathic, but I notice that with certain people (especially those I don’t like or agree with, and also with myself at times) and in particular situations, my natural ability and desire to empathize can be diminished or almost nonexistent.

I also notice that when I feel empathy for others and for myself, I feel a sense of peace, connection, and perspective that I like. And when there is an absence of empathy in a particular relationship or situation, or how I’m relating to myself, I often experience stress, disconnection, and negativity. Can you relate?

What Is Empathy?

Empathy is not sympathy. When we’re sympathetic, we often pity someone else but maintain our distance (physically, mentally, and emotionally) from their feelings or experience. Empathy is more a sense that we can truly understand, relate to, or imagine the depth of another person’s emotional state or situation. It implies feeling with a person rather than feeling sorry for a person. And in some cases that “person” is actually us.

Empathy is a translation of the German term Einfühlung, meaning “to feel as one with.” It implies sharing the load, or “walking a mile in someone else’s shoes,” in order to understand that person’s perspective.

What Stops Us From Empathizing?

There are a number of things that get in the way of us utilizing and experiencing the power of empathy. Three of the main ones, which are all interrelated, are as follows:

  • Feeling Threatened: When we feel threatened by another person or a particular situation, it’s often hard to empathize. This makes perfect sense from a survival standpoint (i.e., if someone is trying to hurt us, we want to protect ourselves rather than have compassion and understanding about where they’re coming from). However, we often feel “threatened” based on our own fears, projections, and past experiences, not by what is actually happening in the moment or in a particular relationship or situation. Whether the threat is “real” or “imagined,” when we feel threatened in any way, it often shuts down our ability to experience empathy.
  • Being Judgmental: Judgments are a part of life, we all must make lots of judgments and decisions on a daily basis (what to wear, what to eat, where to sit, what to watch/listen to/read, what to say, and on and on). Making value judgments (the relative placement of our discernment) is essential to living a healthy life. However, being judgmental is a totally different game. When we’re judgmental, we decide that we’re “right” and someone else is “wrong.” Doing this hurts us and others, cuts us off from those around us, and doesn’t allow us to see alternative options and possibilities. We live in a culture that is obsessed with and passionate about being judgmental. And many of us, myself included, are highly trained in this destructive and damaging “art.” When we’re being judgmental about another person, group of people, or situation, we significantly diminish our capacity to be empathic.
  • Experiencing Fear: The root of all this is our fear. Feeling threatened is all about fear. Being judgmental is all about fear. And, not feeling, experiencing, or expressing empathy is also all about fear. There’s nothing inherently wrong with fear; it’s a natural human emotion that has many positive aspects to it if we’re willing to admit it, own it, express it, and move through it. Fear saves our lives and keeps us out of trouble all the time. However, the issue with fear is our denial of it, our secret obsession with it, and our lack of responsibility about it. We deem things, people, or situations to be “scary,” when in truth there is nothing in life that is inherently “scary.” There are lots of things, people, and situations that cause fear in us; however, we make it about “them” instead of owning that the fear comes from within us. When we allow ourselves to be motivated by fear, which often leads to us defending ourselves against “threats,” being judgmental, and more, it becomes difficult, if not impossible, to access the power of empathy.

Where in your life and relationships can you see that feeling threatened, being judgmental, and experiencing fear stop you from being empathic? The more willing you are to look at this, acknowledge it, own it, and take responsibility for it (with compassion for yourself), the more able you’ll be to expand your capacity for empathy.

How to Become More Empathic

There are many things we can do and practice to increase our ability to feel, experience, and express empathy for others, situations, and ourselves. Becoming more empathetic is one of the best ways we can enhance our relationships, reduce our stress level, and feel good about ourselves and our lives in an authentic way.

Here are a few things you can do and think about to become more empathic:

  • Be Real About How You Feel: When we’re willing to get real about how we truly feel and have the courage to be vulnerable about it with ourselves and others, we can so often liberate ourselves from the negativity, projections, and judgments that mask what’s really going on. When we’re in a conflict with another person or dealing with someone or something that’s challenging for us, being able to admit, own, and express our fear, insecurity, sadness, anger, jealousy, or whatever other “negative” emotions we are experiencing is one of the best ways for us to move past our defensiveness and authentically address the deeper issues of the situation. Doing this allows us to access empathy for ourselves, the other person or people involved, and even the circumstances of the conflict or challenge itself.
  • Imagine What It’s Like For Them: While it can sometimes be difficult for us to “understand” another person’s perspective or situation (because we may not agree with them, haven’t been through what they’ve been through, or don’t really want to see it through their eyes), being able to imagine what it must be like for them is an essential aspect of empathy. This is not about condoning inappropriate behavior or justifying other people’s actions; however, I do believe deep in my heart that no one does or says things that are hurtful to us if they aren’t already feeling a real sense of pain themselves and/or haven’t been hurt in many ways in their own life. Whatever the situation, the more willing we are to imagine what it’s like for them, the more compassion, understanding, and empathy we’ll be able to experience.
  • Forgive Yourself and Others: Forgiveness is one of the most important things we can do in life to heal ourselves, let go of negativity, and live a life of peace and fulfillment. Forgiveness has to first start with us. I believe that all judgment is self-judgment. When we forgive ourselves, we create the conditions and perspective to forgive others. Forgiveness is one of the many important aspects of life that is often easier said than done. It is something we need to learn about and practice all the time. Sadly, we aren’t often taught how to forgive, encouraged to do it in genuine way, and didn’t, in most cases, grow up with very good models or examples of how to forgive. One of the best books you can read on this subject is called Forgive For Good, written by my friend and mentor Dr. Fred Luskin, one of the world’s leading experts and teachers about the power of forgiveness. This book gives you practical and tangible techniques you can use to forgive anyone and anything. The more willing we are to forgive ourselves and others (and continue to practice this in an on-going way), the more able we’ll be to empathize authentically.

Mike Robbins is a sought-after motivational keynote speaker, coach, and the bestselling author of Focus on the Good Stuff (Wiley) and Be Yourself, Everyone Else Is Already Taken (Wiley). More info: www.Mike-Robbins.com

How to Improve your Self Esteem and Self Worth

“Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending”. ~ Linda Robinson ~

One day I notice he went overboard with the ketchup on his dinner. When I asked him why all the ketchup he said he didn’t like the taste of the food and all this ketchup takes the horrible taste away. Ketchup behaviours make life taste a little better whilst masking an underlying uncomfortable feeling or a feeling of emptiness.

self-esteem-quoteSomebody asked me the other day, “Why do many people arrive in midlife depressed or out of sorts?”

My response was, because many of us arrive at midlife with a lot of unhappiness inside us without even realising it, or we know it but we don’t want to face it up to it. In an effort to cover up the pain we’re likely to develop some serious addictions in order to feel better.

We get into immediate remedies – for example medications, coffee, cigarettes, gossiping, alcohol, drugs, gambling and sex. You might become a workaholic. Or you may stuff yourself with food.

Many things we do bring us instant pleasure but not always happiness. Activities like these change how you feel fast, that’s their appeal, but they’re a bad idea. At best they will change how you feel for a few hours but when the hit wears off you feel more emptiness than you did before.

Of course there are countless positive ways of getting instant gratification as well. Something as simple as taking a shower after a long run, getting a massage, watching a funny movie and of course, shopping. We all should indulge in various forms of pleasure as they’re essential to our overall well being.

But remember pleasure is different from happiness.

Happiness is a feeling of fulfilment and deep joy, whereas pleasure is usually a form of instant gratification. This can be the challenge with excessive materialism. The more we feed it the hungrier it becomes. Similar to eating your favourite chocolate, once eaten you’re soon looking for one more bite or the next cake. The craving doesn’t subside. Contentment becomes elusive. So the craving for the next hit begins again along with the deep feelings of insecurity and anxiety.

Ketchup behaviours work in the short term but in the long term it does nothing more than reinforce an impoverish sense of self. Nothing external, no amount of cars, nice outfits, expensive holidays, glittery jewellery or big houses can fill the hole of a poor self-image and low self-worth.

Commonly this is known as having an ‘inferiority complex’

It’s a learnt belief that says you’re incomplete without the attainment of something outside of yourself. Self-worth comes from knowing who you are and what you stand for. When you have self-worth you feel good about yourself, you respect yourself. Self-worth means knowing you are perfect just the way you are and accepting yourself completely.

One of the reasons we fail to attract what we want is low self-worth. Self-worth is completely subjective and may or may not depend on your talents, skills and achievements. If you have a feeling that you are not worthy of having the life you want, then you will not manifest the life you want. Full stop!

It is not the skills, talents, and experience but a high sense of self-worth which manifests the life you want. So it is very important to improve your sense of self worth to attract the life you desire.

One of the main reasons for low self-worth is excessive self-criticism and the instant accepting of criticism from others. If self-criticism is your problem, stop looking at you through your own eyes and start looking through the eyes of the people who love you. Many a times it is true that because of your obsessive self-criticism you are blind to your positive qualities.

Sometimes it so happens that you start attracting the wealth, health, love and success that you strongly desire, but your poor self-worth will quickly sabotage any success you are having. You’ve probably seen this happen to people who are suspicious of their lovers because of their jealousy. At first, their intrinsic worthiness attracts the love of their life, but their low self-worth is not ready to accept this, and the worst part is they start suspecting it’s their loves fault. Then, the thing they desire (their lover) is pushed away. And so the pattern repeats itself.

At midlife we have to work hard at undoing the learnt erroneous scripts formed in the first part of our lifetime so that we can find our individual expression of wisdom and truth.

Here are four things you can do to increase your self worth:

1. Practice Forgiveness – Forgive yourself for past failures, mistakes and disappointments. Forgiveness releases the strong feelings of hate and bitterness that are like poisons inside you. Correct what you can and move on!

2. Get your needs met – Learn what you need from others and how you react to situations. Strive to consistently find ways to meet your needs and your self worth will go up!

3. Respect yourself – Stop behaviors that make you feel ashamed, guilty or unworthy. Eliminate all negative relationships with those who mistreat, disrespect and leave you feeling crap!

4. Build on your strengths – Seek out and build on your strengths that you have not used. Find ways of using more of your innate strengths. Knowing that you have these strengths and can do well with them is a great confidence and self worth builder.

Low self-worth is something we’ve learnt, so it’s also something we can unlearn. Make it a clear intention to love and accept yourself at all times. Working on your self worth is one of the best things you can ever do for yourself and before long you’ll notice you’ll rely less on ‘ketchup behaviours’ and every aspect of your life will start looking better and better.

Colin Hiles writes about how to find your smile, discover your right livelihood and create your ideal life at Midlife Maverick.

If you enjoyed this article you may wish to download his acclaimed free e-course, “Live Your Own Life, Only Better!” http://midlifemaverick.com/live-your-own-life-only-better

Thinking, Feeling & the Law of Attraction

Somewhere along the line, our culture got “thinking” and “feeling” all scrambled up. We’re regularly encouraged to “share how we feel” about something, when really, it’s our THOUGHT or OPINION that is being solicited. Sadly, we are rarely asked about our true feelings and we miss those sacred opportunities to connect with ourself or others at the emotional level.

Are we really being asked if we’re angry, happy or disappointed when our co-worker asks us how we “feel” about the new client proposal? Nope, we’re being asked if we like the colors, layout or point of view that was used.

When we’re at a PTA meeting and there’s a debate going on about a spaghetti feed vs. a crab feed, it wouldn’t be uncommon to hear a mom pipe up with “I just feel that crab will sell more tickets.” Nope, that’s an opinion, not a feeling.

I think (not feel!) that this is such an interesting reflection of our culture’s avoidance of feelings. We don’t have cultural norms for truly sharing our feelings about things in public settings. Many couples or families don’t have norms for sharing their feelings in private either. So sad!

When we label our thoughts as feelings, it minimizes the power of our opinion. “I think that we should…” is so much more direct and powerful than “I feel like it would be best to…” (On a side note, I wonder if women use “feel” more than men in this context? I’m going to start paying attention to this now!) “I think” is stating a strong, no-nonsense opinion. “I feel” almost has an apologetic energy to it, like “Well, this is just what little ol’ me thinks, but I don’t want to step on anyone’s toes with my opinion.”

And meanwhile our actual feelings are locked in the closet, so excited that someone is actually asking them to come out and share themselves, then crushed when they realize that their very-distant cousin, the opinion, is once again the one being asked to come out and play instead of them.

I began my healing work in high school when I was in a horrible relationship. I was finally realizing that I had feelings and was doing my brave best to acknowledge and honor them. I was naive/hopeful/committed enough to believe that my boyfriend and I could work out our differences if we could have a discussion about our feelings. I still have a vivid memory of begging him to share how he was FEELING, hoping that if we shared our inner states we could get move the conversation somewhere productive. Instead, he responded by saying “I feel that you need to…” Yowza. Not only was that definitely not sharing his feelings, he managed to twist it into a criticism of how he believed I needed to act differently.

When we share how we are feeling, or create that Spirit-filled place for another to share how they are feeling, we automatically create intimacy. Intimacy isn’t about sharing sex or secrets or space, rather it’s the energy that is created between people when we are sharing heart-to-heart. That may very well be in the context of sharing sex or secrets or space, but it’s the sharing of our feelings that creates the magic.

It’s this same magic that helps us tap into our creative potential. Abraham-Hicks is always teaching us to move to a higher feeling. Not a higher thought, not a higher opinion, a higher feeling. Here’s the tricky part though – our emotions are largely based on our thoughts. If we have a positive thought about something, it triggers a positive feeling. Same gig with the negative. Where we trip ourselves up is when we do a “happy slap” – we pretend that we think & feel positively about something when really it’s just a happy band-aid that we’ve slapped over a pit of hurt (or anger, resentment, disappointment…) That’s where our serious personal work comes in – doing the work to shift our inner beliefs (& therefore our feelings), forgive our self-judgments and create new, self-supportive beliefs. Hallelujah – then we get to genuinely be filled with those exalted feelings that we were longing for all along!

So here’s my challenge to you (& myself): Be aware of how you are using “think” and “feel” when you share your own experiences, when you ask your kids questions, in the workplace, with your spouse. Start to notice your patterns and if they are serving or hindering your desired connections to yourself, others and Creative Law. Start to delight in the magic and intimacy that is created when you and a beloved share your feelings, and celebrate that clarity that comes forward as you accurately name what you think, believe and feel.

Written by Heather KIng

Heather King has a Master’s Degree in Spiritual Psychology with additional study in Soul-Centered Leadership. She has been helping people learn to love and forgive themselves for 15 years. She is a co-founder of www.TheMetaphysicalMamas.com and is a writer and producer with www.WatermarkFilms.net. She is happily married and blessed to be raising two daughters, a preschooler and a ‘tween.

The Power of Empathy

Empathy is one of the most important aspects of creating harmonious relationships, reducing stress, and enhancing emotional awareness — yet it can be tricky at times. I consider myself to be quite empathic, but I notice that with certain people (especially those I don’t like or agree with, and also with myself at times) and in particular situations, my natural ability and desire to empathize can be diminished or almost nonexistent.

I also notice that when I feel empathy for others and for myself, I feel a sense of peace, connection, and perspective that I like. And when there is an absence of empathy in a particular relationship or situation, or how I’m relating to myself, I often experience stress, disconnection, and negativity. Can you relate?

What Is Empathy?

Empathy is not sympathy. When we’re sympathetic, we often pity someone else but maintain our distance (physically, mentally, and emotionally) from their feelings or experience. Empathy is more a sense that we can truly understand, relate to, or imagine the depth of another person’s emotional state or situation. It implies feeling with a person rather than feeling sorry for a person. And in some cases that “person” is actually us.

Empathy is a translation of the German term Einfühlung, meaning “to feel as one with.” It implies sharing the load, or “walking a mile in someone else’s shoes,” in order to understand that person’s perspective.

What Stops Us From Empathizing?

There are a number of things that get in the way of us utilizing and experiencing the power of empathy. Three of the main ones, which are all interrelated, are as follows:

 

  • Feeling Threatened: When we feel threatened by another person or a particular situation, it’s often hard to empathize. This makes perfect sense from a survival standpoint (i.e., if someone is trying to hurt us, we want to protect ourselves rather than have compassion and understanding about where they’re coming from). However, we often feel “threatened” based on our own fears, projections, and past experiences, not by what is actually happening in the moment or in a particular relationship or situation. Whether the threat is “real” or “imagined,” when we feel threatened in any way, it often shuts down our ability to experience empathy.

 

  • Being Judgmental: Judgments are a part of life, we all must make lots of judgments and decisions on a daily basis (what to wear, what to eat, where to sit, what to watch/listen to/read, what to say, and on and on). Making value judgments (the relative placement of our discernment) is essential to living a healthy life. However, being judgmental is a totally different game. When we’re judgmental, we decide that we’re “right” and someone else is “wrong.” Doing this hurts us and others, cuts us off from those around us, and doesn’t allow us to see alternative options and possibilities. We live in a culture that is obsessed with and passionate about being judgmental. And many of us, myself included, are highly trained in this destructive and damaging “art.” When we’re being judgmental about another person, group of people, or situation, we significantly diminish our capacity to be empathic.

 

  • Experiencing Fear: The root of all this is our fear. Feeling threatened is all about fear. Being judgmental is all about fear. And, not feeling, experiencing, or expressing empathy is also all about fear. There’s nothing inherently wrong with fear; it’s a natural human emotion that has many positive aspects to it if we’re willing to admit it, own it, express it, and move through it. Fear saves our lives and keeps us out of trouble all the time. However, the issue with fear is our denial of it, our secret obsession with it, and our lack of responsibility about it. We deem things, people, or situations to be “scary,” when in truth there is nothing in life that is inherently “scary.” There are lots of things, people, and situations that cause fear in us; however, we make it about “them” instead of owning that the fear comes from within us. When we allow ourselves to be motivated by fear, which often leads to us defending ourselves against “threats,” being judgmental, and more, it becomes difficult, if not impossible, to access the power of empathy.

Where in your life and relationships can you see that feeling threatened, being judgmental, and experiencing fear stop you from being empathic? The more willing you are to look at this, acknowledge it, own it, and take responsibility for it (with compassion for yourself), the more able you’ll be to expand your capacity for empathy.

How to Become More Empathic

There are many things we can do and practice to increase our ability to feel, experience, and express empathy for others, situations, and ourselves. Becoming more empathetic is one of the best ways we can enhance our relationships, reduce our stress level, and feel good about ourselves and our lives in an authentic way.

Here are a few things you can do and think about to become more empathic:

 

  • Be Real About How You Feel: When we’re willing to get real about how we truly feel and have the courage to be vulnerable about it with ourselves and others, we can so often liberate ourselves from the negativity, projections, and judgments that mask what’s really going on. When we’re in a conflict with another person or dealing with someone or something that’s challenging for us, being able to admit, own, and express our fear, insecurity, sadness, anger, jealousy, or whatever other “negative” emotions we are experiencing is one of the best ways for us to move past our defensiveness and authentically address the deeper issues of the situation. Doing this allows us to access empathy for ourselves, the other person or people involved, and even the circumstances of the conflict or challenge itself.

 

  • Imagine What It’s Like For Them: While it can sometimes be difficult for us to “understand” another person’s perspective or situation (because we may not agree with them, haven’t been through what they’ve been through, or don’t really want to see it through their eyes), being able to imagine what it must be like for them is an essential aspect of empathy. This is not about condoning inappropriate behavior or justifying other people’s actions; however, I do believe deep in my heart that no one does or says things that are hurtful to us if they aren’t already feeling a real sense of pain themselves and/or haven’t been hurt in many ways in their own life. Whatever the situation, the more willing we are to imagine what it’s like for them, the more compassion, understanding, and empathy we’ll be able to experience.

 

  • Forgive Yourself and Others: Forgiveness is one of the most important things we can do in life to heal ourselves, let go of negativity, and live a life of peace and fulfillment. Forgiveness has to first start with us. I believe that all judgment is self-judgment. When we forgive ourselves, we create the conditions and perspective to forgive others. Forgiveness is one of the many important aspects of life that is often easier said than done. It is something we need to learn about and practice all the time. Sadly, we aren’t often taught how to forgive, encouraged to do it in genuine way, and didn’t, in most cases, grow up with very good models or examples of how to forgive. One of the best books you can read on this subject is called Forgive For Good, written by my friend and mentor Dr. Fred Luskin, one of the world’s leading experts and teachers about the power of forgiveness. This book gives you practical and tangible techniques you can use to forgive anyone and anything. The more willing we are to forgive ourselves and others (and continue to practice this in an on-going way), the more able we’ll be to empathize authentically.

Mike Robbins is a sought-after motivational keynote speaker, coach, and the bestselling author of Focus on the Good Stuff (Wiley) and Be Yourself, Everyone Else Is Already Taken (Wiley). More info: www.Mike-Robbins.com

Lets talk about self-pity…the answer is really worth its weight in gold if found.

Written by Joanne Wellington for Mediums World

Lets talk about self-pity…the answer is really worth its weight in gold if found. If we want to be  happy we have to stop feeling sorry for ourselves and stop wallowing in self-pity. If you think  about it we all enjoy doing it and we do it way more than we consciously realise.. self-pity is a  soul emotion that clouds our happiness and I invite you to consider that for a  second.. because self-pity is a very unique emotion that eats up everything all around us except itself, leaving itself on its own little island… bitter and angry and sticking up for its own  values..

Self-pity does feel good at first because it reminds us of  hey you know the worlds so cruel and  life’s dealt us a bad hand, we are just not worthy, and that might be true in some cases but  its pretty pointless and it’s not really going to help us.. Let go of self-pity… It’s all about being responsible for your thoughts and actions again and you will  automatically clear those grey clouds shielding you from true happiness.

We sometimes go into the self-pity mode when we get to a point in life, and there are  guaranteed to be a couple, we have all been there, many of us on a daily basis. It is terrible  sometimes when we feel the world is caving in, when things go wrong all at once and we start  to feel sorry for ourselves and we realise ” Gee ” life isn’t really that good and isn’t treating us very well and  maybe we are not worth anything, maybe things are just destined to not work out for us, and then we feel sorry for ourselves and just wallow in that self-pity, and it’s quite ironic because it makes us feel  good temporarily, we sort of think “hey yeah I was right!” so there’s a little sort of quite positive  feedback from the negativity. But as you move forward slowly that self-pity, that feeling sorry for yourself, turns very bitter and gets worse and worse then you find that people around you who are trying to help are changing towards you but STOP is it really them…?

hmm… but then again it is hard to forgive the people who innocently push your buttons instead you get angry with them when  you are wallowing in self.

Really it’s not good for our well-being at all …you  just have try as much as possible to stop feeling sorry for yourself and you’ll very rarely have a reason for sadness its bad for all long-term.  You’ll enjoy and have more happiness in your life if  you could just remember it is just a part of  life  not the whole of it. We are always dipping into happiness and sadness and we do need both sides of this coin in order to know the difference. To help us forward ourselves and all around us  we need to endure sadness but not hold it and not for long periods of time not even a whole day if you can help it.. we have to embrace the duality of it and be gentle with ourselves.

Written by Joanne Wellington for Mediums World                                            

 Copyright © 2010,2015 Joanne Wellington All Rights Reserved.