Sunday, September 13, 2015

Empathy

Excerpt from a paper...

The word “empathy”has always had a strong meaning to me in my life. When I was a child, probably around the age of 10, I had a rough relationship with my younger brother. We fought and argued, as many 10 and 7 year old siblings do. But my mother, unlike most, did not tolerate such behavior. We would be questioned, scolded and punished for arguments that took on anything less than a civilized tone. As I got older, I found it infuriating that children I came into contact with were allowed to display emotion in a way that I was not. They were allowed to tell their sibling they hated them, forbid them to touch their things or to hang out with their friends, and even possibly get in a good hit now and then. My life was not like this.

I remember being in the car alone with my mother one day after school, and she suddenly started addressing my attitude toward my brother. She accused me of being resentful and spiteful and rude to someone who idealized me more than any other person. She got emotional. She told me I would ruin our relationship for the rest of my life if I did not learn to truly appreciate it then. She told me I should put myself in his shoes and learn to be thoughtful. She told me not to be so selfish.   

I think that many people do not realize that in order to be empathetic and sincere, we have to shed as much selfishness as we humanly can. We have to shun the idea that our own lot in life matters most, that we are just as, if not more, important than others, and that we have it all figured out. We have to truly and fully put ourselves secondary in our own minds. The reason that many people do not choose empathy and sincerity is because to practice these things opens us up to a true possibility of emotional pain. When we empathize and someone does not return the favor, it feels like rejection; when we are sincere and met with insincerity, it feels like rejection. True empathy and sincerity is allowing ourselves possible rejection with the sincere hope that, instead, that person will allow us to connect with them fully and understand their plight.

The most emotionally stable people are the ones who realize that emotional stability is a myth. We all experience the same human emotions that sometimes consume our thoughts and make us feel them on a much deeper level than what we are comfortable with. A truly emotionally stable person is not one who fights these things, but learns to interpret what they mean when they arise. Instead of suppressing secondary human emotions on one end of the spectrum, or wallowing in them at the other end, emotionally stable people learn to fall somewhere in the middle. They allow themselves to feel raw and powerful emotion, but they do not allow that emotion to take them over. They analyze where it is coming from, why it is there, and what they can do with that information.

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