Tag Archives: responsiblity

Empathy

I’ve been reading a wonderful book, “Emotional Awareness: Overcoming the Obstacles to Psychological Balance”,  by the Dalai Lama and Paul Ekman, Ph.D.. It’s essentially a written account of a dialogue between the two of them about emotions and finding balance. 

I’m honestly not exaggerating when I say my copy has at least a hundred post-it flags bookmarking every part I have found to be enlightening, inspiring or something I wish to remind myself about.

In my journey of self-growth and my education as a social work student empathy has become a core value in my beliefs and my life. The easiest way to explain empathy is, “put yourself in the shoes of another”, which gives a basic understanding of it but doesn’t fully encompass the entirety of empathy.

In my reading of “Emotional Awareness”, empathy was described in a manner that I feel really clarifies what it means to have empathy for another. Empathy is broken down into four components or levels:

1. Emotional Recognition
Know how another feels

2. Emotional Resonance
A. Resonate with the same emotion as other’s emotion
B. Feel an emotion in response to other’s emotion without feeling the same emotion as other

3. Compassionate Concern
Relieve the suffering of others

4. Altruism
Compassionate concern and some risk to own welfare when relieving suffering of others

As you can see, empathy involves more than just putting yourself in the shoes of another and resonating or feeling an emotion in response  (though it’s a good start). True empathy involves relieving the suffering of others and, ultimately, taking a risk in doing so.

This may sound overwhelming and complex. We all are capable of relieving the suffering of others. The holiday season provides many ways to do so: Give food to those that are hungry. Donate coats to those without them. Donate your time at a local soup kitchen. Spend some time at a nursing home. Help a neighbor shovel their driveway. Offer to help a friend in need. Request donations to organization in lieu (or in addition) to receiving presents.

Taking a risk in helping to relieve the suffering of others doesn’t need to be complex either. Stand up for someone you see being bullied (made fun of, singled out, etc). Invite someone to join you during lunch at work or school who is being excluded. Speak up and ask what you can do to help in your neighborhood, school, work and community. Advocate for those around you.

Don’t allow yourself to think that you cannot possibly do anything to relieve the suffering of others. You can. It starts with taking a step outside of ourselves and practicing empathy.

From: “Emotional Awareness: Overcoming the Obstacles to Psychological Balance” by the Dalai Lama and Paul Ekman, Ph.D. 2008. Chapter 5, “The Nature of Compassion,” p. 176-179.
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Who I Am

I have spent most of my life running away from myself. Who I thought I was. What I didn’t want to be. What I thought I should be. What I thought I was supposed to be. What I wished I had been. Running away from looking at who I am.

I have spent the last few years beginning to take a good hard look at who I am. Seeing myself for what I am – not what others wanted me to be or expected me to be, not who I wanted myself to be.

I’m surprised by how relatively little most people know about themselves. Or share with others what they know about themselves. Or both.

I’m surprised at how difficult it is to strip away the layers to truly see who I am.

And how surprisingly easy it is to examine who you are once you do so.

Who I am is my foundation.

I had to tear down the house and the driveway and the meticulously planted landscaping and the poorly formed sense of myself to find the foundation.

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I spent a very long time thinking, and believing, that I was a bad person. Because I didn’t fit into the molds that (I had believed) other people had created. Because I hadn’t spent the time and energy to examine the beliefs I grew up with and picked up along the way to determine if they were in sync with what I feel to be true. Because I did not accept the parts of myself I didn’t like.

Because I didn’t love myself.

I have analyzed every aspect of myself – why I do anything, what I feel, why I act and react the ways I do, what triggers me, what I value… I continue to do so. Now that I have discovered the foundation, I am beginning to build upon it.

I have accepted that there are parts of myself I cannot change. And I have begun to work on changing the things I can change about myself.

I am learning to love myself. For who I am.

I’m not perfect. I sometimes take steps backwards but, even on my worst days, I can examine and plan for better days using what I know and continue to learn about myself.  I am whoever I want to be and, if I am not, only I can make changes to get myself there.

Clarity

I apologize for my lack of blogging in the past few months. I’m sure I could come up with many believable excuses but I don’t want to be dishonest. I’ve been writing more in my personal paper journal. It seems to help calm my anxiety and confusion when I put pen to paper, more so than the clacking of keys does.

The much needed hiatus from Clear Complexity gave me some time to truly put into working on myself.

I am so different than I used to be. This year (2013) I have worked so hard to make my life better – for me. I am not ashamed to admit that I have stopped smoking weed, something that at one point I had believed to help me. I have severely cut back my drinking of beer to one or two a week, versus the unhealthy 3-4 a night I had been at. I have given up coffee. I have been reading books about forgiveness and emotions and compassion and self-identity [“Emotional Awareness: A Conversation Between The Dalai Lama and Paul Ekman, PH.D.” is my most current read and wonderful.]

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I have purposely become a person who is a lot less numb, which was very painful at first. But over time I feel clearer, I feel better able to see the world and to accept the things I cannot change and to focus on the things I can change. I have slowly begun to work through healing myself, making myself a better person, not tying my emotions or reactions or happiness to any person or event or things.

I have clarity.

I have not had any real tangible sense of clarity for as long as I can remember.

But now that I have it, I don’t want to give it back. I refuse to.

I will continue to work on myself, to work towards my goals for myself, to work on being the best parent I can be, the best student I can be. I will continue to modify my thoughts, my actions, my reactions… I will continue to practice acceptance, forgiveness, compassion.

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And I will accept that not everyone in my life or everyone that I meet is at this same place as me.

And I will treat them with compassion.

And I will forgive them for their actions that may hurt me. I will forgive them, for myself, for me. So that I can continue to work towards all I hope for.

Maybe they will be inspired to work on themselves.

Maybe they won’t.

But I can not let the choices of others continue to block the pathways I need to go down.

Now that I have clarity, I see that they truly never could.

Why Bother to Live An Unhappy Life?

Another rough day. I’m pretty sick and tired of these. Trying to turn my day, week, month, year, etc around by keeping it simple, focusing on taking care of myself and my kids, taking responsibility for my thoughts and actions and enjoying the people and wonderful things I have right now. I struggle with putting this into practice every day but every day I get up and I try again, hopefully making better or at least different choices.

This life is too short to get hung up and stuck in all the things we have no control over. This life is too short to hold ourselves back from becoming the people we dreamed of as kids. This life is too short to not be happy. This life is just too short and there’s no guarantees on anything. All we have is right now and right here, so why waste it worrying?

Life is for the living. I don’t want to continually be stalled in “survival mode.” I don’t want to just be getting by, moving through life half-alive. It’s not an easy thing to make changes, it’s not an easy thing to really live the beliefs you believe. It’s not easy to do anything you haven’t done before.

But why bother to live an unhappy life? However you live your life, whatever you do, say, think, behave, believe…it is always your choice and you can change your choices whenever you’d like. Why choose to be unhappy?

The Asteroids Club

As I believe I mentioned, I’ve been reading, “The Happiness Hypothesis” by Jonathan Haidt for a philosophy class I’m currently taking. Now, we were only assigned the first 6 chapters, but I will be completing the book because I find the subject matter fascinating and, perhaps, even enlightening.

Recently, Haidt spoke at a TED Talks about how common threats can make common ground. He starts by briefly discussing morality and how, “…one of the most important principles of morality is that morality binds and blinds. It binds us into teams that circle around sacred values but thereby makes us go blind to objective reality.” (On a side note, you can learn about your own morality, ethics, and/or values at YourMorals.org).

So if everybody thinks they’re right, how can we possibly make any progress? Haidt suggests that, “…we don’t start by looking for common ground. Common ground is often very hard to find. No, we start by looking for common threats because common threats make common ground.” This idea, of finding common threats, led to the creation of The Asteroids Club.

The Asteroids Club is, “an opportunity for members of a community to explain what matters to them most deeply (their asteroid) and for others to try to understand why it’s so important. The magic is that folks with different moral and political beliefs each get to share what matters to them. The key is that you’ve got to listen, with empathy, to the “other side” in order to have the right to explain your side and be heard.”

If you want the truth to stand clear before you, never be for or against. The struggle between “for” and “against” is the minds worst disease.
– Sent ts’an, c. 700 C. E.

I think it’s a really wonderful idea. It’s not a debate but a mutual, civil discussion. As Haidt states, “this is possible. We can do it. Let us therefore go to battle stations, not to fight each other, but to begin deflecting these incoming asteroids.”

Everybody Thinks They’re Right

We watched this video in my philosophy class today and I very much enjoyed it. It’s a recording of Johnathan Haidt’s TED Talks from TED 2008.There’s a lot of good points here, a lot of good ideas. Haidt’s closing really grabbed me and I feel it’s important not only for me and the field I am in, but for all people:

“…everybody thinks they are right. A lot of the problems we have to solve are problems that require us to change other people. And if you want to change other people, a much better way to do it is to first understand who we are — understand our moral psychology, understand that we all think we’re right — and then step out, even if it’s just for a moment, step out… just try to see it as a struggle playing out, in which everybody does think they’re right, and everybody, at least, has some reasons — even if you disagree with them — everybody has some reasons for what they’re doing. Step out. And if you do that, that’s the essential move to cultivate moral humility, to get yourself out of this self-righteousness, which is the normal human condition.”

Just Getting By

I have been struggling lately.

Actually, that sentence seems to be true about many moments in my life.

Like the strong stubborn person I am, I just keep doing what I do. I just keep plowing forward.

I keep myself overly busy.

School full time. A 15/week (unpaid) internship. Homework. Transporting kids to dance lessons, soccer, girl scouts, playdates, therapy appointments… Cooking. Cleaning. Shopping. Projects with the kids. Bathing. Pets. You know, all the day to day necessities.

When I do have a “down” moment, I fill it. With craft projects (my current project is making almost all of my holiday presents this year). With research articles and theories that expand my realm of knowledge. With television shows that provide me with escapism.

And, when everyone else goes to sleep, I stay awake. Writing poems. Organizing rooms. Folding laundry. Talking to my cats. Anything to prolong having to end the day. Because the start of a new day is exhausting.

I hold it together quite well. I get excellent grades. I’m a good mother. My house is clean.

By all standards, I’m doing well.

Only, I have no idea how I’m holding it all together.

I just keep getting by.

Maybe it’s the time of year (how I loathe snow and the cold). Maybe daylight savings time is messing with me (why is it SO dark now??) Maybe I need a break (and who doesn’t?)

Maybe, maybe I’m doing the best I can. And, after a while, the best I can just doesn’t seem quite as “best” as it used to.

Whatever the case, I’m still here (in both a literal and figurative sense). I’ve been quiet but I’m still working. On myself. On my family. On being able to help whomever I can (which I hope is many).

I won’t give up, even though I’m struggling. And you shouldn’t either.

Because some day we will do better than just getting by.