Em­pa­thy will heal

Central Queensland News - - RURAL WEEKLY - DEN­NIS J HOIBERG The Re­silience Whis­perer

I DIDN’T know my name was Den­nis un­til about the age of six. I thought it was Boof­head.

Dad al­ways re­ferred to me (and my broth­ers for that mat­ter) by this nick­name. Granted, it was more of a term of en­dear­ment, but it stuck with me. Be­cause words can do that.

There has never been a worse say­ing than the old chil­dren’s rhyme that “sticks and stones will break my bones, but names will never hurt me”. Words and names can most def­i­nitely hurt.

Like many read­ers, I am aghast at re­cent youth sui­cides due to bul­ly­ing. One name has al­ready de­fined 2018 for me – Dolly. What that young girl must have gone through and what her fam­ily and friends are go­ing through now is un­speak­able and heart­break­ing. Work­ing in the space I do can some­times make me feel so in­com­pe­tent and over­whelmed. This is one such time. My frus­tra­tion is that come the next ma­jor news cy­cle, or more specif­i­cally the next so­cial me­dia cy­cle, fo­cus will just move onto the next tragedy. It gets me so an­gry and leaves me empty. What have we al­lowed so­cial me­dia to do?

So, I am left think­ing – how can I help? What can we do? At the same time, how do we find the bal­ance where we must not al­low our­selves or oth­ers, to be­come too pre­cious? This life is not about walk­ing on eggshells. Boof­head is still a term of en­dear­ment to me... but to oth­ers?

I am also con­scious that many read­ers have re­cently farewelled their chil­dren as they headed off to board­ing school. How can you pro­tect them from afar?

I think I know the an­swer. So sim­ple but, sadly, greatly lack­ing in the world. The lack of it leads to lone­li­ness, bul­ly­ing, sad­ness, and a wide range of dysfunctional be­hav­iour.

It is em­pa­thy. We must em­brace, live, and teach em­pa­thy. Em­pa­thy – un­der­stand­ing and shar­ing other peo­ple’s ex­pe­ri­ences and emo­tions.

Em­pa­thy, I think, can be used in many ways. It can help me un­der­stand your point of view whether I agree with it or not. More im­por­tantly, we can use it to re­frame how we are af­fected by oth­ers’ be­hav­iour. I can re­frame my ex­pe­ri­ence by say­ing “that per­son is demon­strat­ing these be­hav­iours and say­ing these things that I find hurt­ful. I wish they wouldn’t say those things but I know I’m a good per­son. I won­der what causes them to be this way? I feel sorry for them, I will choose to ig­nore them”. Noth­ing strips power from a bully more than hav­ing the be­hav­iour called out and be­ing ig­nored.

This may not be the script for you, so why not have a fam­ily con­ver­sa­tion about what your fam­ily script is. We have all ex­pe­ri­enced names that have hurt us. Surely it would help if our chil­dren could see us ex­press our hurt and hear us talk about how we dealt with it.

We can’t change what has hap­pened. But we are obliged to learn from it, grow, and be de­ter­mined that it will never hap­pen again. Too much de­pends on it.

If you or any­one you know needs sup­port, call Life­line on 13 11 14, or Kids Helpline on 1800 551 800.

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