THE REAL EM­PA­THY

In an age when self-help books on em­pa­thy and com­pas­sion are rife, do we re­ally know what it means to prac­tise what we preach? By Li Ying Lim.

Harper’s Bazaar (Malaysia) - - The Beauty -

eel­ing from a break-up or re­turn­ing from the deep end of de­pres­sion; through the In­ter­net world and net­work of friends, you draw strength to get back on your feet again. How­ever, em­pa­thy in the dig­i­tal world can be chal­leng­ing. “We need to move be­yond the emo­tion­ally il­lit­er­ate world of on­line ‘like’ but­tons. If you see, via Face­book or other plat­forms, that a friend has done some­thing in­ter­est­ing or gone through some­thing tough, don’t just ‘like’ their post or write a one-line com­ment. Phone them and have a real hu­man in­ter­ac­tion,” says Ro­man Krz­naric, a New York Times best-sell­ing au­thor. ven though em­pa­thy is a big thing—think pow­er­ful words of wis­dom, em­pow­er­ing speeches, and cour­ses and re­treats that teach you to live a fuller life, not to men­tion the med­i­ta­tive prac­tices that flood so­cial me­dia with philoso­phies of heal­ing and grow­ing— there is a dearth of real will­ing­ness to put one­self in the other’s shoes. With a cul­ture of “talk­ing, not lis­ten­ing” dom­i­nat­ing mod­ern liv­ing, it is easy to fall prey into think­ing you’re em­pathis­ing, when in ac­tu­al­ity, you’re judg­ing. “If you are ar­gu­ing with your hus­band, wife, or part­ner, fo­cus on two things: What are their feel­ings? And what are their needs?” Krz­naric sug­gests. “Giv­ing them a chance to express their feel­ings and needs is a pow­er­ful way to re­duce ten­sion in tough sit­u­a­tions. It re­ally works. Even if you can’t al­ways reach an agree­ment, ul­ti­mately, we just want to know we’ve been lis­tened to.” ction Love, cre­ated by psy­chother­a­pists Barry Michels and Phil Stutz, co-au­thors of The Tools, spreads the love of beat­ing our ego to see past our pre­con­ceived judge­ments. “The ego is the part of you that makes judge­ments about what should and shouldn’t hap­pen,” says Michels. “All it wants to do is right the wrong, and since that’s im­pos­si­ble, it stays stuck. To get out of the maze, you need some­thing stronger than the ego; some­thing less con­cerned with judg­ing what’s fair and un­fair. In our book, we call that the force of ‘out­flow’. Think of it as a force that loves life in all of its forms—good, bad, ugly, beau­ti­ful, fair, and un­fair. Out­flow ac­cepts ev­ery­thing that ex­ists—with­out the judge­ments the ego makes. It’s kind of like sun­light—it just shines on ev­ery­body with­out judg­ing whether or not they de­serve it.” ife ul­ti­mately sets out a path we all have to walk on our own. Com­pas­sion and em­pa­thy, love and light, can guide us to a cer­tain ex­tent, but only our selves can con­quer the fear, that in­ner voice that keeps us from shin­ing our bright­est. Sir John Har­grave, au­thor of Mind Hack­ing, ad­mon­ishes, “Be­com­ing aware of that voice and then learn­ing to ob­serve it is an im­por­tant step in per­sonal growth. When we be­come aware of that voice—when we can learn to think be­yond what we feel—we can re­train our­selves to live bet­ter. You don’t have to be­lieve ev­ery­thing you think, but you have to be aware of it if you want to have a choice.” And do not be afraid to have mean­ing­ful dis­cus­sions. “Con­vers­ing,” says Dr. Sa­man­tha Board­man, founder of Pos­i­tive Pre­scrip­tion, “en­ables us to find mean­ing in our lives.”

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