flowing motion

Posts Tagged ‘Empathy

Take a journey in your life

journeys bring power and love back into you.

if you can’t go somewhere

move in the passageways of the self

they are like shafts of light,

always changing,

and you change when you explore them

Rumi

Be not the traveller who takes their world with them

I caught something interesting on BBC4 yesterday.

Two travellors were walking all day, around the Cape Town area as it happened.  They were tired and very hungry.  One said to the other:  I must eat lest I faint.

The other said:  I am hungry too.  But I don’t find it uncomfortable.  I find it interesting.

The first travellor thought:  If he does not feel his own hunger, then how can he feel the hunger of another.

For some of us, entering into the moment is hard.  We watch.  We observe.  Even when we are abroad, we are distant from our our own emotions and feelings.   We travel, yet never experience anything new because we cannot leave our world’s behind.

Be the privileged who travels at home

It’s an interesting idea then to simply explore the passageways of the self.

Be like the first travellor who engages directly with the world and listens for its response?

Be the poet who describes his life and changes his poem as he reads it to his audience?

Riff rather pontificate?

Accept the demands of the moment and our response?  Perceive the limitations of others as part of the situation.  And act?

As Joseph Campbell said:  The greatest privilege of a life time is to be ourselves.

I want to follow up Gaye’s comment

“ I’ve not seen happiness or sadness as fixed points. My own experience told me long ago that both come and go. While I’m not that good at going with the flow, I remind myself of that old Quaker saying “this too shall pass”.

However, I find it hard to be so accepting of grief and hurt and sadness and pain, and I am surprised at the anger I feel in the cold-blooded way that many casually brush all those feelings aside with this quote from Gibran, as if one compensated for the other. Contrast yes, but compensate no.”

I don’t disagree with Gaye. I would like to extend the thinking.

Empathy

Discussions about happiness become complicated when we are entangle questions about the nature of happiness and sadness with our ability to understand the happiness and sadness of others.

We vary a lot in our ability to empathize with others. We are also more empathetic in some situations and less in others. I suspect that we find it easier to be empathetic when we have been in a similar situation to the one we are observing.

Quite often we look for empathy from people who are simply don’t understand. They are out of their depth.

Belonging

If someone does not have experience to understand our distress, it does not really matter. What matters is that guiding them may be an extra task when we are already strained.

What really matters is when they are in power in some way. Their lack of empathy denies our reality and we experience rejection on top of grief. In theory, the two together could be sufficient to spin us out of the natural butterfly loop of life and out of the natural recovery from grief as time passes.

Appreciation

Almost in contradiction, but not completely so, close relationships such as marriage are more likely to flourish when one partner helps the other partner elaborate good times. Yes, listening in bad times is important. But of more importance is drawing out positive stories in positive times. Recounting good stories deepens our understanding of how good things work and our capacity to come back into the butterfly loop of flourishing when we have spun out of the orbit is widened.

In plain language, when we are struggling with the awfulness of life, we need the good times as a map to find our way back into the natural cycle of happiness and sadness. Becoming trapped in either is illness.

Semantics of happiness

The real issue is the ‘theory’ that we brought to the discussion. When we define happiness and sadness as separate and different, then we ask how much of one should we have and how much of the other should we have.

If we had a word in English to define happiness and sadness and the seasons of our life as one thing, stretching in a straight line or in that looping butterfly shape, we would ask different questions.

If someone is sad, then we act accordingly knowing that there will also be a time when they are happy and we will act accordingly them too.

I like Khalil Gibran’s words because he illustrated this notion of oneness. We find it hard to grasp the idea because of the words that we begin with.

If we had started with a different kind of word, we would have a totally different understanding. What that word should be, I don’t know, but flourishing and thriving are good starts. Languishing is the opposite of flourishing.

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