Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Art of dealing with Negative Emotions of others -- Sympathy, Empathy and Compassion

Sometimes in life we are all confused as to what emotions to feel when something happens with someone else apart from me. When something happens to us it is very easy to categorically decide what I want to feel and think or do. But when you see a loved one’s of yours going through a certain pain or hurt … you become clueless how to handle and how to console the other person… how best to feel what they feel and yet not be a stress on them.

 The reason being we either touch their feelings so slightly that it doesn’t help them or we dwell so deep that we return exhausted and devoid of our own state of mind. I kept wondering about what attitude we should  have for problems in which we are not directly involved but our loved ones are, I am bothered about this because we are all social beings and not alone in the scene of the world. We cannot have a safe life if we know how to deal with our own feelings but have no clue how to deal with feelings of others. Our attitude and mindset creates a huge impact on our relationship and that goes unsaid.

When I go through some hurt or pain, I have noticed people behave in amazing ways. They fumble, they wonder, they cry, they make others cry etc but yes none is aware of what is my need at that point of time. Watching them amuses me as to how ignorant we are of how to behave with others in a sensitive manner. In today’s world where contact is limited to watching a friend’s icon on your phone, how do you know in what way to create a connection to relief the loved one of their pain?

I have not postulated anything new but have just rephrased a few words we use often with respect to attending feelings of others. These are 3 simple words often over lapped in their understanding and thus leading to confusions.

They are Sympathy, Empathy and Compassion.

Sympathy is to be able to recognize the feeling inside other person. Any person who says “I sympathize with you” is able to see and be aware that you are in pain. The personal zone of feelings is still separate from the one who feels pain but they at least accept the presence of pain.

For example – When you see a beggar on street, you are able to sympathize with his condition.

  • This begins by feeling pity or sorry at the state of other one.

  • It is a bit of depressing state because sympathizers are never able to judge the intensity of pain nor are they able to provide what to do next. 

  • Also they remain as intact in terms of their energy exchange between individuals. Mostly words are sensed but do not cross effective energy to the person in pain.

  • They can provide you with unwanted advice whether you need it or not. Willing or unwilling.

Empathy is to be not just aware of presence of pain but feel the intensity of pain . It is usually generalized by the term “Stepping into someone’s shoes” which means I expand my horizon of feelings into your feelings. There is a sense of urgency in paying attention because the pain bothers the empathizer and the person in pain equally or sometimes more.
For example – If a child falls then a mother feels the pain of a child with as much intensity as the child or sometimes more. 

  • There could be a feeling of sorry state or no sorry state depending on the conditioning of the empathizer. Though most empathizers do feel sorry.
  • The intensity is felt very strongly. Sometimes more than the person hurt, it adds a hint of exaggeration depending on the sense of person involved.
  • The most important point is that empathize invest a lot of energy of their own into feeling the intensity , which eventually drains them out completely and creates a sense of pain within. It happens mostly with those who have gone through with a similar kind of incident and they revisit their complete incident while empathizing. So empathizing involves fatigue. Sometimes empathizers unknowingly invite lot of pain on their side while seeking to comfort another.
  • They too can give you much advice, you might not want to follow up with it but they stress on their experience to let the advice be accepted.

Compassion is a step ahead of empathy. It is to empathize with the person without draining your energy and finding a way out of solving those feelings. Compassionates never sit idle, they move out of pain zone which is build during empathizing and they look for solutions. They assist, support and in turn reinstate faith and power inside the other person.
For example – If you fall while walking with a compassionate person. He will not cringe, not cry nor exaggerate. He will simply put hand out for you to hold and get up.
  • They never go down to sorry state; rather they get into observing state. They observe the pain inside another person and are able to accept that pain is “present-- now”.
  • The intensity is felt strongly but never exaggerated. They can enumerate exact emotions of yours if you ask for but will never undo your own capacity of overcoming them. They’ll always state presence of doing more than presence of feeling.
  • They do not waste their energy while feeling for others. Rather they divert it. They divert it to doing something about it. The event horizon ends as soon as the pain is confronted and the doing horizon beings. They are solution oriented and hence they never feel fatigued no matter how many feelings they have encountered through the day.
  • They do not give advice, they show you the path or give you support and then leave it onto you to accept or reject that support. They increase your faith in your own capacity of doing something for yourself. They do not give you themselves; they give you the tool to work.

Most of us fall into the category of empathizers. The reason for being either of the two and not compassionate is our deep sense of attachment to the subject in pain. While empathizers react exactly the same way as the subject in pain does so it gets easy to attract lot of negative energy around the sufferer. Like your friend breaks off with someone , the usual reaction that comes from us is to react and speak ill about the ex of my friend… one thing we do not understand is that the person in hurt is already low on energy and doesn’t really need a heavy environment of negative energy around. How does my bashing of friends’ ex justify my affection for my friend?? In turn I am abusing the choice and the energy invested my friend in that relation. This is how empathizers pull down the sufferer more rather than empowering him.

In turn Compassionate people are solution oriented. They address emotions but with an angle of providing right kind of support. They nudge and push the sufferer to take charge of his/her own life and not spoon feed him/her. They are aware that pain exists and it will only go when replaced with something more positive. Compassion makes you aware of a perfect Inner Self absolutely capable of doing justice to the person once the pain is over.

The expansion of inner I shows you the reason the universal laws of functioning the idea that hurt is only superficial and an effect of what has by gone. You then become the part of the solution and stability than problem and anxiety. Compassionate person is more like a guide providing a tool to you, the person might even provide you with user manual but will never doubt on your capability of using it nor will he ever abuse the pain or the pain giver and create negative energy around you.

Some people may consider this as less sensitive than empathizing or even afar from reality. How can you ignore the pain inside a person?? How can you not blame the situation?? But the truth is your feeling pain for someone else never really reduces pain for anyone, only when the person in pain accepts it as reality then the pain starts dissipating. Blaming the situation inks at reversing the wheel of time which unfortunately is impossible. It only adds to more guilt and shame. So Compassionates stay away from such tactics. Compassion is practical and solution oriented … it is to have feelings without being emotional, to be critical but with a meaning, to have objectivity without being obsessed with object.

I usually suggest you methods of working on an idea, of course I have come up with a working way too but a rather simpler one. The biggest reason I could understand we are not able to be compassionate in true spirit is our feeling of owning. Yes the more we own the more we join ourselves to it (empathize) and the one which we do not own we do not join to it at all (sympathize).

So in my method … you start treating every one as a child…. I mean all your loved one’s but not yours, of someone else and you become a care taker of that child.
For e.g. If you have a child with you of someone else and the child falls down somewhere … do you feel the pain with the same intensity as the mother of the child would have felt ??? No we don’t. But we feel the pain and then help the child as per our responsibility and give him aid.

This is owning while not owning at all.
When you enter the mindset of owning but not owning you know you are not the parent and thus not deeply attached so you feel the pain but less intense more so you make the child smile and help me stand on his own feet without extra baggage of advice. You learn to understand you are not responsible to be the master of destiny for the child and you cannot be, let the onus of problem giving stay with Supreme ... you just plainly be the Care taker nothing more nothing less.

I could have advised considering each other as Souls or brothers and sisters etc but the reason I did not suggest this is because it seems Impossible to replicate that in relations like parents and child, husband and wife or even some friends. But when you say treat all your loved ones as Child and Care Taker. The limitations end.

Every relationship whether parent child – husband wife – friends etc whatever your relation is it can be easily adaptable to a Child and Care taker role. The idea is to divert the mind from pain to support and solutions that only a Care taker will do and Owner will always be in the fear of losing and thus can never become compassionate.

I am personally guilty of empathizing and draining my energy out I am trying to move to the next step and learning. Like I always say I too am a part of process of changing and improving myself. I have been owning my relationships for long in Owner mode and now I am slowly turning into Care Taker mode. So be a part of journey of change with me.

Happy Compassionating.

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