Empathy part 4 - Being feelable - Mission 10

 
 Empathy and meditation 

The essence of empathy seems to be the ability to feel for another, to 'walk a mile in another's shoes'. So is it possible to develop empathy for ourselves? 

Rick Hanson thinks so. Here's what he says in his book 'Buddha's Brain' -  
Whether you are with others all by yourself, being mindful of your inner world seems to help heal significant shortages of empathy you may have experienced when you were young. In essence, mindful attention to your own experience activates many of the same circuits that are stimulated in childhood by the attuned and caring attention of others. Thus, you’re giving to yourself here and now what you should have gotten when you were little.

It seems is may be possible to repair the damage of past times when we haven't received the empathy we may have needed. But what about the future, is there a way to make it more likely that people will be able to empathise with us? 

Being more feelable

One way is to become more feelable! Maybe you are an 'open book'? Do you wear you heart on your sleeve for all to see? If not, then you may have to work at becoming more feelable. 

Becoming more feelable may feel a bit threatening, especially at first. Do we really want people intruding on our inner world? Sounds a bit risky to me!  

It is risky and the reward is that feeling of being really 'seen' for who we are, empathy. 

3 ways to become more feelable 

  • Just being present to ourselves, to our own feelings, makes it more possible for others to tune in to how we are. Its as if being in touch with ourselves opens a channel, making us more available to others. 
  • But that might not be enough. Sometimes we have to take a risk, and say what is going on for us. It doesn't have to be 'all or nothing' but we can practice sharing a little more than we are comfortable with, and seeing how that feels.
  • Lastly when you do receive empathy, let it sink in. Rick Hanson talks about something called 'the negativity bias'. The tendency in all of us to dwell much more on the negative than the positive. Negative emotions are like velcro, they stick. Whereas positive emotions are like teflon, the mind slides easily off them. So when you do have the experience of receiving empathy, dwell on it for as long as you can. 

I'm quite drawn to people who wear their heart on their sleeve, it's not me. I'm more one for understatement. I also love really understated people. I love understatement in art. Contrary to how it sounds, understatement is powerful. Like homeopathy. 

Haiku 

Haiku is the perfect medium for 'being feelable' and understated at the same time! That is this month's mission. 
Tune in to how you are, your inner world. Notice the 'mood', there is an inner weather. Then write a simple haiku that expresses your inner world without explaining it. 

One of my favourite haiku writers is Issa -

Napped half the day;
no one
punished me!

With my father
I would watch dawn
over green fields.

What a strange thing!
to be alive
beneath cherry blossoms.