Reflecting About Empathy
Published 2010/07/12 - (10 years ago).
Author: Martina Roe
Outline: Till I started my Introduction to counseling skills course I had very little idea what empathy meant.
Main DigestTill I started my Introduction to counseling skills course I had very little idea what empathy meant.
And so I began to think about situations in the past when I was not very emphatic and it shocked me, how often. Today I rather try to listen and do not jump into conversation with my advice, which may sound very patronizing. On the other hand, I also remember events when others did not understand me and were trying to convince me, that I would get over everything. They gave me examples of others who apparently went through something exactly the same and eventually overcame it. In vain I tried to explain that I certainly did not experience something identical, but I felt that the information came in one ear and out of it just as quickly.
My grandmother always used to comment on the easy life of childless women, how they could enjoy themselves without any responsibilities. Silently I always told myself that most of them have not chosen not to have children. To the contrary life must be very difficult for them because they had not found fulfillment in motherhood and during their old age they would not be supported by their children. It can therefore be seen from our opposing views that it is not easy for any of us to empathize with feelings of others.
What particularly worries me is how some people, especially the young bully the disabled. We even hear on the news about parents of disabled children who were no longer able to bear the ridicule and killed themselves together with their disabled child.. I think that we should all want to learn more about the life of disabled people and not to be indifferent to their needs. Their lives have the same value as the lives of others. Whenever I have a chance I always liked to read autobiographical stories, in some cases these have helped me in everyday life. Once I assisted a mother with her young son crossing the street as I saw her struggling with him.. While she was thanking me she was surprised that I did not advise her to sort her son out. I replied that I myself have sons who do not always behave as others would want them to behave and therefore do not judge others. I also said that my older son used to have special needs and am therefore aware that there are children with problems that might not be visible from the outside. The mum indeed, confirmed that her son suffered from autism and she chose for the first time a different path than the one he was accustomed to. As she feared, the diversion nearly ended with an accident. Desperately she said she could not always just walk on the paths her son was familiar with. She was absolutely right as in order for her son to learn she had to explore new ways with him. As I knew a little bit about the life of families of autistic children, I could understand quite well what she was talking about.
To show understanding and empathy is not always beneficial just for the other person , but also for us. I am sure you remember situations when you were angry because someone overtook you in a queue. Of course, that such behavior is not at all correct, but our reaction will not harm the guilty person, but only ourselves. In such cases it is not others who caused our anger but our own feelings and thoughts about them. Recently, I waited in the car with my friend to inflate tires. It was beautiful and I used this time for a small relaxation, while my friend got very annoyed and started to accuse the lady ahead of us, that she took far too long, and how she behaved selfishly towards others. I tried to explain to her that the woman did not do it on purpose, but that she was slightly older and therefore just bowing down to the wheel would take her much longer than to someone who is young. I am not sure if my friend took any notice of my comment, but you can reflect whether it is beneficial for us to become irritated or even aggressive or rather try to understand the causes of behavior of others and remain calm.
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