Emotions And Feelings (Cont.10)

7. Where to go with others (can cause compassion, pity, empathy, sympathy, boundaries, comparative suffering)

This involves understanding how to best to connect with people who are struggling; need to answer the following question:

"...What's the most effective way to be in connection with and service to someone struggling without taking on the issues as your own?..."
Brené Brown, 2021)

    a) compassion is a daily practice of recognising and accepting your shared humanity to treat everyone with loving-kindness, especially those facing suffering and/or difficult situations; it includes action as well as feeling, the action is not about making things better or fixing or solving, but about sharing; is linked with empathy

"...compassion is fueled by understanding and accepting that we're all made of strength and struggle - no one is immune to pain or suffering. Compassion is not a practice of 'better than' or 'I can fix you' - it is a practice based on beauty and the pain of shared humanity..."
Brené Brown, 2021this

It exposes you to your fears like pain; it is daring as you are moving yourself towards what scares you; reflects the relationship between equals, ie shared humanity.

"...compassion does not mean immersing ourselves in the suffering of others to the point of anguish. Compassion is the tender readiness of the heart to respond to one's own or another's pain without despair, resentment, or aversion. It is the wish to dissipate suffering. Compassion embraces those experiencing sorrow and eliminates cruelty from the mind..."
Jack Kornfield as quoted by Brené Brown, 2021

Sometimes when you see pain, your immediate reaction is to fix it, ie give advice and/or problem-solve, rather than listening and being with the person and their emotion, you start fixing; need to start emotional resonance, ie connect your own experiences in thinking way.

Compassion fatigue refers to the emotional exhaustion and burn out that can occur amongst caregivers. It occurs when caregivers focus on their own personal distress reaction rather than on the experience of the person they are caring for, this results in an inability to respond emphatically to the person in need. Sometimes this can be called empathetic distress fatigue, ie

"...We are not hearing the story, setting ourselves in story..."
Brené Brown, 2021)

    b) empathy can be regarded as understanding the feelings of another person, but not feeling it for them; it draws your attention outwards, to the other person's experience, ie

"...I get it, I feel with you, and I've been there..."
Brené Brown, 2021

It allows you to understand what someone is experiencing and to reflect that understanding based on your experience, ie 'me too'; it is an important skill set used in compassion,

"..empathy helps in an interpersonal decision making, facilitates ethical decision-making and moral judgements; and answers short-term subjective well-being; strengthens the relational bonds; allows people to better understand how others see them; and enhances prosocial and altruistic behaviour..."
Peter Paul Zurek et al as quoted by
Brené Brown, 2021

There are 2 different types of empathy:

     i) cognitive empathy (the ability to recognise and understand another person's emotions; sometimes called perspective taking or  mentallising)
     ii) affective empathy
(one's own emotional attunement with another person's experience; sometimes called experience sharing; need to be careful that you don't become overwhelmed)

The 5 attributes of empathy

"...i) Perspective taking: What does that concept mean for you? What is that experience like for you?
    ii) Staying out of judgement; just listen, don't put value on it.
    iii) Recognising emotion: how can I touch within myself something that helps me identify and connect with what the other person might be feeling. Ask questions
    iv) Communicating our understanding about the emotion: sometimes this is elaborate and detailed, and sometimes this is simply, 'Shit. That's hard. I get that'
    v) Practice of mindfulness: this is not pushing away emotions because it is uncomfortable but feeling it and moving through it..."

Thérèsa Wiseman & Kristin Neff as quoted by Brené Brown, 2021

"...we need to dispel the myth that empathy is 'walking in someone else's shoes'. Rather than walking in your shoes, I need to know how to listen to the story you tell about what it's like in your shoes and believe you even when it doesn't match my experiences..."
Brené Brown, 2021

When you put yourself into somebody else's place, rather than trying to understand the situation, your perspective, the empathetic connection, unravels, ie

"...Either I get sucked into the vortex of my own emotional difficulties, or, because my experience doesn't match yours, I doubt what you're telling me..."
Brené Brown, 2021


"...empathy is not relating to an experience; its connecting to what someone' s feeling about an experience..."
Brené Brown, 2021

It is not manipulation or exploitation.

   c) pity involves a feeling of isolation; in pity you see yourselves as different; it sets up a separation (a sense of distance and remoteness) between yourself and others on suffering; pity has 4 elements:

        i) a belief that the suffering person is inferior
        ii) a passive, self-focused reaction excluding help
        iii) a desire to maintain emotional distance
        iv) avoidance of sharing in the other person's suffering

The difference between empathy and pity is hierarchical, ie people lower in the hierarchy will feel pity for you as they will not necessarily have experienced the same; while people higher in the hierarchy will feel empathy as they would most likely have experienced similar feelings.

    d) sympathy is a form of disconnect, ie 'not me' and standing at a safe distance, ie 'I feel sorry for you'; empathy/pity and sympathy are 'near' enemies; sympathy can be a trigger for shame (see below); although well intended, sympathy can appear as unwanted, superficial, pity-based; you can focus on the your discomfort rather than on alleviating another's distress; this can result in the person feeling disappointed, ie 'you have let me down'; sometimes we try to minimise and avoid hard feelings, ie 'let's make this go away', 'maybe you're exaggerating', it wasn't that bad', etc)

    e) boundaries involve having a clear understanding of where your and others' involvement starts and ends; the basis for compassion and empathy; linked with judgement

"...If there is no autonomy between people, then there's no compassion or empathy, just enmeshment......The heart of passion is really acceptance. The better we are at accepting ourselves and others, the more compassionate we become.......It's difficult to accept people when they are hurting us or taking advantage of us...... if we really want to practice compassion, we have to start by setting boundaries and holding people accountable for their behaviour..."
Brené Brown, 2021

"...Boundaries are the distance at which I can love you and me simultaneously..."
Prentis Hemphell as quoted by Brené Brown, 2021

Boundaries are about saying what is OK and is not OK, eg

"...it's okay to change your mind. It is not okay to assume that I'm okay with changes without talking to me......It's okay to disagree with me, but it's not okay to ridicule my ideas and beliefs..."
Brené Brown, 2021

Boundaries are needed to hold people accountable for language, comments or behaviours that marginalise or dehumanise others.

    f) comparative suffering recognises that some emotions, like empathy are not infinite; need to put things in perspective, ie worried and annoyed about lockdowns from COVID-19 pandemic while people are dying from it.



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