Tag Archives: empathy

Useful in our weakness


One of the things I’ve learnt is our weaknesses, brokenness and realness can be used.

I used to think being broken and weak was something to be steered clear of. But I’ve found it’s often in my weakness, brokenness and realness that I connect best with people, inspire people, and help people deal with the very things I struggle or struggled with.

People appreciate empathy and compassion. They appreciate being understood. They appreciate knowing others have gone through the same things they have. I know I appreciate all these things in my struggles and it’s often through weaknesses and brokenness that we develop these things.

Just knowing you’re not alone in something is the most comforting thing.

So I’m encouraged by weakness because it can be used. We are not worthless or useless in our weakness. We don’t have to hide our weaknesses or ourselves. Be seen, share out that weakness with a caring heart that wants to lift others up; it is a beautiful thing.

And it is needed. We all have different weaknesses. Let not one person feel alone in theirs. Let not one person feel useless in theirs.

Sometimes it’s in our openness, our honesty and vulnerability – when we are weak – that we can be a strength to others.

She Yelled and Called Me Names


A look at the power of empathy and compassion. . .

Love As A State Of Being And Healing

Love As A State Of Being And Healing

The philosophy of Dharma is a beautiful one; one that describes a grasp of Love for all beings, in whatever form they take in the world. That Love is not conditional, that it does not come with guarantees and that promise to pay is not a part of the Great Love. But Love can become a parody, as well. For instance, I Love Stephen and allways will, but I do not Love every one, but nor do I hate, nor would I wish upon anyone any harm or ill well, nor would I deny someone a hand should they ask. The reason being for that philosophy is that most people are not willing/able to accept Love, and it would be a kind of idiot compassion to project Great Love to someone who would reject or become scared by it, as you can place yourself in a vicious circle of victim consciousness (see videos below). To other people, I can become an instrument to be used and then discarded (as they view all other people).  It is possible to live amicably in the world without loving on all planes of consciousness in the world. It is possible to be kind without loving all of humanity. I do not love all of humanity, yet I do not hate them, because not all humans can accept Love or feel that they are deserving of Love. Would that humanity were different, that we could all be as Powder speaks, and yet, we (as a whole) are not. At least, not at this time.

San Francisco Sessions 2001 *Would I speak to someone who hated me, who wanted to harm me? No, that would be idiot compassion. Would I help someone who was only manipulating me? No, that would be idiot compassion. These are lessons that I have learnt. I do not hate humanity either. I used to. I used to be very misanthropic and self-deprecating, but I have let that go. There is no one to blame, in order to do so; I would have to blame us all. There is no great monster upon whose shoulders stones can be cast….so, hatred is not necessary. But neither can every one alive be trusted or Loved fully. Does that mean it is not possible to live fully in the world, no I do not think so. I think were I to make believe that everyone loves everyone totally and completely and unconditionally or that Love can be on all planes of consciousness/existence would make it so that I could not live fully in the world. Love to me, is like a deep friendship, a bond that cannot be broken save by those in the friendship. On this matter, I agree with Alan Watts and the others. I just do not punish those whom I do not love, because I do not think punishment is a very good learning tool. But I do think to love all of humanity in its current state is a parody of love.

It is possible to engage and to achieve Dharma without that kind of depth of Love for all of humankind, because understanding, honoring, and accepting are a great part of living fully. It is possible to be kind without it being known to the party receiving that kindness, it is possible to be kind without love. Kindness comes from understanding/ comprehension/perception as well

freedLiberation will come, but will it come from Love? I do not know. Liberation arises out of kindness, empathy, sympathy, compassion, understanding, comprehension, acceptance, help, generosity, example, sharing, caring, etc. as well as a Love (on a higher plane of consciousness). This is what I have learnt, what I see in the world. I hope humans one day in some time will be All Love. I hope I am around in some form to witness. In the meantime, I ride the wave and see what I can see, and explore, and embark upon adventures, and find pleasure in finding these things out…following scents on the wind.

Yes, I am speaking of Love in its profound sense, rather than its sentimental/emotional sense. Love can be expressed emotionally, yes, but I do not see it as an emotion. I see Love as a state of being, same as many of the states of being usually attributed to “mere” emotion. I see emotions as much more complex than feeling sad or angry (the idea that sadness is expressed with tears or that anger is expressed with loud voices). Emotions are far more subtle, and are included in the state of being known as Love. I think it is why sometimes when we are happy we may cry, or we can be extremely calm and quiet when we are angry, or we can be even more kind when we hate. Emotions are not so black and white. So, I speak of Love from the state of being (the profound sense). In this way, although it is a parody of Love to speak to all people we encounter with Love (i.e., would you tell the person you just met in the café and had a wonderful conversation that you love them? Yet you may do this to the person with whom you are most intimate, your girlfriend/boyfriend/partner/significant other, yes? You would not hesitate to spontaneously say to that person “I Love you” should they do something that you find yourself suddenly filled with the compulsion to say so? But you would not do this with the “stranger” seated next to you, even though they may do something as profound? This is what I mean in the difference between love as a parody and Love on a different plane). So, it is possible to have the heart open all the time (or as much as possible) to have Love, and yet, not project in this realm, where it is parodied.

the golden dream*Image Credits (all work used with permission through CC license)–
“freed” by new 1lluminati
“San Francisco Sessions 2001 *” by Wolfgang Sterneck
“the golden dream” by AlicePopkorn


For Better Social Skills, Scientists Recommend a Little Chekhov





Wonderful new research on literature, empathy, social skills….

Crying for you


How do you look upon your tears?

Note on Sunday night.

by louisey

Working on empathy in lament, in the written-down song of grief that is also weeping aloud. In front of me a videotaped discussion between academics on the lament of Thetis in the Iliad, Thetis the sea goddess who sits on the beach cradling the head of her  son who lies prone on the ground, unmoving, although he is not dead. He will die in battle and both mother and son know this. There are no secrets between them. Not all the love in the world can save  the son, and all the mother can do is to be with him and wait for what must happen, to grieve her  loss even while he lives

ballongShe is mourning him before he dies, the professor says, and his co-facilitator on the video begins to weep, pushing a bunched up tissue under her spectacles and  getting up, apologising for ‘losing it’. Watching her weep for a  mother mourning her  son who is to die, an unbroken continuum of mourning, a deep heart-broken mourning that  has gone on for perhaps five thousand years since this lament was first sung and wept aloud, I too  feel my eyes filling with tears, shared grief spilling over, I reach for a tissue and  pause the video as I dry my eyes.

Continuum, empathy that is echoed and re-experienced unbroken through civilizations, centuries, generations,  the grief of a mother’s loss spilling out everywhere. Grief wild and bitter and unending as the  ocean itself, but contained by song. Unending grief but also shared grief, the gift of empathy. Those who will  weep with us and  wipe our eyes.

About the author

A Second Time to Second That E-Motion

Emotion Chart

Emotion Chart

The response to my highly E-Motional post from yesterday was quite overwhelming! Enough so, it motivated me to continue with a bit more on the topic. In other words, due to popular demand, I would like to introduce I SECOND THAT E-MOTION – Part 2.

There is something you may have heard about called our EQ. Our EQ is to our feeling and emotional aspect of ourselves as the IQ is to the intellectual, cognitive aspect of ourselves. It is gaining popularity as more and more people are beginning to realize how important it actually is for people to develop maturity in their emotional skills, which help us better understand, empathize and negotiate with other people. As our economy become more global, this is becoming more and more important because we need to carry this maturity with us as we cross continents and work and live more with diverse cultures and norms.

A person’s EQ determines how well you can understand other people, how to work cooperatively with them, and what motivates them.

Self-Awareness –
This is recognizing emotions in the moment, as they happen. It is the key to EQ. It takes practice and more practice because you need to tune into your true feelings, something many of us are very much out of touch with due to all the distractions our lives contain. The only way we can evaluate our feelings is by tuning into them first. Then after we evaluate them, we can set out to manage them. Self-awareness includes:

* Emotional awareness – Recognizing our own emotions and their effects.
* Self-confidence – Be sure about our self-worth and our capabilities.

Self-regulation. Very few of us have any say over when we experience emotions. We do, however, have a lot to say over the intensity of the emotion and its duration. There are a number of techniques we can learn to help anger, anxiety or depression. Utilizing various types of sensory techniques, meditating, praying, or even walking; all are methods for self-regulating. It involves:

• Self-control. Managing disruptive impulses.
• Trustworthiness. Maintaining high levels of honesty and integrity.
• Conscientiousness. Owning full responsibility for your actions.
• Adaptability. Being flexible and bendable, open to change and growth.
• Innovation. Accepting of new methods and ideas.



Motivation. Two things are necessary to succeed. Clear goals and a positive attitude. By being able to tune into negative thoughts right in the moment of their conception, reframing becomes more possible, improving chances to achieve goals. Components of motivation are:

• Achievement drive. The desire to keep improving or reach a level of excellence.
• Commitment. Staying in line with the goals that have been set forth.
• Initiative. Being ever-ready to act on all opportunities as they appear.
• Optimism. Seeing obstacles as stepping stones rather than setbacks.

Being able to tell how others are feeling based on relating and connecting to similar feelings in ourselves – brings us closer to others. The more empathetic one is, the more they are able to excel at:

• Service orientation. Anticipating, recognizing and meeting the needs of others.
• Developing others. Tuning into the needs of others to help them reach their fullest potential.
• Leveraging diversity. Finding common ground between varying cultures and individuals despite their differences.
• Political awareness. Being able to recognize levels of power and the relationships of people within a group.
. Understanding others. Discerning the feelings behind the needs and wants of others.

Social skills. Being able to relate to people from all walks of life on various levels becomes more and more valuable. There is value in being able to connect to others, it makes whatever encounters we have with them easier and more effective. These skills are invaluable:

• Influence. The ability to persuade others.
• Communication. Sending and receiving clear messages.
• Leadership. Inspiring and guiding groups and people.
• Change catalyst. Although it is something most people fear, being able to initiate and manage change is an invaluable skill.
• Conflict management. Understanding, negotiating and resolving disagreements.
• Building bonds. Nurturing relationships.
• Collaboration and cooperation. Working with others toward common goals.
• Team capabilities. Creating good feelings and systems within groups to reach goals.

Emotional Intelligence

Emotional Intelligence

Harvard graduates in business demonstrate how important developing our EQ is for success in life. The more we know and learn about Emotional Intelligence, the happier we can be and more balanced of a life we can live.

Judy is a licensed clinical social worker and has worked extensively as a counselor with children, adolescents, couples and families. Judy’s professional experience in the mental health field along with her love of writing, provide insight into real-life experiences and relationships. Her fresh voice and down-to-earth approach to living a happier, more meaningful life are easy to understand and just as easy to start implementing right away for positive results!

Bearing Witness to Catharsis


ca·thar·sis  (k-thärss)

n. pl. ca·thar·ses (-sz)
1. A purifying or figurative cleansing of the emotions, especially pity and fear, described by Aristotle as an effect of tragic drama on its audience.
2. A release of emotional tension, as after an overwhelming experience, that restores or refreshes the spirit.

I recently had the unique privilege of bearing witness to a friend’s spontaneous release of extreme fear and sadness, bottled up for several years (let’s call this friend, X) after a suicide of a close family member. It happened so innocently during a meal, when the subject came up and someone at the table said to X, “I think you are right all along. You need to acknowledge that there’s evil in this world, and that it was present then, and there’s no way your sister could have fought it”.

Witnessing catharsis as it unravels right before one’s eyes is to me, an astounding human experience. One moment, it was a casual conversation during a meal amongst friends, and the next moment, a bowed head started to shake from side to side, audible sobs, then a scream…”Why?”

When it unfolded without warning, all senses were on high alert – all at once, you feel like you may be in a movie scene – and empathy, once just a well taught & discussed concept in psych class, bursts forth from the deep recesses of my being, bypassing cognition and intellect…mirror emotions of deep deep sadness were hard to hold back. So were the tears which rolled off my cheeks. 

When we witness someone with the somatic presentations of being in trauma, releasing extreme fear and the outpouring of guilt, sadness and disbelief, the mind may not fathom what’s going on then but the heart cannot help but be open and says, “Just be. Reach out. Feel.”

X was trembling, her legs were shaking, her body was rocking, her hands were cold, her face was nearly unrecognisable…stricken with fear. We just held and hugged her, and felt the years of tightly-coiled emotions seeping out from the cells of her body and the depths of her soul. A soul crying desperately to be forgiven and released, as it realises right then, that there really was nothing she could do when someone chooses to end her life.

Why why why…did it have to happen? If only I was there for her…Why didn’t I act on what I suspected? Why must evil exist? She must have been cursed, why did I not protect her? Was her life so sad that she could not live on anymore? Why why why?



I was deeply humbled by what X went through that day…and in awe of her courage. We accompanied her to the exact spot where her sister would have jumped off, the site where her body was found, and then visited her grave for closure. Closure? I think that was the start for X in coming to terms with her loss and releasing herself from the guilt and pain. 

Years ago, during a time of personal crisis coming to terms with what was happening around me, my therapist had this to say when I was stuck at the gates of WHY:  “You may not ever find an answer to the WHY’s, no matter how hard you seek…you will need to accept that you may never know and yet, be able to move on.” 

I hope X can do the same and tread the rest of her days having forgiven herself, and forgiven her sister.

Sally May Tan




How to change the world: Miss Lemonade


What happens when a little girl decides to set up a lemonade stand for peace outside the Westboro Baptist Church headquarters in Kansas? Members of the community step out in droves to show support, even as the hate group tries to quash it.

Five-year-old Jayden, the daughter of Jon Sink, founder of the philanthropic arts group FRESHCASSETTE – Creative Compassion, decided to set up a stand selling pink lemonade at The Equality House on Friday afternoon. The Equality House is a rainbow-colored building directly across the street from Westboro’s Topeka compound. The house, which was painted the colors of the pride flag in March, was bought by Aaron Jackson, one of the founders of Planting Peace, a multi-pronged nonprofit set up in 2004 and aimed at spreading goodwill and equality around the globe.

Jayden, who is from Kansas City, decided to set up her stand at the Equality House after her parents explained to her the significance of its construct. After being told that the church across the street had a message of hate, she set a goal of raising money to go towards a message of love and peace.

So she painted a banner for the event reading, “Pink Lemonade for Peace: $1 Suggested Donation.” She put the stand in the grass and waited. But the waiting didn’t take long. Supporters came in by the droves and $1 turned into hundreds of dollars.

During the day, Westboro sent representatives outside to try and find a way to stop the event. They apparently attempted to call the local police and stooped to yelling profanities when that didn’t work, like calling a group of soldiers who rode out on their motorcycles to suport the event “bastards.”

Westboro’s hate couldn’t stop Jayden. She not only raised $400 during the day on Friday, but she has also collected over $1000 with an online campaign set up through Crowd Rise. Some people donated as little as $10 and as much as $230. One person gave $26, dedicating it to every person killed six months ago in the Newtown, Conn., massacre.

“As we all know, the Westboro Baptist Church puts a lot of hate into the world,” Jackson told HuffPost in an email Friday. “Since we cannot stop them, the next best thing is to smother it with love. That is what 5-year-old Jayden accomplished today! Jayden set up a lemonade stand in front of the church. Not only did she quench the thirst of a lot of loving supporters, the money she raised was donated to Planting Peace so she could help Planting Peace promote a more peaceful world.”

“Jayden represents the natural humanity we are born with,” Davis Hammet, Director of Operations at Planting Peace, added. “We come into this world compassionate, caring beings and only become hateful if we are taught to be.”

Click here if you are interested in donating to Jayden’s Pink Lemonade Stand for Peace.

westboro baptist church lemonade




Role of empathy in both ethical development and one’s development of independence of mind has been a major interest of mine for some time…The link here looks at the  both the research underlying empathy, and also the practical aspects…

How to not be alone

English: Jonathan Safran Foer at the 2007 Broo...

English: Jonathan Safran Foer at the 2007 Brooklyn Book Festival. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A thought-provoking and interesting article, that points to a trend that is scary in some way. Like many things in life, something that can be good, can also often be  bad if it isn`t balanced. One glass of red wine might be good for the health but too many is not recommended. Nuclear weapon can be used for destruction, or for making energy that this planet need.

It is our job to use the internet right. It can be a source for inspiration that open our thoughts and make us more knowledgable, and that is certainly what it was meant for. But we can also use internet the wrong way.

Following you find J. S. Foer`s thoughts on how too much of the internet, can be problematic for us and the society.

———————————————————————————————-A couple of weeks ago, I saw a stranger crying in public. I was in Brooklyn’s Fort Greene neighborhood, waiting to meet a friend for breakfast. I arrived at the restaurant a few minutes early and was sitting on the bench outside, scrolling through my contact list. A girl, maybe 15 years old, was sitting on the bench opposite me, crying into her phone. I heard her say, “I know, I know, I know” over and over.

What did she know? Had she done something wrong? Was she being comforted? And then she said, “Mama, I know,” and the tears came harder.

What was her mother telling her? Never to stay out all night again? That everybody fails? Is it possible that no one was on the other end of the call, and that the girl was merely rehearsing a difficult conversation?

“Mama, I know,” she said, and hung up, placing her phone on her lap.

I was faced with a choice: I could interject myself into her life, or I could respect the boundaries between us. Intervening might make her feel worse, or be inappropriate. But then, it might ease her pain, or be helpful in some straightforward logistical way. An affluent neighborhood at the beginning of the day is not the same as a dangerous one as night is falling. And I was me, and not someone else. There was a lot of human computing to be done.

It is harder to intervene than not to, but it is vastly harder to choose to do either than to retreat into the scrolling names of one’s contact list, or whatever one’s favorite iDistraction happens to be. Technology celebrates connectedness, but encourages retreat. The phone didn’t make me avoid the human connection, but it did make ignoring her easier in that moment, and more likely, by comfortably encouraging me to forget my choice to do so. My daily use of technological communication has been shaping me into someone more likely to forget others. The flow of water carves rock, a little bit at a time. And our personhood is carved, too, by the flow of our habits.

48e17-oxyPsychologists who study empathy and compassion are finding that unlike our almost instantaneous responses to physical pain, it takes time for the brain to comprehend the psychological and moral dimensions of a situation. The more distracted we become, and the more emphasis we place on speed at the expense of depth, the less likely and able we are to care.

Everyone wants his parent’s, or friend’s, or partner’s undivided attention — even if many of us, especially children, are getting used to far less. Simone Weil wrote, “Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity.” By this definition, our relationships to the world, and to one another, and to ourselves, are becoming increasingly miserly.

Most of our communication technologies began as diminished substitutes for an impossible activity. We couldn’t always see one another face to face, so the telephone made it possible to keep in touch at a distance. One is not always home, ee7dbc565aeaf92f11ec5beffdafd24aso the answering machine made a kind of interaction possible without the person being near his phone. Online communication originated as a substitute for telephonic communication, which was considered, for whatever reasons, too burdensome or inconvenient. And then texting, which facilitated yet faster, and more mobile, messaging. These inventions were not created to be improvements upon face-to-face communication, but a declension of acceptable, if diminished, substitutes for it.

But then a funny thing happened: we began to prefer the diminished substitutes. It’s easier to make a phone call than to schlep to see someone in person. Leaving a message on someone’s machine is easier than having a phone conversation — you can say what you need to say without a response; hard news is easier to leave; it’s easier to check in without becoming entangled. So we began calling when we knew no one would pick up.

Shooting off an e-mail is easier, still, because one can hide behind the absence of vocal inflection, and of course there’s no chance of accidentally catching someone. And texting is even easier, as the expectation for articulateness is further reduced, and another shell is offered to hide in. Each step “forward” has made it easier, just a little, to avoid the emotional work of being present, to convey information rather than humanity.

THE problem with accepting — with preferring — diminished substitutes is that over time, we, too, become diminished substitutes. People who become used to saying little become used to feeling little.


teach empathy, and don`t forget to use it, either.

With each generation, it becomes harder to imagine a future that resembles the present. My grandparents hoped I would have a better life than they did: free of war and hunger, comfortably situated in a place that felt like home. But what futures would I dismiss out of hand for my grandchildren? That their clothes will be fabricated every morning on 3-D printers? That they will communicate without speaking or moving?

Only those with no imagination, and no grounding in reality, would deny the possibility that they will live forever. It’s possible that many reading these words will never die. Let’s assume, though, that we all have a set number of days to indent the world with our beliefs, to find and create the beauty that only a finite existence allows for, to wrestle with the question of purpose and wrestle with our answers.

We often use technology to save time, but increasingly, it either takes the saved time along with it, or makes the saved time less present, intimate and rich. I worry that the closer the world gets to our fingertips, the further it gets from our hearts. It’s not an either/or — being “anti-technology” is perhaps the only thing more foolish than being unquestioningly “pro-technology” — but a question of balance that our lives hang upon.

Most of the time, most people are not crying in public, but everyone is always in need of something that another person can give, be it undivided attention, a kind word or deep empathy. There is no better use of a life than to be attentive to such needs. There are as many ways to do this as there are kinds of loneliness, but all of them require attentiveness, all of them require the hard work of emotional computation and corporeal compassion. All of them require the human processing of the only animal who risks “getting it wrong” and whose dreams provide shelters and vaccines and words to crying strangers.


We live in a world made up more of story than stuff. We are creatures of memory more than reminders, of love more than likes. Being attentive to the needs of others might not be the point of life, but it is the work of life. It can be messy, and painful, and almost impossibly difficult. But it is not something we give. It is what we get in exchange for having to die.

Jonathan Safran Foer is a novelist who delivered the 2013 commencement address at Middlebury College, from which this essay is adapted.

A version of this op-ed appeared in print on June 9, 2013, on page SR12 of the New York edition with the headline: How Not to Be Alone.