#42 Develop More Empathy

Sharing 365 life lessons, tips, or hacks; the things that make life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#42

Develop More Empathy

Empathy plays a major roles in our ability to be socially competent. It is a key trait found in healthy relationships. None of us can exist on our own. Societies thrive when their citizens embrace the values of helping one another. While it’s true that we are all responsible for our own actions, it can be easy to forget just how much the desire to understand others and to work on their behalf matters also.

Benefits for Those Who Give

When we think of being empathetic and doing compassionate deeds, our emphasis is usually on what the person in need, or who is receiving the assistance, gets. It’s rare to look at what you can gain through working on behalf of someone else. Of course, you get the satisfaction and warm feeling of helping. It’s an increase in feel-good neurochemicals that leads to this. Performing compassionate deeds lowers our levels of stress and improves our health.

Empathy for others influences our social growth and competence, as well. Such actions force you to look beyond yourself and broaden your perspectives. Doing so can lessen your own emotional issues such as depression and anxiety. Reaching out to others in times of need builds social connections and enhances interpersonal skills necessary for healthy relationships.  

What Receivers Gain

Those on the receiving end of your empathetic efforts gain the sense that others care, which can go a long way toward improving overall mental outlook and sense of self. They gain trust in the outside world and feel seen. When others show compassion, it can lead receivers to believe that they are being perceived as worthwhile and of value. They feel more trusting and are often more motivated to work toward self-improvement goals.

We never know how the empathy we express may affect the person who receives it and I’m not sure we can have too much empathy as long as we are establishing healthy boundaries along the way. Empathy, compassion, and perspective work hand in hand to make great relationships better. If you’re seeking more growth you can work to….

Develop more empathy.

I love hearing your thoughts and ideas. Please share in the comments below.

#99 Step Back From Negativity

Sharing 365 life lessons, tips, or hacks; the things that make life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#99

Step back from Negativity

Are there any ‘Debbie Downers’ in your life? Any Eeyore types? People who find the dark clouds in life and describe them in detail without ever looking at the liner? Have you ever noticed how you feel when you spend time in the company of these people?

Force Field

People often report feeling ‘drained’ after spending time with negative people. It’s not surprising. When we are exposed to negativity for any length of time, it can feel like an attack against our system. Our natural instinct is to defend against the negativity and so we spend subconscious energy blocking it. The longer we have to keep our shield up, the more exhausting it can become.

Negativity

Of course negative things happen and occasionally they are significant, rendering it almost impossible to distract our focus. It’s always important to be realistic and see things for what they are. Yet, the negativity being called out for the purpose of this post is generally finding and commenting on what’s wrong. It’s expecting the worse. It’s assumptive failure no matter the conditions. It’s a downright failure to seek the light.

Unhealthy

As it turns out – constant exposure to negativity is downright unhealthy. Negativity generally produces stress. Stress produces Cortisol. Elevated levels of Cortisol interfere with our immune function. Compromised immune systems are susceptible to disease, bacteria, and viruses. Negativity stunts creativity. Negativity exposure has also been demonstrated to decrease the power / effectiveness of the Hippocampus – the brain area responsible for reasoning and memory.

Limiting

It keeps us from taking risks necessary to invent, discover, and explore. It stifles our self confidence, our self esteem, and our perseverance. It is destructive to relationships. It destroys hope and encouragement. It’s almost impossible to feel happiness when covered in a shroud of negativity.

If you find yourself exposed to negativity that feels / seems unbalanced or overwhelming, set boundaries. Engage the tenets of self-care and create an exit strategy that allows you to …

Step back from negativity.

I love hearing your thoughts and ideas. Please share in the comments below.

#232 Say No

Sharing 365 life lessons, tips, or hacks; the things that make life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#232

Say No

Are you a people pleaser? Are you challenged to say “no” when people ask you to do something? Are you afraid to let people down or disappointment them?

Full Plates

For those of us that are people pleasers, it is particularly challenging to experience the effect of disappointing people. We tend to over commit ourselves in an effort to meet the things we believe are expectations from others. We crowd our calendars, we stretch our limits, and we spend too much time frazzled as we strive to complete our over extended agendas.

Use Your Voice

Often, we know we are pushing too far… moving past comfortable as our mind screams “NO!” to our unhearing vocal cords that are deaf to our hearts whispers. Before we know it, the word “ok” escapes even though our internal warning systems are vibrating through our physical system. It’s vital that we learn to let our internal voice make become audible and speak the words that our brain is trying to vocalize.

Self Care

Honoring our own time limits and personal space is one of the most elementary components of self care. Before we can take care of others and meet all of their needs, we must make sure to charge our own batteries; stay mentally and physically strong enough to meet the demands of our own life. When we put others needs before ours consistently, we rob ourselves of the ability to stay ‘charged’.

Let ‘Em Down Easy

There isn’t any reason to be brash or offensive as we reject the desires or expectation of others. Most people will understand if we’ve maxed out the hours in our days. Learn to say “I’d love to but I can’t right now” or “I need to finish a few things before I can take on something else.” or … you could just…

Say “no”.

I love hearing your thoughts and ideas. Please share in the comments below.

Photo by Isaiah Rustad on Unsplash

Decisions

Continued from Soulful Expedition

“By your decisions, you paint a portrait of Who You Are” –Neale Donald Walsch

The entire year of 2005 felt disjointed… I vacillated between believing that I was making a good decision and wanting everything to go back to the way it was – well, not really… I wanted it to be the way I wanted it to be. I didn’t want what I had but I did want all of the things that we had dreamt about. I didn’t make those dreams by myself. Hubby was right there, using his own paintbrush to create the portrait of our lives together. I thought we had been painting on the same canvas, using the same colors, and sharing a muse.

Existing in the same environment was unbelievably difficult. It fostered an obscure sense of hope during those moments that were like a transparency overlay of ‘normal’ on the reality we were living. I knew when Hubby didn’t come home at night and I couldn’t help but wonder where he was or who he was with. Even though I didn’t want that mania in my life, I didn’t want to be without it – another conundrum that fought to root in my mind. I just couldn’t get myself to a place where I didn’t care.  In many ways, it was like a slow, excruciating, painful death… seemingly absent of an endpoint.

Frank graduated from college in May that year and I made arrangements to take the girls. I had booked the hotel room six months in advance and shared the location with family so I was surrounded by love as Hubby and I shared the first major life event since decision day, partitioned from one another. We had agreed that we would attempt to ‘co-parent’ effectively right from the beginning but this was our first ‘major’ test. We would have to take pictures that Frank could look at for the remainder of his life – a celebration for him – somewhat tortuous for us as we understood the completeness, the totality of the end of our marriage. And yet, we struggled to believe it.

We would occasionally discuss a reconciliation but I had learned how to establish boundaries of steel. Actually, my boundaries by then were made of vertical steel columns and horizontal I-beams… the kind you find in skyscrapers that keep them vertical regardless of violent summer storms. Those limitations included an exit strategy for Abee from our business and some kind of treatment initiative, a long-term – evidence based – plan to eliminate the potential for infidelity to ever again exist in our marriage. I was unwilling to budge from those two ‘deal breakers’. They were my ‘hard limits’ and they represented the dead end of every bridging conversation we attempted to have. He also had deal breakers.

Nevertheless, we continued to show up – separately – at swim meets, school, and scouting events but didn’t sit together. I wasn’t there yet. There were times when I could feel his eyes seeking mine but I refused to give in and glance back. I was insanely stubborn and unyielding, refusing to be flexible. This is the result of betrayal. It was the only way I knew to ‘fight back’ and the love I had for our children was bigger than the disdain I had for him. I put their interests first to the extent that it wasn’t complete and total disrespect of myself. I had finally learned to put self-respect first.

After being deceived by Hubby and Abee, our therapist fired them as clients but I still went. I was learning a lot about myself although I admit I was still a bit lost. I was directionless. I knew I wanted to share everything I was learning – about life, life lessons, love, God, spiritual growth, I knew there was a message there but I had no credentials other than my life and I was in the middle of some big stuff. I credited my therapist for being the map reader for me … helping me to lay it out and observe the roads, to help me decide on the destination and to plan the route there. I wanted to do that too… I decided that summer that I would become a therapist and was almost immediately dismayed at the expanse of the journey. Five years. I would be fifty. Shit. I felt defeated and bested. I was in the middle of a divorce; how could I make that happen?

Right after Frank graduated from college, I started. I was scared to death of Behavioral Statistics and even more so when this tiny, petite, old (really, she was 70 something) woman walked into the room wearing a full suit with a high collared blouse, buttoned to the top. It was 80 degrees outside and for some reason, there was no air-conditioning. She spoke in a low monotone voice and cleared her throat every 5th word. The chick behind me started texting a mile a minute (I could hear every button push) and I knew I was in trouble. Within a week, I understood that if I raised my hand, asked questions, and demonstrated (well-deserved) respect for my elders… It would all be ok. More than half the class had dropped but I survived. I got a B.  I was encouraged and so I registered for a full semester of Psychology classes, French, and Women’s Studies beginning in September. I had only a few months left before I became a full-time student.

I used that time to educate myself in a different way. I was more fortunate than many, many women like me… I owned half of a company that had some value. I was still married to a man who generated a healthy income and continued to pay the bills so I didn’t ‘have to’ work – not right then at least. I had to believe in divine direction because at any other time before, the circumstances were different, the resources less abundant, and so now… I had options. The timing of the reality provided the capacity for me – with much diligence – to investigate and navigate what would be in my (and the children’s) best interest. I was a hawk. My eyes and ears were everywhere from business evaluation to support allowances. I became an expert traversing Google; discovering resources and precedent for situations like mine and I waited.

With each passing day, I garnered strength. I used my support network, built new alliances, and got informed. I kept my finger on the pulse of the finances in our business and stood up for my rights as co-owner. I will comment again on how difficult it was to walk away from that part of me. The internal struggle to push through it and go to work even if it meant I had to be around Hubby and Abee versus letting go and observing it in action was at times, maddening. On the few occasions that I did drop in for one reason or another, it was like breaking through a barrier betrayal and disillusionment, like what football players do as they enter a stadium for a game rematch each week. I finally had to decide that constant exposure to such painful energy was simply unhealthy for me, keeping me tethered to the shadows of my soul. It was my first true experience of ‘letting go’ that I consciously practiced and it was laborious; a daily endeavor.

My goal was to stay focused on love. I knew that was the most important decision I could make for myself and for my future. I was tempted, so tempted to give in to my anger, my contempt, the humiliation, and sorrow… and occasionally I did, in the form of vile language directed at Hubby or the disparaging conversations I would have with friends or in my thoughts; my ugly thoughts. I am only human though and I knew that love was more dominate in my spirit and so I learned to forgive myself and to keep going.