Saturday, July 18, 2009

The Language Of Empathy Part 2

So here is where we take all of the pieces of the puzzle that is The Language Of Empathy, and make some sense of them and the process the human mind uses to connect with other people. Obviously you can't just have the pieces, without having a way to put them together to understand them.

The Empathic Process, which was gone over in the last Language of Empathy, has to do with two areas of a person, Emotional and Cognitive Empathy. Within these two categories we have several different things that make up the Empathic Process: Emotional Contagion, Identification, True Empathy, Perspective Taking, Theory of Mind, and Cognitive Empathy.

All of the examples of metaphors and symbols are pieces of this puzzle, that can help enhance ones Empathic experience. So lets look at each and apply the different types of metaphors and symbols to it.

Emotional contagion is taking on the emotions of others that are in one's line of site. To internalize it, though, we use identification and then true empathy, to make it happen. We see their pain, we internalize it, and then we feel real empathy. In this same process, we take the issues we've had, which we used to identify with other people's pain and do a compare/contrast to find similarities, which is perspective taking. And then we use theory of mind, based on our own experiences with these issues, to predict what outcomes will occur with different solutions to the issue at hand. And we choose the best path for the other person we can come up with.

The biggest point to note here is the shifting of perspectives and the identification with other people's suffering through our own experiences. This is where the Language of Empathy occurs. And it all occurs in the form of metaphors and symbols. This would be why this process is sometimes easier to understand for those who work in an artistic medium like visual arts or writing. They have already begun to train their minds how to do this kind of metaphor interpretation so it is easier to apply to real life situations.

Here is the crux of this discussion though. You don't just have your own experiences to draw from as a learning tool in this process. All of the experiences you shared in with other people, music, books, paintings, and everything else can be drawn upon to help you find a solution.

You instinctively know what a song means, based on what it makes you feel. It pulls on you, like experiences in your past have. You instinctively know how a character in a book feels, be relating it to your own experiences, and yes that includes sci-fi. The point isn't the subject of the book, but that its still about human beings which you can relate to on a personal and human level. You see a piece of art and it simply calls to you, for some unknown reason, because its shape, its colors, or its design remind you of past events in your life.

An optical illusion exemplifies this process, even if its purpose is not obvious to the looker, because it forces the mind to consciously shift perspectives. This is done in movies sometimes as well to smooth the transition from one section of film into another. Its also done in poetry, music and art.

To make it easier, lets look at a few examples. Sometime ago I put together a sideshow using nothing but blue eyes, but it tells a story and flows along just like a song or a poem might. Let yourself feel the transition, even though there are no words or music to carry your emotions.

This can be seen in music as well. This song, for someone who has suffered heartbreak, will feel empowering even if they don't care for this type of music, because they can relate to the words and the tempo of the music.

In this piece of art a person can understand and relate to it, because they can see themselves in the place of the subject. It doesn't matter that they have wings. The colors dark hues and subdued tones speak to the subjects state of mind as much as the pose of the body and everything else. Its all in the detail, even if you don't perceive it at the conscious level.

In words it can be found in books and poetry the world over, as people express feelings of their own suffering and that of others. We identify with it because we have suffered, despite the differences in that suffering. Here is an example in a poem:

The Bitter Mirror

Gaze no more into the bitter glass,
for eternity beckons as the time does pass,
where long ago visions echo and haunt,
and voices engraved upon the shattered heart,
belittle and taunt.

Dwell no more on realities past,
for the celestine future is infinite and vast,
where you walk into choices unbound,
and your footsteps tread upon memory's ground.

Learn from today and yesteryear gone,
and raise your voice high in futures resounding song,
for the future, today, and things that echo in recognition stark,
are the lessons you bear to light the way through the dark.

So dwell not upon the mirror that frames so complete
the totality of you where past and present meet,
and look to the stars in heavenly expanse,
for the future is limitless in one single glance.

Where you are complete, single, and whole,
and memories are naught but virtues to extol,
the journey you walked and the path that you tread,
of a life lived well and happy instead.

And to make the point even clearer, even the design of this website was chosen carefully to empower you. Red is a color used for passion and high emotion. The red energy turning into flowers upon the top of rubble is quite literally the potential of what you can do for yourself. And the fact that its not personalized toward me, so you can get to know me, is to allow you to know that this journey, to emotional health and understanding of your gifts is all about you.

This is all the Language of Empathy, as much as dreams, metaphors, and synchronicity. Its about being able to understand how and why we expand our minds and hearts beyond ourselves, to help others, to care for others, and to be the person we were meant to be.

Think about it.

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