Thursday, March 18, 2010

Teaching Empathy

When one thinks of Empathy, the question arises, "Can Empathy be taught or is it something ingrained in a person already, a conditioned response based on hypersensitivity, genes, and/or lessons learned in the formative years of life (toddler years)?" I've seen many ideas about this questions over the years, as I studied human development, anthropology, social sciences and psychology. There are also ideas which rise out of more new age thinking about Empaths.

So it is safe to say that quite a few people are thinking about this, with a myriad of responses and theories from mirror neurons (which is basically to say monkey see monkey do) to more complex theories based in the human psyche.

Some new age beliefs, I've found, say that Empaths differ from the rest of society because of their hypersensitivity toward others emotions and emotional states, despite how they came by that hypersensitivity ~ heredity or conditioning. But being an Empath does not necessarily mean you are predisposed to offering Empathy to others. Often times, instead, the Empath is so weighed down by this hypersensitivity that they have the potential to isolate themselves from others more than reaching out to people. What sets an Empath apart, then, isn't their willingness to do reach out but it is their hypersensitivity to others.

That being said, we come back to an idea that I've written about a number of times called Empathic Concern or Compassionate Empathy. This idea takes the Emotional Empathy of an Empath one step further, and adds genuine concern and compassion to it, which in turn pushes the person to offer a helping hand to someone else. Compassionate Empathy is basically something also known as Empathic Concern, which is defined as:
Human beings are strongly motivated to be connected to others. In humans and other higher mammals, an impulse to care for offspring is almost certainly genetically hard-wired, although modifiable by circumstance.

Empathic concern refers to other-oriented emotions elicited by and congruent with the perceived welfare of someone in need. These other-oriented emotions include feelings of tenderness, sympathy, compassion, soft-heartedness, and the like. Empathic concern is often and wrongly confused with empathy.

To empathize is to respond to another's perceived emotional state by experiencing feeling of a similar sort. Empathic concern or sympathy not only include empathizing, but also entails having a positive regard or a non-fleeting concern for the other person.
In saying that Empaths are hypersensitive toward others emotions and emotional states, this does not limit this idea to only Empaths. Almost everyone, barring an illness like sociopathy or other mental illness, is hypersensitive, to a certain degree, to those around them. So the question goes from "Can it be taught..." to "How does one raise a person's awareness enough to feel it? How do you teach Empathy?". Let's look at some of the ways.

Teaching Empathy

Teaching Empathy to another person is both a simple and complicated idea, at the same time. It's a relatively simple concept with a great deal of depth beneath it in the scope of how it can be utilized and taught. The basic idea is that you give the person what they need to integrate this personality trait into themselves~empathy.

Now this is achieved by something called positive manipulation. So before you get upset thinking '!', keep reading and I'll elaborate. Positive manipulation is a uplifting interaction between two people with the motivation of healing. And its done at all kinds of levels. So lets look at some of those.

Speaking respectfully to someone, even when you disagree with them on a topic is positive manipulation. Validating another person's feelings of hurt and anger, even when your first inclination is to get mad at them, is a form of positive manipulation. Showing concern and compassion for a person's plight, is positive manipulation. In this case, the word manipulation can be interchangeable with a word like reinforcement ~ positive reinforcement.

By being an example, a model, and a catalyst of change in a person's life, you have the potential to help shape their perceptions indirectly. What this means is that if you offer someone a helping hand and show them loving compassion, that is potentially a catalyst for change within their lives. And it carries with it ripple effects of how they will choose to develop themselves, what traits they will embody, and how they will interact with others. And by being a model or example, simply by offering them a helping hand, you have ingrained something on their hearts they won't forget.
"I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel."
~~Maya Angelou
This is why there are so many levels one human being can influence another, and why its called manipulation, positive though it maybe. Because with every word you say, every story you share, every image you give, every facial expression, the tone of your voice, the body language, and the emotions behind those things, you influence the person beside you, more so than you probably realize right now.

You evoke emotions in them. You stir their minds to think, grow and develop in new directions. And in the simplest of actions, you are influencing another person's path ~ just through simple interaction with that person. Ripple effects which cascade far into the future and touch untold numbers of people you will have no direct contact with.

But there is more to this idea, as well. So let me stop here for a moment and tell you a story.

A young girl by the name of Serah, grew up in an abusive home. She suffered from constant neglect and physical abuse from her family. And she was constantly, on top of being physically abused, told that she was nothing, a burden, garbage, and so on. It even reached a point where her family told her they would be better off if she didn't exist at all.

Serah grew into a teenager who lived in abject terror of being alone. So any guy who showed interest in her was acceptable, despite the way he treated her. By adulthood she had been raped on numerous occasions, beaten to the point of being hospitalized, and was married to the same kind of man as all the ones before him. She had little education, because that was always a secondary focus to her relationships.

And then a day came, after a particularly violent bout with her husband, while she was lying in the hospital, where a woman came to talk to her. She quietly listened as Serah talked about what had happened to her and showed her compassion. And she gave Serah an address she could goto to escape her husband if she wished to. But, at that singular moment, Serah wasn't quite ready to leave him, because she still hoped he would change. The woman didn't push the issue, and merely said, "That place is there if you need it. Think about it."

So, Serah went home to her husband, who was all apologies and love. And she was contented for a while, forgetting about the woman and the address. But then, as is often the case in domestic violence, one day her situation changed again into one of violence. This time, it was within an inch of her life. And this time, she remembered the address.

Battered, bruised, emotionally wounded and exhausted, she went there for help and.....
The point of this story is to show you how one catalyst, one nameless and faceless person in a sea of faces and names, can have a monumental effect on another human being. But it doesn't have to be only in extreme cases like Serah. It happens at all kinds of levels in all kinds of situations. The story ends the way it does, because its not about what she chooses to do with the gift of hope she's been offered, its simply the fact that it was offered at all in the first place, which in essence became a catalyst of change.

So how does one teach Empathy? It can be done through movies, music, television, books, art, and other types of writing, because these are expressions of human emotion which were conceptualized within a human heart and mind first, before being recreated in another medium. But those are accents and reinforcement for something that one can not escape when one is teaching Empathy ~ direct human interaction (online or offline). Because one can be inspired by the characters in fiction, but one can not truly model themselves after such figures in totality because there is what is written or acted out, and nothing more.

Having the patience and the humility to teach, consistently and earnestly, is what inspires and motivates more than anything else. It doesn't matter what the subject is, be it a math tutor, a friend, a minister, a nurse, a husband/wife or whatever....its the willingness to reach out, offer compassion, show patience, listen with humility, and the willingness to help that causes a long lasting effect on the person beside you.

This is done by a two fold idea. You, as the model or example, and them delving into themselves to deal with their issues. The more they see, recognize, and understand about their own issues, pain, and suffering, the more they will come to understand others in their own time of need. And the more likely they will be to willingly choose to reach out to those people, as well.

Teaching Empathy isn't a hard idea, as I said. It's relatively simple. You do it without even realizing it, more than you probably realize at the conscious level. We do it with our children when we teach them to share. We do it with one another as we get closer to each other. It's just a natural part of life. And yet, by realizing consciously what you can do with this, one person can potentially change the world, all be it indirectly.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Jester Empath: Humor & Empathy

When one thinks of an Empath, one probably doesn't imagine a Jester. In fact, that's probably the furthest thing from one's mind when one thinks of Empathy, which is defined as understanding and entering into another's feelings.

But humor, even the teasing randomness of the Jester, can become a tool of Empathy, much like reading a person's body language and way of speaking and copying it to set a person at ease. Generally, the latter is done unconsciously without realizing it because this instinctive action allows one to more easily associate with another person. And this type of instant empathic mimicry is based off of something called mirror neurons. (I will offer more information on Mirror Neurons at the end of this discussion.)

Humor has been proven to reduce stress in others, because smiling and laughing releases pent up tension and allows one to relax. Let me show you some of the benefits of laughter on people:

Stress Management Benefits of Laughter:

  • Hormones: Laughter reduces the level of stress hormones like cortisol, epinephrine (adrenaline), dopamine and growth hormone. It also increases the level of health-enhancing hormones like endorphins, and neurotransmitters. Laughter increases the number of antibody-producing cells and enhances the effectiveness of T cells. All this means a stronger immune system, as well as fewer physical effects of stress.
  • Physical Release: Have you ever felt like you "have to laugh or I'll cry"? Have you experienced the cleansed feeling after a good laugh? Laughter provides a physical and emotional release.
  • Internal Workout: A good belly laugh exercises the diaphragm, contracts the abs and even works out the shoulders, leaving muscles more relaxed afterward. It even provides a good workout for the heart.
  • Distraction: Laughter brings the focus away from anger, guilt, stress and negative emotions in a more beneficial way than other mere distractions.
  • Perspective: Studies show that our response to stressful events can be altered by whether we view something as a 'threat' or a 'challenge'. Humor can give us a more lighthearted perspective and help us view events as 'challenges', thereby making them less threatening and more positive.
  • Social Benefits of Laughter: Laughter connects us with others. Also, laughter is contagious, so if you bring more laughter into your life, you can most likely help others around you to laugh more, and realize these benefits as well. By elevating the mood of those around you, you can reduce their stress levels, and perhaps improve the quality of social interaction you experience with them, reducing your stress level even more!
In other words, in helping someone to smile and laugh, you are offering them Empathy, because you are helping them relieve their stressful emotions (pain, anger, and so on). And this is just as beneficial to the person, as offering them a loving shoulder on which to lean and a willing ear so that they can pour their hearts out.

Now, this is not appropriate for all situations, obviously. And it is always advisable to use your best judgment on a case by case basis, depending on circumstances. But never be afraid to introject a little bit of humor into a discussion to lighten the mood or to make someone stop and smile suddenly at the randomness of it or the stupidity of it. Because that, like listening with an open and loving heart, is just as healing as the Empathy you are sharing with them in that one single moment together, where there is only you and that person focused on their wounds.

There are many ways to help begin to mend a wound, not just compassion and Empathy. So, think about it and utilize it. And then remember the Jester Empath, because it is always a useful skill to be able to utilize.

More On The Benefits Of Laughter:
Places To Find Jokes:
More About Mirror Neurons:

Friday, March 5, 2010

Poetry For The Heart

Sometimes, I offer poetry as a means of sharing, understanding, and even teaching at times. So I offer you these three poems. ^_^

The Crossroads of Infinite Emotions

My path has never lead me
down the road of endless summer's pleasure
and neither has my path unfolded
to the cries of joyful elation resounding.
Instead my path has flowed with the tide,
crashing waves of vibrant color upon the sandy dunes,
and ebbing back into its fathomless ocean home
to sleep in gentle repose.
And I walk upon the rocky soil with
cuts upon my red stained and calloused feet.
I walk in hunger, but not for food,
and dream of quenching my constant thirst.
I tread in silence with exhaustion
laid bare upon my burdened soul.
But still I climb the jagged cliffs
to reach the mountain snow,
whose purity is the blessing of endurance
and the promise of tomorrow's growth.
My path is unsure but definitive yet,
for adversity's trials,
from which I come and
where my journey leads,
will guide me home to my eternal peace.

My path has never lead me
down the road of endless sorrow,
without sanctuary and reprieve
in order that I might bath
in the depths of my own salty tears
to wash away the dirt and grime.
My path is full of questions
and I am always seeking.
And for every answer I attain,
a hundred fold more questions
seek my attention,
to draw me from my path.
But my gait is steady
and my footfalls sure
as they bore deep into the moist earthen soil.
I take heart and draw strength
from the crickets, stars, and shadows
that dwell in the night.
And I am nourished by the
wondrous peace of nature in harmony
as I lay cradled safely
by the loving arms of the dawn
and the gentle smile of the dusk.

It Is Enough

I have walked across shattered lands,
scattered, littered
with shards of glass
beckoning the feet to tread upon them.

I have walked in desolate shadowlands
coated in ash and drenched in despair
once, twice, forever
I return to this place, again and again.

People call out its name,
chaos, oblivion, the abyss ~
but for me it is a land teeming with life,
of those who are lost,
of those who are wounded,
of those who are broken.

And when I hear the beckoning call say,
why do you return to such a war torn place,
where the people are lost,
and the people are wounded,
and the people are broken?
I know within myself the answer to its query,
for it shines like a beacon within the darkness
guiding my journey and illuminating my path.

I can be nothing more than I am,
and I am no more than I can be,
and offer all that is within me
to any who cry out in need.

If it is enough to lift the veil
upon another's brow,
to scatter the darkness
and illuminate their eyes,
then I am content.

If all that I am
is not enough to raise them
above the darkness they
drown themselves in,
then I am also content
that I have tried,
even in the face of failure.

I know no shame
for word and deed
that I have offered up to the world,
for I am no more than I can be
and nothing more than I am.
And that is enough,
even in the eyes of failure,
even in the eyes of betrayal,
even in the eyes of prejudice,
and even in the eyes of abuse.
It is enough.

I do not weep for what I am not.
I do not mourn for what I can not be.
For what I am now,
in the singular moment of now,
I am complete in my totality,
and it is enough.

And never do I walk alone,
for there beside me,
to stand at my side and guide my hand,
is me,
and it is enough.

And in the face of
and the abyss,
it is enough,

Never truly do I walk alone,
whether I step back into the darkness
to reach a hand out to a wayward soul,
or walk on into the light of the unknown
to experience an unfathomable journey,
for it is enough.

In all things,
in all times,
in all places,
it is enough.

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, happy instead.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Expectations: The Perfect Dream

Let's talk about expectations. What is it? How do we develop them? Are they realistic or not? And what happens when life doesn't meet our expectations, whatever they may be: relationships, job success, living standards, and so on. And should one hold any sort of expectations in life?

So lets jump right into this discussion with some definitions, so we really get a feel for what we are asking and talking about. And then, we will move deeper into this discussion.


One website defines Expectations as:
    1. The act of expecting.
    2. Eager anticipation: eyes shining with expectation.
  1. The state of being expected.
    1. Something expected: a result that did not live up to expectations.
    2. expectations Prospects, especially of success or gain.
  2. Statistics.
    1. The expected value of a random variable.
    2. The mean of a random variable.
The same website defines Success as:

  1. The achievement of something desired, planned, or attempted: attributed their success in business to hard work.
    1. The gaining of fame or prosperity: an artist spoiled by success.
    2. The extent of such gain.
  2. One that is successful: The plan was a success.
And again, the same website (yeah I like this website), defines Competition as:

  1. The act of competing, as for profit or a prize; rivalry.
  2. A test of skill or ability; a contest: a skating competition.
  3. Rivalry between two or more businesses striving for the same customer or market.
  4. A competitor: The competition has cornered the market.
The same website defines an Ideal as:

  1. A conception of something in its absolute perfection.
  2. One that is regarded as a standard or model of perfection or excellence.
  3. An ultimate object of endeavor; a goal.
  4. An honorable or worthy principle or aim.
    1. Of, relating to, or embodying an ideal.
    2. Conforming to an ultimate form or standard of perfection or excellence.
  1. Considered the best of its kind.
  2. Completely or highly satisfactory: The location of the new house is ideal.
    1. Existing only in the mind; imaginary.
    2. Lacking practicality or the possibility of realization.
  3. Of, relating to, or consisting of ideas or mental images.
  4. Philosophy.
    1. Existing as an archetype or pattern, especially as a Platonic idea or perception.
    2. Of or relating to idealism.
The Building Of Expectations

From an early age we, as both male and female children, are bombarded with images of what the ideal man or woman is supposed to be, what relationships are supposed to be, what success truly is, how we must compete with others to achieve that success, and so on. Let's look at how, from our formative years when we are at our most impressionable, we are conditioned to have certain and specific expectations later in our lives, individually, through gender, and as a whole.

The things that we will be focusing on, are by far not the only influencing factors that should be considered. These are but a few of the more obvious ones which help to shape a person's perceptions of the world and how they will interact in it. So when you read this, try to think of other contributing factors which might add to certain and specific perceptions people carry with them through their journeys of life.
One comes to believe whatever one repeats to oneself sufficiently often, whether the statement be true of false. It comes to be dominating thought in one's mind.
~~Robert Collier
The Female

Young girls are often given toys that perpetuate a specific type of ideal for the developed woman, which tends to adhere to the back of their minds. Take Barbie, for instance. She is gorgeous, with her long shiny blond hair, blue eyes, buxom figure and perfect proportions. And girls, over many generations (because Barbie has been a mainstay on the market for kids for over 50 years) have played with her, enacting fantasy lives of relationships, dramas, and all kinds of other things, using her as the ideal they represent themselves with as they play.

Barbie even comes with her own built in boyfriend, who has existed, if not for quite as long as Barbie herself, for a long time, as well. His name is Ken and isn't he 'dreamy'? He's the perfect boyfriend, who is handsome (to an extreme) with his perfect features, muscles, and his devotion to Barbie. He is, to the girl who plays with this set of toys, an ideal for the man she will look for later in life, with the same attributes she associated with Ken when she played with him as a child.

We must not forget the fairy tale aspect of this, as well, with whimsical stories told by the likes of Disney, where in the virtuous and (always) beautiful maiden is being repressed and/or abused in some way, and then is rescued by a prince who is handsome and the epitome of chivalry and gentlemanly comportment.

Take Cinderella as an example. She is a fair maiden who is being oppressed and abused by her stepmother and her two step sisters. And the one who ends up saving her, rescuing her from her horrid existence, is a prince who takes her away to a castle and marries her. Its a rags to riches story that makes every young girl's heart throb and enables them to dream of their future relationships through the tinted window set forth by such fables.

Such iconic figures of beauty, romance, and perfection are all around us from models who walk the catwalk to beauty photos in magazines, and beyond. And all of these things help to shape the perceptions a young girl will carry into her adult life, into her adult relationships, and into other aspects of her life, as well. And despite what culture this is or what icons are used (speaking to culturally specific icons of the ideal female), it still plays a large part of building the perceptions of the child, which they will carry with them into adulthood.

The Male

Young boys are often given, as opposed to females who are given dolls to play with, guns and iconic figures which represent what is considered the ideal male figures. One example of this is GI Joe. This is a team of diverse men (and a few women thrown in for the heck of it), who are considered ideal soldiers in peek condition, who are highly trained to fight evil ~ that of Cobra, which is an evil organization bent on leaving chaos and destruction in there wake, wherever they go.

Then there are other iconic figures, from comic books (even older than Barbie), television shows and/or cartoons, and movies, such as Superman. Superman is the epitome of everything that is good. He's dubbed affectionately as 'The Boyscout' because of just how good he is. He's handsome, strong, brave, has superpowers, is successful, and is just an all around great guy who selflessly puts himself in harms way to save/help people who are in need.

Boys who play with the toys that are associated with these icons, enact scenarios in which they, as their iconic action figures, become superheros and save the day from certain destruction or overwhelming evil forces. And this helps set the tone for how they are expected to behave and what they are expected to achieve later in life.

On top of this, young boys, are exposed to all kinds of media ads about women: what true beauty is and looks like, what to find attractive in a mate, and what is considered ugly. Thin is better than fat, generally (at least through the media's perception of beauty). And there are many other superficial traits which are deemed as 'pretty' because of societal perceptions of beauty, as well as media ones.

All of these things play on the developing perceptions of a young boy as he is growing up. They shape what he thinks and feels toward those around him, later in life. They shape how he will behave toward others, as well. So it is extremely important to understand that these things quite literally help to shape the way men interact in society as a whole, along with how they will interact on a more personal level in their closer relationships.

Beyond Gender

Kids, from a young age into adolescence, are often taught that to succeed in life they must compete. Now this does not necessarily mean that they are encouraged to compete physically. There are all kinds of competitions which come in many forms: intellectual, physical (athletic), musical, and otherwise.

In the intellectual sphere this can be seen through grades. Perhaps they are encouraged to do well in school, and compete with others to make the honor roll. Perhaps this escalates into making all A's. And perhaps there is undue pressure placed upon the child and/or adolescent to achieve. There may even be guilt associated with it, if failure to live up to these expectations occurs, which pushes the child to work harder to achieve the goals set before them.

In the physical arena, what this means is that children/adolescents are encouraged to be physically active in some type of sport and compete. This could be anything from running, to gymnastics, to baseball, to football, to tennis to....well just about any other kind of physical sport that exists.

The point is, despite what venue the conditioning comes from, children are conditioned to perceive certain things as keys to being 'successful' through competition.

Ironically there are even people out there who offer suggestions, rules, and keys to success (sometimes for a price and sometimes not). They say that they have a way to make you successful, and for anyone, adolescent or adult, who does not feel as though they have achieved their goals in life, this might sound like a god send. And for some it might be, while for others its just another thing to try and fail at. Let's look at one such list of suggestions shall we? (note you can see the full sized image by clicking on the image itself)

Realistic Expectations Vs. Unrealistic Expectations

Now that we've looked at the definitions and discovered some of the ways certain expectations are developed within people, lets look at realistic expectations and unrealistic expectations. Because this discussion isn't to say that one shouldn't hold any expectations in life. More to the point, it is to discover what some viable expectations are compared to some that just aren't realistic.

The Prince Charming

Many adolescent and adult women hold certain expectations about their relationships. These expectations not even be consciously realized, either. But, what some are dreaming of (and I say some here), is a gallant knight on a white steed coming along to carry them away from their humdrum lives or to save them from the suffering, abuse or trauma that they are suffering in their lives. They want a savior.

Does this harken you back to the part of this discussion where we talked about fairy tales and Barbie? Interesting, isn't it?

The Perfect Body

Many adolescent and adult women desperately want the perfect body. They will even go to such extreme lengths as eating disorders, body modification through plastic surgery, and constant dieting (not specifically eating disorder related though). And this is based on what they perceive as beautiful, due to the media perception of beauty which is all around them.

Does this remind you, yet again, of our discussion about Barbie? Again, its interesting, don't you think?

The Perfect Man

Men have specific criteria they tend to live by, in order to feel as though they are good men, successful men, good lovers, good providers, a great catch (for women), good fathers, good protectors, and so on. These criteria might differ from individual male to individual male, but all men tend to possess this to some degree or another. It has been ingrained into them to the degree that they identify themselves with these ideals.
"The gyms you go to are crowded with guys trying to look like men, as if being a man means looking the way a sculptor or an art director says."
~~Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club, Chapter 6
Perhaps, for a specific man, he was raised, from a young age, to believe real men didn't show emotion because they must be perceived as strong at all times. He was given toy guns to play soldier, cops/robbers, and other games with. He was given video games, comic books, magazines, and television programs which also reinforced the idea of being unemotional as a protector, which was equated with a 'real man'.

These ideas tend to carry over, as we've said throughout this discussion. Does this remind you of our discussion about G.I. Joe and Superman? Intriguing, isn't it?

The Ideal Woman: Through The Eyes Of A Man

Most of the time, what a man considers his ideal woman, at least at a superficial level, is beauty. This is because he tends to see magazines, videos (even the more risque videos and magazines), and other media publicity about what is truly beautiful in this world. Perhaps its a certain feature they find appealing. Perhaps its simply a big chest. All of these are possibilities. It isn't until later, that the male finds real commonality with a female, beyond the more superficial traits that attracted them in the first place.

Again, does this remind you about our discussion of what young boys are generally exposed to? Again, it is definitely intriguing.

Realistic Vs. Unrealistic

All of the above examples are, for the most part, unrealistic expectations of what they can expect in their lives. Does this say that it is unrealistic for everyone, though? No. There are always exceptions to the rule. The point here is to understand that those are few and far between, and hoping that you are that exception to the rule, blinds you to very real possibilities that come your way because you are effectively holding out for 'what could be'.

I met a very nice woman recently, who went on and on about twin flames. After a procession of failed relationships, and even several failed marriages, she dreamed of meeting the perfect man. He would be someone who completely understood her, even to the point that she did not even need to speak for him to understand her feelings and thoughts. He would also be someone who was her spiritual counterpart.

Now, do these things exist? Who am I to naysay their existence one way or another? Who am I to judge, really? But the chances of her finding that one person, out of 6 billion people, who is her spiritual counterpart and soulmate, are extremely low. And in holding onto that ideal, she has effectively passed up a number of men who would have been excellent matches for her. But because they did not fit her ideal, she shut them out and walked away from them without really giving them a chance.
“Time is swift, it races by; Opportunities are born and die... Still you wait and will not try - A bird with wings who dares not rise and fly.”
~~A. A. Milne
This is what I mean by realistic and unrealistic expectations. It is not a bad thing to hope and dream for someone who, as she describes it, is her twin flame. But it is also not realistic to cling so hard to that ideal that you pass up chance after chance at happiness because it does not fit the criteria you outlined for your happiness. Happiness can occur at the most random moments and in the strangest of places, if we allow ourselves to be open and receptive to it.

Earlier we discussed competition and success, and how conditioning can push us forward to achieve our goals. And this, taken at face value, is an extremely positive thing. It can bring on happiness and satisfaction with life. But what if that conditioning is carried to far?

What if a parent pushes their child to hard to make A honor roll? What if a parent pushes a child to hard to be a success in athletics? What if a parent pushes their vicarious and unfulfilled dreams onto their child, in the hopes of making them achieve what the parent was unable to do? What if a parent sees their child's success as their meal ticket (such as in show business or athletics)?
“It is important not to have the unrealistic expectation that we will find a magic key to help get rid of all suffering. It takes determination, patience, and more than one week.”
~~Tenzin Gyatso, The 14th Dalai Lama quotes (Dalai Lama, b.1935)
This driving need for perfection, be it in relationships, sports, intellect, or whatever else you wish to apply it to, is extremely unrealistic. It does not say that one can not achieve greatness through hard work. That's been proven time and time again. But, sometimes, at what price?
"Dreaming is one thing, and working towards the dream is one thing, but working with expectations in mind is very self-defeating."
~~Michael Landon
Setting realistic goals, with the hopeful expectation of achieving those goals, is admirable. Living a life that makes you happy, whatever that may be, is a true blessing. Doing what you love, is a god send. And being who you truly are, and not what others want you to be because of their expectations of you or what you imagine you should be based on your own unrealistic expectations of yourself, is a thing to be fought for.

Dreams of perfection are wonderful things. And they are beautiful things to strive for. But somewhere in the middle, remember that you are there and you deserve happiness, even if you have not reached your ideal. And that you are, just as you are now, a special person. So, think about it.
“The best things in life are unexpected - because there were no expectations.”
~~Eli Khamarov

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Kind Words..

After I affirmed nonviolence, some people thought my journey of non violence started right from that moment. But the real story is different.

I read the biography of Mahatma Gandhi when I was a teenager and I read many Hindu religious books which spoke of non violence. In Bhagavadgeetha, the holy scripture of Hindus, God himself said - (An Extract from His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada's Bhagavad-gita )
anudvega-karam vakyam
satyam priya-hitam ca yat
svadhyayabhyasanam caiva
van-mayam tapa ucyate
"Austerity of speech consists in speaking
words that are truthful, pleasing, beneficial,
and not agitating to others, and also in
regularly reciting Vedic literature."

  • The words you speak out should be suffused with Love (prema). Whatever we utter, it should be truthful and be in harmony with our thoughts (mind). "Satyam nasti Parodharmaha" is the Vedic enunciation, There is no truth other than Dharma, but it should be spoken sweetly. 
  • One should not utter something, even though it be truth, which will hurt others. That is why it is said in Bhagawad Gita "Anugveda KaramVakyam..." Your words should not injure the feelings of others..
  • Excitedly you should not talk nor should your words cause agitation in others. Your words should be filled with Love (Prema) and should be good and for the good of others.
  • No vehemence, no rhetoric, no harshness should be in your speech. Softness, gentleness, truthfulness and love should be the characteristics of what you speak. This is what is meant by austerity of speech. This should characterize whatever we speak and utter in our day-to-day life, from morning till night.
Though I went through all the books and heard many discourses which spoke of the importance of speech and how well and kind we should speak in our day to day lives. I was not the girl I am now. If I look into my past, I was a girl, who always wanted to be frank and straight forward and Miss reveal truth. And I was very pleased trying to sell my intelligence in words and actions. I thought I should represent what I am and thought  it was natural for people to find me intelligent because all I talk is sense. Now I know everything I was and my attention grabbing behavior was my insecurity, I also found that, in all that ignorance, I caused a lot of pain to others with my speech,actions and thoughts, ignoring the harm I did to myself.

So When did Miss Frank actually realized the importance of speech? And the answer to this question is .. When a woman as plain as your neighbor healed me by speaking just KIND to me. You may ask me, have you never heard any kind words in your whole life? I would say.. Yes never.. I might have heard them from my relatives, friends who had an intention to take advantage or manipulate or trying to fool me around or true discourses from intelligent species. But never from one person who really wanted to speak kindly just believing me and trying to help.

There is a lot of difference between sweet talk and talking kindly. You can never talk kindly to yourself or others,  if you are not capable of loving a person selflessly. Yes, there is a lot of difference. The intent to help others with selfless love and finding bliss in healing others is the magic that can heal the other person in need.

I met my angel over chatting on a website community and she spent with me hours and hours listening to my pains, troubles and real problems. I keep on throwing on her all my pains and she listened to me with all the patience and kindness and she never uttered an unkind word. We don't knew each other personally. And she never felt troubled with all the complaining I was doing. She believed me and her belief was true.

I stand today as a product of her belief. The shell of my pain, hurt and suffering broke with her selfless love and compassion and her each kind word brought the real person out of me. This butterfly you see now is a product of love and kindness. The burden of pain bent my back and people hated to see my hunchback. No one cared to heal me. Once in a while God blesses us with angels like the one who healed me. Just know that its time to make an effort to break the shell and come out and fly. I know such people are rare but trust me, pray God as many times you can to bless you with help. And you will get it, in one way or other and then remember me, All I want to say is, Make an effort and break that shell, you will be alright. And then again remember me, All I want to say is Give it back, Speak kind words and love selflessly it will come back to you again. If you think you did not receive that help till now.. Then too Love selflessly and speak kind words, the law of God is a law that is always same for any one. It will get back to you. I believe that.

This article is written with a message, I want to share. Make an effort to get out of the shell of pain, suffering and hurt. It is not always that we receive kindness and a helping hand. But when you receive it make an effort. And understand the importance of speaking kind words. Always and always speak kind, If some one is speaking unkindly, forgive them because it is the hurt and ignorance that is speaking not their true soul. Hang on.. it is just a while that they will break out of that shell. Help them by speaking kindly. You may not yet aware, you are a chosen angel in someone's life.

Love you a lot Angel.
You are blessed.

I took my Vow here
You can read His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada's Bhagavad-gita here
Image credits : Victoria  Schofield

Forgiveness & Healing For You

I was told by a woman recently that she was unable to forgive those who have hurt her in her life. It was as though even bring up the idea of forgiveness was a foreign idea to her. And perhaps it was.

It took me many years of struggling with this concept to truly understand why I should forgive those who had hurt me. It wasn't a justification of their actions against me or a validation of their behaviors. It wasn't an act of me surrendering. In saying "I forgive you", it wasn't about them at all. It was about me and me alone.

In taking that one step, I was finally able to start healing myself in ways I simply couldn't conceive of before. This is because I clung so tightly to the past, in what had been done to me, and the emotions that rose out of those moments of suffering, that for me....they still existed in the now.

In other words, they weren't the past at all because I kept reliving them over and over again in my life, every time I got close to someone or felt like they were anything like my perpetrators. It was like acting out the emotions that I couldn't express during those moments of suffering, because I was to young or to naive at the time, in a cycle that repeated itself over and over again. And it left me feeling out of control and wondering why life was dealing me such a blow after having suffered so much already.

It reached a point where the people who were like my abuser, pedophiles to be exact, appeared subhuman to me. It gave me an excuse to hate, while feeling love and forgiveness for all other kinds of people. And on the one hand, one could say I deserved to hate them for what was done to me. Who wouldn't, right?

It took a monumental effort on my part to consciously forgive them, which I might add did not justify their actions toward me or anyone else or make me any less empathetic toward other victims. But in doing it, it released the chains that bound me to a past that I could not change and had no control over, because I was so young.

That was my journey, though. And for others, sometimes the important thing isn't to consciously forgive those who hurt them. Sometimes, by merely continuing to live their lives the best way they can, the pain finally ebbs ~ slowly lessening over time until the person wakes up one morning and realizes it does not control them or bind them as it used to.

This is because the traumatic emotions of that time hold less weight in the light of this person's new life, which they forged for themselves despite what bound them to the past. This too is forgiveness in its own way, because this person wakes up one day and realizes they are to live, love, and simply feel. And this is also a feat of monumental strength.

But it doesn't mean either of these paths is right for you, individually. We all process and deal with our suffering and our traumas differently. And that's okay. Do what works best for you, without shame or regret, because there is no right or wrong way to go on living....there is simply your way, which is what works best for you.

So even if you are not able to say out loud something like, "I forgive you", to those who have hurt you, its okay. Even if, at this moment, you can't even imagine ever forgiving those who hurt you, its okay. We all go through a process, where in we deal with those chains that bind us. And you are not are never this process, no matter how you might feel to the contrary, as though no one understands what your going through or how much pain you feel.

Monday, March 1, 2010

The Levels Of Hate: Even Through The Eyes Of An Empath

I hate you!

Hate, what a hard edged word, which makes one think of emotions like bitterness, resentment, abuse, prejudice, and many other things to numerous to write. Some of them, so abhorrent, that you would not even want to imagine them like hate crimes, rape, and murder. But I will digress from talking about the latter for now, simply because those are extreme versions of hate, and I would prefer to focus on more basic forms of hate right now.

So let's look at hate, shall we? And before you assume this has absolutely nothing to do with you, because you are perhaps an Empath....remember one simple thing. We all have had moments, without exception, in our lives where we have had the momentary thought of "I hate _____ (insert name here)", for whatever reason.

My daughter, who is a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP) and an Empath, said much the same thing to me recently in connection with her sister. And it was nothing more than a momentary reaction to a fight they had been having at the time. Does this mean she actually hates her sister deep down? No, not really. Her long term feelings for her sister, which are that she does love her sibling, were simply set aside for a momentary reaction to the situational circumstances she was confronted with in the form of a heated fight, where in both exchanged some nasty comments with one another. And this is very normal, between siblings.

But this single episode, which is a relatively regular thing in my household (and probably many others, as well), got me thinking about the word hate and what it really means. Do we really hate the people, we claim to hate, or do we hate their behaviors, how they treat us, how they see us, and what they do to us ~ like belittle us, abuse us, mistreat us, and so on?

Now please don't misunderstand me here, I realize there is real hate in this world. And there are real atrocities perpetrated based on that hate. But I'm not talking about the kind of hate which is born out of atrocities. I'm talking about normal every day moments, when we say out loud or think to yourselves, "God, I hate that person!!!" In this I truly wish to distinguish which kind of hate we will be discussing.

And perhaps, when we have moved through this part of the discussion, we will then move on to other types of hate, as well. So be warned, this could get....painful to read, but its important none the less. So before you move any further into this discussion, be very aware of where this discussion could potentially take you. And if you do not wish to go there, please feel free (without worrying about offending the writer) of not reading this blog to its ending. I will completely understand.

Defining Hate From Different Points Of View

Lets look at some definitions of hate, so we have a better idea of what we are talking about here. We all pretty much know the meaning of the word itself, but sometimes seeing it in writing can help put it into perspective for us.

One website defines Hate as:
  1. hate: the emotion of intense dislike; a feeling of dislike so strong that it demands action
  2. hate: dislike intensely; feel antipathy or aversion towards
One website says this about Hate:
Hate, as a mode of guilt or of pride, generates destructive thoughts (but at a lesser intensity than paranoia). Antithetical thoughts, when directed to other people, represent pride ; when directed to oneself, represent guilt. At a much lesser intensity of denigration, criticisms of other people represent jealousy, whilst criticisms of myself arise from my sense of idealism.

Hate by itself is the emotional dynamic of the ability to sustain long periods of concentration and meditation. It does not require an object to focus on (it mirrors pure love in this respect) ; it is a general-purpose tool for cutting positive attachments, especially in relationships (for example, pride in hate mode rejects another person, whereas hate by itself rejects any pleasant attachment to the other person). Hate produces clear thinking and strengthens a person’s will power. It supports the desire for solitude. It cools the mind and may easily be mistaken for a mild sense of peace. It is likely to be the prevailing mood when a mediator claims that they are no longer acting from a sense of ego. The skillful way of using hate is to clear the mind of redundant attachments and desires.

A wonderful book called Purification of the Heart : Signs, Symptoms and Cures of the Spiritual Diseases of the Heart, by Imam al-Mawlud; Hamza Yusuf Hanson (translator), which can be found here:, says this about hatred:

The next disease is bughd, which is hatred. In itself, hatred is not necessarily negative. It is commendable to hate corruption, evil, disbelief, murder, lewdness, and anything else that God has exposed as despicable. The Prophet never disliked things because of their essences, but because of what they manifested.

Hatred or strong dislike of a person for no legitimate reason is the disease of bughd. The Prophet once said to his Companions, “Do you want to see a man of Paradise?” A man then passed by and the Prophet said, “That man is one of the people of Paradise.” So a Companion of the Prophet decided to learn what it was about this man that earned him such a commendation from the Messenger of God. He spent time with this man and observed him closely. He noticed that he did not perform the Night Prayer Vigil (Tahajjud) or anything extraordinary. He appeared to be an average man of Madinah. The Companion finally told the man what the Prophet had said about him and asked if he did anything special. And the man replied, “The only thing that I can think of, other than what everybody else does, is that I make sure that I never sleep with any rancor in my heart towards another.” That was his secret.

The cure for hatred is straightforward. One should pray for the person toward whom he feels hatred, make specific supplications mentioning this person by name, asking God to give this person good things in this life and the next. When one does this with sincerity, hearts mend. If one truly wants to purify his or her heart and root out disease, there must be total sincerity and conviction that these cures are effective.
Another website defines the symptoms of Hate thusly:
THE SYMPTOMS OF HATRED can show up as anger, hostility, aversion, or ill-will. We wish harm or suffering upon another person. Don’t you just hate all Indians because you had the unfortunate incident with a snatch thief who happened to be an Indian? Oftentimes, hatred makes us resist, deny, and avoid unpleasant feelings, circumstances, and people we do not like. We want everything to be pleasant, comfortable, and satisfying all the time. This behavior simply reinforces our perception of duality and separation. Hatred thrusts us into a vicious cycle of always finding conflict and enemies everywhere around us. That soft-spoken waiter serving you can quickly become your object of hatred simply because you think he is gay!

We can also create self-hatred when we have an aversion to our own uncomfortable feelings. Do you hate yourself for not being able to lose weight and attain J-Lo’s figure? Don’t you just loathe yourself when you see that cousin of yours having everything a woman should have: good-looking boyfriend, cash to splurge and a head-turning body? Self-hatred forces us to deny, resist, and push away our own inner feelings of fear, hurt and loneliness, treating these feelings like an internal enemy.
Now,the point of taking you from a generalized definition of hate to showing you different definitions of hatred, from different points of view (even those you might not wish to acknowledge), is to say that hate is everywhere. It is not something that is localized to one family, one community, one city, one country, or one brand of person (religious or otherwise). It is a wide spread thing that permeates all societies, despite cultural and religious differences. Everyone thinks about it, everyone bears some level of it. And everyone has fallen prey to it at least once in their lives, whether they were on the receiving end of it or the perpetrating end of it.

Hate...Its everywhere!

Levels Of Hate

There are numerous levels of hate, so lets look at some of them (but please be aware that these are not technical and/or medical/psychiatric terms for the levels of hate).
  1. Momentary Hate
  2. Self Hate
  3. Healing Hate
  4. Painful Hate
  5. Resentful Hate
  6. Prejudicial Hate
  7. Full Blown Hate
Now lets look at each of these in some more depth, so that we can truly understand them, how they pertain to us, and why it occurs.

1. Momentary Hate

Momentary hate is basically what we described at the beginning of this discussion. This occurs do to being confronted with circumstances where in one is left angry, seething even, to the point where one is not thinking rationally. Nor, do they care what slips out of their mouths at that moment. So things get said like, "I hate you!", without conscious thought to how it might affect the other party is often more common, than not.

But just because it is said, and probably felt in that singular moment, does not necessarily mean this is how one would feel generally when they are not in a state of heightened emotions where they have been pushed to their breaking point because of something like a fight. It is a thoughtless and tactless means of expressing oneself without conscious thought to the repercussions it can have later and the effects it can have on the other person.

2. Self Hate

Self hate is that which we perpetrate on ourselves due to low self esteem, low self worth, and little to no self confidence. It is a form of self validation of the feelings of inadequacies which are common to people with low self esteem. It reinforces the state of psychological self mutilation one is perpetrating upon themselves, to keep themselves from succeeding in life. In other words, it is an ongoing cycle of punishing oneself for the perceived inadequacies one sees in oneself.

For someone with an eating disorder, like Anorexia or Bulimia, this would occur when they look into the mirror and see themselves as 'fat', even though they are slowly wasting away to skin and bones physically. They would not perceive their own innate beauty, despite their size, because all they would see are the flaws (whether they truly existed or not).

For someone seeking employment, this might mean refusing to apply for certain positions, even though they are fully qualified, because they tell themselves things like, "Who would ever hire someone like me. They definitely won't like me, so whats the point of even sending in a resume. I'd just be forced to get rejected anyway." And in their mind's eye, it is better not to even try because of the off chance of being rejected, rather than taking a risk by putting themselves out there with the possibility of actually getting the job they truly wanted in the first place.

3. Healing Hate

Healing hate, strangely sounds like an oxymoron, doesn't it? I mean, how can hate heal? But there are times in our lives when we need this emotion, in order to push past a particular period of time in our lives, like when a relationship born in love ends. In this case, the emotions of hating would be part of the grieving process. The stages of grief are thus:

1. Denial and Isolation.
2. Anger.
3. Bargaining.
4. Depression.
5. Acceptance.

But when we call this the grieving process, this is not necessarily over a death. But it is in the same sphere, because you are mourning the lose of something that has sustained you and supported you for its duration ~ a relationship. And when you come to step number 2, which is Anger, generally there is hate in there, as well. There is blame and resentment (note how this one ties in with Resentful Hate) because something that was precious to you is ending. We've all been there, and we've all hated the person who left us, even if deep down all we wanted was to be with them again. This is part of the grieving process, so that we can heal and move forward with our lives.

4. Painful Hate

This kind of hate can rise out of some painful issue of the past, such as abuse or neglect. It can also be tied into Resentful Hate, due to the nature of its basis for existing, and yet it can also stand alone because it is not only based on resentment, but in painful suffering, as well. So this would be hate towards one's abuser and perhaps other people who remind one of their abuser.

To a certain degree, this one might not even seem rational. But this kind of hate would become almost instinctive, meaning not even at the conscious level of understanding, toward anyone or anything which might be a reminder of the past trauma they suffered.

More often than not, people with this kind of hate embedded in their psyche can find no logical reason for the hate, because it is generally the subconscious mind that draws the connections of things like traits and behaviors between the past abuser and a person currently in their lives.

5. Resentful Hate

Now, this one is an interesting kind of hate. While it can be linked to Painful Hate, as we said above, it is definitely in its own category, as well. And with this one, in particular, we've all tended to go through it. So let's look at what it is.

Have you ever had a moment in your life (be it in high school, social life, extracurricular activities, work, home life, and so on) where you felt envious of someone else? Perhaps it was your sibling, a friend, a lover, or even just some random person who you perceived as better than you at something like academics, sports, or whatever. Perhaps this person got the promotion and/or raise you were working toward, in your job.

And this person left you feeling inadequate, doubting yourself, and well....just generally all around pissed off, even to the point of hating the other person. This escalates to the point where you can't even stand to be around the other person, because you feel as though they are rubbing their success in your nose (even if this is not the case in reality).

This is Resentful Hate, where in, you feel embittered over the lose of what you perceive as rightfully yours to begin with.

6. Prejudicial Hate

Prejudicial hate is just that, based on prejudice. It means one has an aversion to certain types of people, be it religion, race, sexual orientation, gender, nationality, body size, hair color, political affiliations, and so on. The list is quite literally endless, with this one.

Reactions range from something as simple as turning away from a person that one finds 'distasteful' to verbal aggression to the point of verbally assaulting someone who is perceived as different (who fits the profile of what the person is prejudiced against). As well, it might also be covered up with statements like 'I'm not prejudiced!!!' when confronted with said behaviors. Denial, because of how prejudice is perceived in our PC (politically correct) world, is extremely common. To put it another way, this is where discrimination occurs.

Interestingly, this particular type of hate, as well as others, can sadly be tied into the next type of hate, Full Blown Hate.

7. Full Blown Hate

Full Blown Hate, for lack of a better term, is hate that has escalated to the point where violence becomes a viable option for releasing the rage associated with the hate. This is often called a hate crime. Lets look at this. Wikipedia says this about Hate Crimes:
Hate crimes (also known as bias-motivated crimes) occur when a perpetrator targets a victim because of his or her perceived membership in a certain social group, usually defined by racial group, religion, sexual orientation, disability, class, ethnicity, nationality, age, gender, gender identity, or political affiliation.

"Hate crime" generally refers to criminal acts which are seen to have been motivated by hatred of one or more of the listed conditions. Incidents may involve physical assault, damage to property, bullying, harassment, verbal abuse or insults, or offensive graffiti or letters (hate mail).
This, sadly, brings a story to mind I once heard from someone I met some years ago. I will refrain from using names or locations, to respect and protect their privacy, as I share this with you.

One night a woman (who was Pagan) and her husband were walking down the sidewalk. Some teenage guys were messing around and began to verbally harass her, because she chose to wear a pentagram openly around her neck as a symbol of her faith. As the continued to harass her, the only words she said to them as she attempted to go on her way was, 'Blessed Be' (which is a term of respect within the Pagan Community).

Before she or her husband knew what was happening, they were both being attacked physically, with her taking the brunt of the attack. They hit her across the back of the head with some type of object (she was never sure what it was). And they left her and her husband there, laying in the street.
She ended up with severe head trauma, to the point where she lost all memory of the incident itself. As well, she also lost some of her capacity to retain short term memory.

And when, after healing, she still chose to wear her pentagram openly, she could not understand why her husband would be so angry with her. It's only been recently that she has had flashes of the memories come back to her, but still she told me, she could forgive those kids, because you see she placed the blame on their parents for teaching them to have such hate in their hearts.

Stories like this are actually quite common, and the story I just recounted is quite simplistic by comparison to some that have happened throughout history. Gruesome, horrific incidents of human suffering at the hands of other human beings, all based on hate. The mere thought of it might sicken you and make you want to turn away, but in reality, even when you choose to turn a blind eye, it still occurs every day in all parts of the world. It is an extremely sad reality.

Hate & The Empath

Hate is not something that anyone holds the corner market on or is immune to feeling and/or being a victim of, be it Empaths or Non-Empaths. To say you are an Empath, does not mean you feel no hate, anger, resentment, bitterness or all of the other seemingly ugly emotions that human beings are prone to feeling in their less shining moments of vulnerability.

There is a belief in the Hindu and Buddhist traditions, that says that as one spiritually develops they move past the need to feel anger and hate. For most people though, this is not a reality. Everyone can, of course, strive toward this and perhaps even attain it, but the general population is more prone to anger and hate, as well as every other emotion that exists, than they are to strive toward that higher perspective where in there is no need for hate or anger.

So it is important to recognize the different types of hate, despite where you imagine you stand or stand in reality, because as you walk through life you will encounter it at different levels, and you might even feel it in yourself at times. And this is true for Empaths and Non-Empaths alike.

So think about it, the next time you see someone being bullied, discriminated against, attacked (verbally or otherwise). Think about it when you are the victim of it. Think about it when, perhaps one day, you are the perpetrator of it. Simply and honestly.....think about it.