Sunday, February 28, 2010
There are those that need ultimate control. These are people who we call 'control freaks'. They have structured lives, they live the same routine over and over, and they rarely, if ever, try anything new. They need to be in control all the time, because they place their value on it. The exact opposite is also very apparent, those who would give up all control, or who are addicted to giving up all control. We call them 'adrenaline junkies'. They skydive, drive rocket-cars, play Russian Roulette, and generally do things that would cause extreme fear in your average Joe. Giving up control is a powerful experience. Some express it in more subtle ways, however. Some turn to drugs to give up control, while others go for more sexual expressions. I'm not saying any of this is bad, just an expression of either complete control, or no control at all.
The two extremes of this spectrum are quite visible in relationships. On the one hand, you have those that need ultimate control in a relationship. This can take many forms, such as an emotional manipulator, an abuser, or even something as innocuous as one who needs to know where their partner is all the time. This is a need to control someone else, and because that need is focused on another person, that is codependency; they depend on the other person needing them. Another form of this type of person, is one who needs to constantly take care of others.
The other end of the spectrum is someone who needs to need. This is the constant victim of relationships; who constantly needs someone to take control for them. This is the one who would end up with an abuser, because the abuser takes so much control. This type of person has a codependent need to give up control, to be submissive to someone else.
Control and The Empath
So, the big question is, where does an empath fall? Here is the surprising answer: all over the spectrum.
An unstable empath is someone who constantly needs someone to need them. They place all their value on being altruistic and loving. And so, they have a basic need for other people to need them. They are the shoulder that others cry on, they are the ones who people go to in order to unload all their pent-up emotions. In this sense, they depend on others to need them to give them value; they are codependent.
However, underneath all of that, the typical unstable/unaware empath needs someone. Since they are the ones who are the shoulder, they have no shoulder of their own to cry on, leading to extreme lonliness. This type of person also, on top of needing to be needed, they need someone else as well. Because of this, they are also prone to fall into the same cycles of abuse. They are both ends of the spectrum.
Take Julie for example.
She is quite hypersensitive. All throughout her life, she has been the one that people confide in, she has been that shoulder that others cry on. From a very young age, she was conditioned to have absolutely no self-esteem, no self-worth. She has accepted that she is worthless, and a failure. But this does not stop her from giving others that which she so desperately needs: empathy.
Giving others empathy is what keeps Julie alive. That is her purpose in life, despite how worthless she is. It's what gets her out of bed in the morning, it's what drives her to live. Her purpose in life is based entirely upon the good she feels she does when she gives other people help.
However, in all her relationships, she tries to give up control. She tries to make that person her shoulder to cry on. Sometimes, it works, and sometimes, it doesn't. She dates manipulators and abusers one after another, seeking each time for someone to relinquish control to, and each time, she is abused and hurt, coming close to death many, many times.
She does have a best friend, however. This friend is someone who has been in her life for a very long time, and Julie has fallen deep in love with him. He's not the best guy in the world, he cheats, lies, and frequently does drugs. But despite all of that, Julie loves him, and he loved her, until he found another girl. This new girl is truly the love of his life, and Julie can't take it. He even went so far as to give up all his drug habits for her; something he never even considered doing for Julie. And when she found out, it shattered Julie's heart. But despite all of that, she didn't want to let him go, because he was the only shoulder Julie had to cry on, he was the only one she could give up control to. He was the only one that gave her that sense of security.
And one day, when he was with his new girlfriend, Julie called him. She needed him, and she knew it. The reply she heard, was a flat "no". And that was it. Julie let him go.
If you yourself are a control freak, or one who gives up too much control, there are plenty of resources to help you.
Here are two quizes to find out if you could be considered a control freak:
And here are some articles that talk about being a control freak:
And here are some resources for those of you who give up too much control.
One thing in this life is for certain: we cannot control everything. Trying is quite simply and bluntly, a waste of time. However, there are times when we need to take control. Sometimes, we are giving up control of a part of our life that we should not. Other times, we are taking control of something we should not, struggling to control something or someone that simply refuses to be controlled.
Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.
Thursday, February 25, 2010
Lets look at this in some depth, so we can attempt to answer all of these questions.
Empathy, as defined by one websites glossary is: The action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner; also : the capacity for this. So Empathic Communication is the ability to utilize empathy as you communicate with others.
In saying this though, there are some obstacles which tend to get in the way of this process, even beyond things like perceptions tinted by prejudice, judgment, and preconceptions.
10 Obstacles to Empathic CommunicationThese temptations are actually premature attempts to connect. Most people listen with the intent to reply. When another person speaks, we are usually 'listening' at one of four levels:
Some common forms of communication that block empathy and take the focus away from the speaker
1. Giving Advice / Fixing: Tell the other person what you think they should do.
“I think you should leave your boyfriend and find somebody else to be with.”
2. Analyzing: Interpreting or evaluating a person’s behavior
“I think you are taking this out on your ex-wife when you are actually frustrated about your divorce.”
3. Storytelling: Moving the focus away from the other and back to your own experience.
“I know just how you feel. This reminds me of a time that I…”
4. Sympathy: Either feeling sorry for other, or sharing my own feelings about what they said.
“Oh, you poor thing… I feel so sad for you.”
5. Reassuring / Consoling: Trying to make the person “feel better” by telling them things will improve.
“You might be upset now, but I’m sure you will feel better soon.”
6. Shutting Down: Discounting a person’s feelings and trying to shift them in another direction.
“Quit feeling sorry for yourself,” or, “There is no reason to feel that way!”
7. Correcting: Giving the person your opinion or belief about a situation.
“Wait a minute – I never said that!” or, “You don’t remember this accurately.”
8. Interrogating: Using questions to ‘figure out’ or change the person’s behavior.
“When did this begin?” or, “Why did you decide to do that?” or, “What got into you?”
9. Commiserating: Agreeing with the speaker’s judgments of others.
“I know what you mean – your cousin is one of the biggest jerks I have ever met!”
10. One-upping: Convincing the speaker that whatever they went through, you had it worse.
“You think that’s bad? Let me tell you what happened to me when I was in that situation!”
- selective listening
- attentive listening
Empathetic Listening is a combination of
- Having the intention to connect
- Focusing on clarifying the speakers needs first
- Remembering that criticism is someone's poorly expressed feelings and unmet needs.
- Checking the timing before offering your feelings, suggestions, corrections, etc.
The Benefits of Empathic Listening
Here is a list of benefits that arise through empathic listening.
1. builds trust and respect,The Process of Empathic Listening
2. enables the one in need to release his/her emotions,
3. reduces tensions,
4. encourages the surfacing of information
5. creates a safe environment for sharing and problem solving
1. Give the person you are connecting with your full attention. Remember that the person in front of you is your sole focus at this singular moment in time. Multitasking, is a great thing, but not appropriate when working empathically with another person, particularly when practicing empathic listening. Their problem is in your hands, so your understanding and your time are reversely in theirs.More On Empathic Communication
2. Do not speak when the other person is in the middle of communicating their issue. Empathic listening means that it is your job to actually hear what is being said, and reach to the heart of the topic to achieve full understanding of the situation. In doing this you need to find out specifics such as who is involved, what the actual problem is, and what are the extenuating circumstances that circle the problem. All of this information goes to help you give the best informed resolution you can find. Without it, perhaps through the act of not listening closely enough, you might miss an intrinsic part of the problem.
3. Offer a summary of what you have heard to the speaker, when they are done talking. This means you take what you have heard and reword it, offering them a summarized version of what they have said. It need be no more than an outline going over all of the most important key points of their problem. This affirms to them that you were listening, and reaffirms to yourself what you heard.
Making practical use of an otherwise esoteric concept such as empathy requires division of the concept into its simplest elements. So here are 6 key steps to effective empathy include:
- recognizing presence of strong feeling (ie, fear, anger, grief, disappointment);
- pausing to imagine how the other person might be feeling;
- stating our perception of the other person's feeling (ie, "I can imagine that must be ..." or "It sounds like you're upset about ...");
- legitimizing that feeling;
- respecting the other person's effort to cope with the predicament; and
- offering support and partnership (ie, "I'm committed to work with you to ..." or "Let's see what we can do together to ...").
The second part of this is an external process where in the empathizer, after assessing all of the things that were broken down in the internalization process, decides on the best approach to take with the person they are empathizing with. In other words, the empathizer decides on the best way to more closely relate with the other person in order to help them and/or offer them support.
A wonderful website called Epatica Resolutions, which provides Conflict Resolution Services, Coaching and Training, says this about Empathic Communication. (All rights to this information are reserved to the parent website and are offered here as a means of better understanding what Empathic Communication is)
"Empathic Communication is the set of skills and structures for creating empathic connection and generating creative, collaborative results. It is based on the ground breaking work of Marshall Rosenberg, Ph.D. known as Nonviolent Communication which has been used for over 40 years, on 5 continents to bring resolution and healing to people who have experienced intense and tragic conflict. The primary process in Empathic Communication is empathy, for both self and other, structured as alternating processes that energize the process of co-creation..Word Usage/Linguistics
Involving both our imaginations and our speech, Empathic Communication has two separate dimensions; that which happens in our consciousness and that which we say and do. Good results require both. Without the intent to find a solution that satisfies everyone’s fundamental needs, no communication technique alone will create lasting results. Conversely, without skill, often our best intentions remain unfulfilled. We call these two dimensions respectively, Part A – Consciousness and Part B – Speech.
Part A – Consciousness includes three parts, (1) awareness, (2) choice, and (3) silent empathy for self and others. It involves the awareness of events, and our interpretations of them and most importantly it includes an awareness of the choice point available in any moment to choose our response. An empathic response is always a choice. It may not always be the preferred choice - for example, in the check out line at the grocery store, or in making a deposit at the bank, but in conflict, it is the constructive choice. The final component includes both silent self-empathy and silent guessing about the internal experience of the others involved, what they might be feeling and needing in the moment and imagining the kinds of actions that might meet everyone’s needs.
Part B –Speech: The spoken elements of Empathic Communication include, (1) Empathy for another person or people -surfacing their feelings and needs; (2) Transparency – expressing one’s own feelings and needs; and (3) Requests and Strategic thinking – once everyone’s needs are on the table and there has been an empathic connection between the parties, solutions tend to naturally arise that meet everyone’s needs. Empathic Communication emphasizes the value inherent in the order with which these processes are employed. Empathizing with the other person before we self express has a transformative impact on the conversation. Similarly, delaying strategic thinking until empathic connection has been made, distinguishes the kinds of solutions that get created by this process , and makes them welcome, satisfying and sustainable"
In practicing Empathic Communication, there is also another issue of importance that must be considered and that is Word Usage and the understanding of Linguistics itself. Linguistics is defined as: The scientific study of language, which may be undertaken from many different aspects, for example, sounds (phonetics) or structures of words (morphology) or meanings (semantics).
This can be better understood through an example, so lets look at a one:
Bob tells you that he is extremely upset because his wife has cheated on him. He feels utterly betrayed by the actions of someone he is so emotionally close to. Your response to him is, "That really sucks!".Now, the point of ordering the way it is said, the words that are chosen, and the feelings behind it are of equal value as the ability to empathize itself. This is because all of these things either avoid or promote the Obstacles to Empathic Communication we already spoke of.
This reaction does not exemplify Empathic Communication because it denotes that fact that you are only half listening to the other person, thus not utilizing Empathic Listening, and that you only care about this at a superficial level, at best.
A better response, after listening carefully to the entire recounting of Bob's story, might be something along the lines of, "You mean your wife was with another man? You must be hurting alot right now, Bob. I can only imagine, really. It must be extremely painful for you right now. I'm here for you if you ever need to talk about it. You've always got a friend in me who will support you through whatever comes out of this situation."
In comparison this response utilizes Empathic listening, because the Empathizer listens attentively enough to recount Bob's story in a simplified manor. then it validates his feelings, while offering him support and the knowledge that he is not alone in his time of sorrow based on his current situation.
Had you said something like "I'm so sorry for what you are going through, Bob", you would have been promoting number 4 on the list, which is sympathy. And the point isn't to coddle someone, placate them, or superficially sympathize with them. The point is to show that you understand, are willing to truly listen, and are there to offer healthy support through the crisis. What this means is that you are not offering help that is codependent, where in you attempt to one up them in story telling or you find yourself getting lost/drowning in their situation and emotions.
So, paying attention to the words we use, and the connotations associated with those words is also an important issue. Take the world murder. To the general population, murder is associated with blood, gore, pain, sorrow, grief, anger, and other more vivid imagery to graphic to mention. And take the word abuse, which is associated with suffering, manipulation, victimization, bullying, pain, anguish, and again, more vivid imagery to graphic to mention.
This idea applies to other words that we use, because consciously or subconsciously, the human mind often associates thoughts, ideas, or experiences to words we use. The words hate and contempt feel hard edged, tinged with prejudice, judgment and hate, and even perhaps resentment ~ all negative emotions. While words like love, support, friendship, compassion, kindness, and so on, denote positive emotions ~ happy things based on good experiences from the past. They are soft edged and smooth feeling.
Now think about the words sympathy and pity. What do these two words feel like? What memories do they bring to mind? Are they positive or negative in context? There in is much food for thought, so think about it.
The Communication Empath
The Communication Empath is someone who is an Empath, possibly hypersensitive, and who utilizes things like Empathic Communication, linguistics, verbal communication, Nonviolent Communication, and Empathic Listening.
In the Empath Quiz What Empathic Type Are You? there is one result in particular that is little understood. It is that of the Communication Empath. Here is how it is described:
As a Communication Empath, you possess the ability to feel emotions from fictional characters in books, games, movies/TV and from works of art.Now, lets examine this a little bit more in detail, before we continue on our discussion with Empathic Communication. So please bear with me here, because this will all make alot more sense as we go along.
Now if a Communication Empath is one who possesses the ability to feel the emotions from fictional characters in books, games, movies, television and works of art, what we end up saying is that they are highly sensitive to all forms of visual and written communication.
So, imagine this ability being translated into interpersonal interaction with other people. It is an ability based in speaking ~ which means in empathic listening, linguistics, and verbal and empathic communication.
Feeling the emotions of things that are written, even about a fictional character, or feeling the emotions of things that are visual in nature like a piece of art, easily translate into real world interaction with other people. So lets take a look at some visual and written examples, so that we might make this idea a little bit more apparent.
Here is a poem meant to evoke emotion from you. It forces you to empathize with the person in the story, even though it is completely fictional in nature.
She would sit by the window draped
within a perpetually parked wheelchair.
The gloomy room surrounding her
was somber, drab, and gray,
leaving those visitors who would enter in a
dark, melancholy, and almost funereal state.
But even as family and friends trickled in,
forced to transverse the
vacuous and oppressive lackluster room,
in order to visit, upon occasion,
her in her dingy little hovel,
she does not see them,
for she is not cognizant of them,
for her listless eyes are vacant,
and her pallid complected face expressionless.
So even as gentle hands touch hers
in a sweet tentative gesture of love,
her face remains stoic, blank and indifferent,
for she is uncomprehending within
the hollow barren oblivion of her mind,
devoid of emotions, memories, and feelings
of love, passion, remembrance, and friendship.
So there she sits starring blankly out
into the cloudy overcast ocean of sky
as rain trickles streams of water
down the panes of glass,
as though heaven weeps the tears
she can no longer shed,
and the stagnant room around her
slowly becomes her
sepulcher of solemn desolation,
Until the day, when the beeping stops,
and the drum of the heart beats no more,
and she rises upon infinite wings eternal,
to be carried to a place where
music sounds and love flows forth
and the heavens open up to rejoice the coming,
of a reborn spirit of angelic beauty,
newly made whole,
laying cradled in the resplendence
of the gentle loving arms
of a Goddess Mother, beyond compare.
And here is an painting which is meant to evoke another emotion from you. See if you can readily see and feel the emotion it portrays.
Now, after looking at these things, the poem and the painting, what emotions did you feel within yourself? Believe it or not, this is Empathy being conveyed to you through writing and through visual arts, because it evokes emotions within you that you are sharing not only with the person in the poem or painting (who is fictional), but with the author/artist as well.
Did it leave you full of sadness and melancholy? Did you come away from it with a sense of hopelessness, desolation, and depression, which was obviously not your own? Could you relate to it from your own past experiences, and yet know it belonged to someone else, fictional or otherwise?
Again, this is Empathy at work. And this, quite literally, is what one does when one empathizes with another person's emotions, problems, pain, joy, suffering, and so on. Empathy does not necessarily have to be as direct as sharing the emotions of another person. It's uses can be expanded in all kinds of directions, even to things you wouldn't even imagine it could be used for.
So there is innate value in being called a Communication Empath, because one is easily able to feel empathy from the written word, particularly when one is speaking and interacting with others online and the only means by which they have to communicate is with words. Descriptions of situations, from other people, are easily visualized and internalized, so that one can compare and contrast it with one's own personal experiences. And there is a great ease in the ability to share emotions with the other people, even though there is no verbal (spoken) communication involved.
So now I will leave you with another poem to contemplate and feel.
Do not promise me the wind,
unless you can capture the gossamer breeze
as it flows through your hands.
Do not promise me the moon,
unless you can snatch it from its divine cradle
and offer it up upon a silver platter
drenched in moonbeams..
Do not promise me heaven,
unless you can stand upon the mount of Olympus,
as king of heaven's sublime domain.
Do not promise me tomorrow,
for tomorrow may never come.
Promise me not the world,
promise me not today.
Only....give your solemn vow
and promise me....the moment of now.
For one moment, an eternity,
is gift enough for me,
to know that your heart beats
in unison with mine.
Promise me one moment in time,
where you are mine, and no other,
living but a heartbeat for me alone,
breathing in the sultry evening air for me alone,
and seeing only me,
between the space of a second.
Promise me, my love,
and that will be enough.
For in the space of a single moment,
I will know the wind's gentle caress,
glory in the soft glow of moonbeams,
and stand upon the zenith of Heaven,
by your side.
And none of those shall compare
to a momentary truth found next to you.
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
Body Language Assessment Tests
What Is Your Body Language Awareness Score?
The Quick Body Language Quiz
Test Yourself ~ Body Talk Quiz ~ please note that the test that is being referred to is called Body Talk and is located in the top left hand corner. You will need Quicktime to do this test.
Animal Body Language Quiz
How Well Can You Read Body Language?
Body Language Quiz
Body Language Test
Body Language Quiz (different website)
Body Language/Nonverbal Communication Websites
How To Read Body Language
Understanding Body Language
Reading Body Language
How To Read Body Language ~ Top 10 Tips
Learning Body Language (Nonverbal Communication)
How To Detect Lies
How To Read Body Language (another website)
Listening With Your Eyes ~ Tips For Understanding Nonverbal Communication
How To Read Body Language ~ Secrets & Lying
Nonverbal Behavior & Communication Links
Understanding Nonverbal Communication Cues
Communicating Across Cultures ~ Nonverbal Communication
Aspects Of Nonverbal Communication
Top 10 Nonverbal Communication Tips (another website)
6 Ways To Improve Your Nonverbal Communication Skills
Management Skills Resources ~ Non-Verbal Communication
Nonverbal Communication Skills:The Power of Nonverbal Communication And Body Language
Nonverbal Communication/Body Language Videos
How To Interpret Body Language on Howcast
Learning Body Speak
Communication Basics: Body Language
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
In this discussions we will be focusing on Microexpressions. So lets take a deeper look at it, shall we?
Defining The Microexpression
So first lets answer the most obvious question of what a Microexpression actually is. Wikipedia defines a Microexpression thusly:
A microexpression is a brief, involuntary facial expression shown on the face of humans when one is trying to conceal or repress an emotion. They usually occur in high-stakes situations, where people have something to lose or gain. Unlike regular facial expressions, few can fake a microexpression (it is possible to voluntarily stress some facial muscles to replicate micro-expressions). But, no one can fake above a certain extent, when questions are asked accordingly, and only trained professionals could ask the right questions at the right time, to get the true color out. Our brain can't process information fast enough to fake the right expressions, as we'll be very conscious not to execute the wrong expression, and with the right kind of interrogation, nothing can be hidden. They consist of and completely resemble the seven universal emotions: disgust, anger, fear, sadness, happiness, surprise, and contempt. Microexpressions can occur as fast as 1/25 of a second.Learning To Read Microexpressions
In learning to read Microexpressions, one should first understand where they stand in their ability to do it already. So first lets look at a few tests which will help you understand where you stand as to you abilities in reading Microexpressions.
But first let me explain something before we get to the quizzes. These quizzes are based off of an important idea. There are seven kinds of microexpressions based on 7 different emotions. Humans share at least seven primary facial expressions with identical meanings:
The Seven Facial ExpressionsMicroexpression Quizzes
1. Happiness. The expression for happiness involves raising the lip corners, raising and wrinkling cheeks, and narrowing eyelids, producing "crow's feet" (wrinkles in the corners of the eyes).
2. Sadness. This expression features narrowed eyes, eyebrows brought together, a down-turned mouth, and a pulling up or bunching of the chin.
3. Fear. In fear, the mouth and eyes are open, eyebrows are raised and nostrils are sometimes flared.
4. Anger. Anger involves lowered eyebrows, a wrinkled forehead, tensed eyelids and tensed lips.
5. Disgust. A look of disgust includes nose scrunching, raising of the upper lip, downcast eyebrows and narrowed eyes.
6. Surprise. Surprise appears with a dropped jaw, relaxed lips and mouth, widened eyes and slightly raised eyelids and eyebrows.
7. Contempt. Contempt is notable for its raising of one side of the mouth into a sneer or smirk.
Facial Expressions Test
Lie Detection Tests~ There are numerous noteworthy tests on this page. The one to note, as it pertains to this discussion, is number 2 called Microexpressions.
Signs Of Microexpressions
In this section we are going to look at some basic traits and expressions of the 7 different types of Facial Expressions to help you gain a better understanding of how to read this in people.
Once you've gone over these things, try going back to the quizzes again to see if you can more readily recognize the different facial expressions as they are shown to you.
Microexpressions As A Tool Of Empathy
While this is only an overview of how you can learn to read Microexpressions, it is a necessary tool for those who use Empathy on a regular basis, Empath or not. Because whether we are cognizant of these things consciously or unconsciously, our mind does pick up on them and reacts to them. Thus our behaviors and actions become reactionary to other people's moods and expressions.
Being able to do this consciously, instead of as an instinctive response, means you can utilize this tool as you interact with people. Does this mean you could potentially manipulate people? Yes it does. Does this mean you can potentially help and heal people? Yes it does. But this is based on your personal intent for using this application, and we are not going to dwell on the morality of this issue in this blog.
As Empaths, we utilize every possible tool and application at our disposal to read another person to the best of our abilities. Not only does this mean feeling the emotions of others, but it also means reading the verbal and nonverbal communication that is expressed from the other person. And the nonverbal communication encompasses things like body language, facial expressions, microexpressions, word usage and application, tone and pitch of voice, and so on.
So it is important to have at least a basic working knowledge of these things so you can recognize what you are doing when you interact with another person, particularly when you are in the process of empathizing with them. So think about it, study it, and discover the potential of the skills you already utilize unconsciously/instinctively.
But before we begin, please note that this is not an attempt to change your beliefs, religious or otherwise. Nor is it a judgment upon anyone for what they choose to believe. This is merely a comparative analysis of these two concepts, and not an attempt to push any particular set of beliefs on anyone. So it is offered up, with respect to all religions and belief systems, despite what they may be.
The Middle Path
The Middle Path is described, by one website, as:
The Middle Way or Middle Path is the descriptive term that Siddhattha Gotama used to describe the character of the path that he discovered led to liberation. It was coined in the very first teaching that he delivered after his enlightenment. In this sutta - known in English as The Setting in Motion of the Wheel of Dharma - the Buddha describes the middle way as a path of moderation between the extremes of sensual indulgence and self-mortification. This, according to him, was the path of wisdom.In essence, what this is saying is that the Middle path is one of temperance and moderation in all things. This can be exemplified in something called the Noble Eightfold Path. So, lets take a look at it, shall we?
The Noble Eightfold Path
1. Right View
Right view is the beginning and the end of the path, it simply means to see and to understand things as they really are and to realise the Four Noble Truth. As such, right view is the cognitive aspect of wisdom. It means to see things through, to grasp the impermanent and imperfect nature of worldly objects and ideas, and to understand the law of karma and karmic conditioning. Right view is not necessarily an intellectual capacity, just as wisdom is not just a matter of intelligence. Instead, right view is attained, sustained, and enhanced through all capacities of mind. It begins with the intuitive insight that all beings are subject to suffering and it ends with complete understanding of the true nature of all things. Since our view of the world forms our thoughts and our actions, right view yields right thoughts and right actions.
While right view refers to the cognitive aspect of wisdom, right intention refers to the volitional aspect, i.e. the kind of mental energy that controls our actions. Right intention can be described best as commitment to ethical and mental self-improvement. Buddha distinguishes three types of right intentions: 1. the intention of renunciation, which means resistance to the pull of desire, 2. the intention of good will, meaning resistance to feelings of anger and aversion, and 3. the intention of harmlessness, meaning not to think or act cruelly, violently, or aggressively, and to develop compassion.
Right speech is the first principle of ethical conduct in the eightfold path. Ethical conduct is viewed as a guideline to moral discipline, which supports the other principles of the path. This aspect is not self-sufficient, however, essential, because mental purification can only be achieved through the cultivation of ethical conduct. The importance of speech in the context of Buddhist ethics is obvious: words can break or save lives, make enemies or friends, start war or create peace. Buddha explained right speech as follows: 1. to abstain from false speech, especially not to tell deliberate lies and not to speak deceitfully, 2. to abstain from slanderous speech and not to use words maliciously against others, 3. to abstain from harsh words that offend or hurt others, and 4. to abstain from idle chatter that lacks purpose or depth. Positively phrased, this means to tell the truth, to speak friendly, warm, and gently and to talk only when necessary.
The second ethical principle, right action, involves the body as natural means of expression, as it refers to deeds that involve bodily actions. Unwholesome actions lead to unsound states of mind, while wholesome actions lead to sound states of mind. Again, the principle is explained in terms of abstinence: right action means 1. to abstain from harming sentient beings, especially to abstain from taking life (including suicide) and doing harm intentionally or delinquently, 2. to abstain from taking what is not given, which includes stealing, robbery, fraud, deceitfulness, and dishonesty, and 3. to abstain from sexual misconduct. Positively formulated, right action means to act kindly and compassionately, to be honest, to respect the belongings of others, and to keep sexual relationships harmless to others.
Right livelihood means that one should earn one's living in a righteous way and that wealth should be gained legally and peacefully. The Buddha mentions four specific activities that harm other beings and that one should avoid for this reason: 1. dealing in weapons, 2. dealing in living beings (including raising animals for slaughter as well as slave trade and prostitution), 3. working in meat production and butchery, and 4. selling intoxicants and poisons, such as alcohol and drugs. Furthermore any other occupation that would violate the principles of right speech and right action should be avoided.
Right effort can be seen as a prerequisite for the other principles of the path. Without effort, which is in itself an act of will, nothing can be achieved, whereas misguided effort distracts the mind from its task, and confusion will be the consequence. Mental energy is the force behind right effort; it can occur in either wholesome or unwholesome states. The same type of energy that fuels desire, envy, aggression, and violence can on the other side fuel self-discipline, honesty, benevolence, and kindness. Right effort is detailed in four types of endeavours that rank in ascending order of perfection: 1. to prevent the arising of unarisen unwholesome states, 2. to abandon unwholesome states that have already arisen, 3. to arouse wholesome states that have not yet arisen, and 4. to maintain and perfect wholesome states already arisen.
Right mindfulness is the controlled and perfected faculty of cognition. It is the mental ability to see things as they are, with clear consciousness. Usually, the cognitive process begins with an impression induced by perception, or by a thought, but then it does not stay with the mere impression. Instead, we almost always conceptualize sense impressions and thoughts immediately. We interpret them and set them in relation to other thoughts and experiences, which naturally go beyond the facticity of the original impression. The mind then posits concepts, joins concepts into constructs, and weaves those constructs into complex interpretative schemes. All this happens only half consciously, and as a result we often see things obscured. Right mindfulness is anchored in clear perception and it penetrates impressions without getting carried away. Right mindfulness enables us to be aware of the process of conceptualization in a way that we actively observe and control the way our thoughts go. Buddha accounted for this as the four foundations of mindfulness: 1. contemplation of the body, 2. contemplation of feeling (repulsive, attractive, or neutral), 3. contemplation of the state of mind, and 4. contemplation of the phenomena.
The eighth principle of the path, right concentration, refers to the development of a mental force that occurs in natural consciousness, although at a relatively low level of intensity, namely concentration. Concentration in this context is described as one-pointedness of mind, meaning a state where all mental faculties are unified and directed onto one particular object. Right concentration for the purpose of the eightfold path means wholesome concentration, i.e. concentration on wholesome thoughts and actions. The Buddhist method of choice to develop right concentration is through the practice of meditation. The meditating mind focuses on a selected object. It first directs itself onto it, then sustains concentration, and finally intensifies concentration step by step. Through this practice it becomes natural to apply elevated levels concentration also in everyday situations.
In essence, according to the Buddhist traditions, these precepts lay out a path to attain a higher spiritual awareness/consciousness and bring about an end to individual human suffering.
As we said earlier, the Middle Path is one of temperance and moderation in all things, be it sexual indulgences or self mortification. It is one where one walks without preconceived judgments of the world around them, the people there in, and the actions people take.
For the layperson this can be viewed in a much simpler form though through the Five Buddhist Precepts:
The Five Buddhist PreceptsSo, after reading all of that (my apologies if it does not make complete sense to you), what we come to is again a life lived in moderation with simple ideas like not lying, not acting out sexually, not drinking or doing drugs, not destroying life (murder, suicide, and so on), and not stealing.
1. I observe the precept of abstaining from the destruction of life.
2. I observe the precept of abstaining from taking that which is not given.
3. I observe the precept of abstaining from sexual misconduct.
4. I observe the precept of abstaining from falsehood.
5. I observe the precept of abstaining from intoxicants that cloud the mind and cause carelessness.
Its about being mindful of the world around you and those that dwell upon this planet. And because we are all of one spirit, ultimately, offering compassion and empathy along the path to those who are still in the throws of suffering (whatever kind that may be). It is a path of respect and honor to all that is around you, people, animals, plants and so much more.
It is also a path of rational understanding of the world. And this is done without preconceptions, judgments, opinions, and prejudices to mar one's view of the this realm of existence. It is one of understanding behaviors, actions, consequences of choices one makes, and everything that lays beyond those things.
The Red Road
Walking the Red Road is Native American concept that is both mental and spiritual. It points to a spiritual journey through a good and right way of living. According to Native American tradition, walking the Red Road is a metaphor for living within the Creator's rules-a life of truth, friendship, respect, spirituality, and humanitarianism. It is a path of balance and interconnection to all things within the circle of life. It is a path of humility and respect.
To help exemplify this lets look at some of the Ethics of Walking The Red Path:
12 Ethic’s of Walking the Red Road
Ethic 1: Honor the Great Spirit
Every element of creation expresses the Creator. Within each mountain, each stone, and each heart lies the Great Spirit. All are of the Creator, each particle of the universe is equally deserving of respect and admiration. When looking upon a sunset, the trees, or even your worst enemy, you are looking at the Creator. Know this and give praise and prayer.
Ethic 2: Honor Mother Nature
Mother Nature is not for us…she is part of us and we, like everything else that lives and breathes upon her, are her children. Your own direct connection with Mother Earth is to be encouraged daily. Paint her portraits, swim in her waters, tend to her flowers, stroll through her glorious forest, and care for her many children: all plants, people, and animals. We must live according to her principals and choose not to pollute her body. The alternative is death to our Mother-and death to her children.
Ethic 3: Search for Yourself, by Yourself
Do not allow others to make your path for you. It is your path road and yours alone. Others may walk it with you, but no one can walk it for you. Accept yourself and your actions. Own your thoughts. Speak up when wrong, and apologize. Know your path at all times. To do this you must know yourself inside and out, accept your gifts as well as your shortcomings, and grow each day with honesty, integrity, compassion, faith and brotherhood.
Ethic 4: Community Code of Conduct
Treat the guests in your home with much consideration. Serve them the best food, give them the best bed, and treat them with respect. Honor the thoughts, wishes, and words of others. Never interrupt another or mock or mimic them. Allow each person the right to freedom of opinion. Respect that opinion. Never speak ill of others. As you travel along life’s road never harm anyone, nor cause anyone to feel sad. On the contrary, if at any time you can make a person happy, do so.
Ethic 5: Banish Fear from Your Life
Fear stunts your soul and limit’s the amount of road needed to travel to reach the Tree of Life, and to know the Great Spirit. Fear is non-beneficial and body, and leads to an unbalanced mind, body, and spirit. To banish fear you must know your path and trust yourself and the world around you. With trust comes confidence. Self-confidence banishes fear.
Ethic 6: Respect
Respect is to be given for all beings placed upon this earth by the creator.
Respect is to be given to elders, who are rich with wisdom.
Respect one’s privacy, thoughts, and wishes.
Respect human siblings by only speaking of their good qualities.
Respect one’s personal space and belongings.
Respect another’s spiritual path and do not judge their choices.
Ethic 7: Speak the Truth
Speak only the truth and do right always. You are what you say…
and what you say needs to be honest, forthright, and of your own personal belief. Without truth you cannot achieve inner balance-balance within yourself, with other beings, with Mother Earth, and with the Creator.
Ethic 8: Reject Materialism
When one is materialistic, one is not right with the Red Road. To value and appreciate what you have to know that you are loved and save under the limbs of the Tree of Life, is to reject materialism and to live a life of virtue and appreciation. Materialism only fills your heart with envy and greed, while appreciation breeds contentment, balance, and true happiness.
Ethic 9: Seek Wisdom
Those who are wise have lived a lifetime with ears open and a willingness to not only experience truth, but to pursue it well.
Wisdom is gained by:
Listening to your elders. They have walked a longer path than you.
Seeking all that is true. Wisdom lies within honesty, not deception.
Realizing education is never-ending. Even death is a final lesson.
Learning from Mother Nature. Her wisdom is infinite.
Ethic 10: Practice Forgiveness
Your journey upon the Red Road will be filled with acts requiring forgiveness---forgiveness of others and forgiveness of yourself. Mindfully practice this incredible act of humanity and the Red Road will be an easy path to follow. Also, absolution breeds the same in others. Be quick ot forgive and others will grant you the same kindness.
Ethic 11: Practice Optimism
It is easy to live within the shadow of fear, procrastination, and pessimism. But these are bad habits and stumbling blocks the keep you from experiencing life, the Red Road, and the Great Spirit. It is well know to the Native people that optimism is the key to good health. Worry makes you sick--as do bad thoughts. Replace them with happiness and optimism and you shall live a long and healthy life.
Ethic 12: Take What You Need, Leave the Rest Be
There is nothing placed on this Earth that deserves to be destroyed or wasted for the purpose of human convenience. To destroy trees and leave them unused because they simply block the garden, or to kill animals only for their fur, is not a rightful way to share the world with another. To waste or discard due to own selfishness is an act that goes against the Creator, and strays you from the good Red Road.
Another way of looking at this, or a simplified version would be something known as the Native American 10 Commandments. There are two versions of it, so I will offer both up to you.
Native American 10 Commandments Version 1The point of the Red Road and all of its guidelines (and the more simplified version of the Native American 10 Commandments) is to help people find a balance in their lives. It is a life of humility through moderation and temperance, respecting all things around us and within us because all things are interconnected ~ are one.
1. Treat the Earth and all that dwell thereon with respect
2. Remain close to the Great Spirit
3. Show great respect for your fellow beings
4. Work together for the benefit of all Mankind
5. Give assistance and kindness wherever needed
6. Do what you know to be right
7. Look after the well-being of mind and body
8. Dedicate a share of your efforts to the greater good
9. Be truthful and honest at all times
10. Take full responsibility for your actions
Native American 10 Commandments Version 2
1. The Earth is our Mother, care for her.
2. Honor all your relations.
3. Open your heart and soul to the Great Spirit.
4. All life is sacred; treat all things with respect.
5. Take from the Earth what is needed and nothing more.
6. Do what needs to be done for the good of all.
7. Give constant thanks to the Great Spirit for each new day.
8. Speak the truth; but only of the good in others.
9. Follow the rhythms of nature; rise and retire with the sun.
10. Enjoy life's journey, but leave no tracks.
The Social Analysis
Much like the Judeo-Christian 10 Commandments, which are:
10 Commandmentsthe Buddhist Middle Path and the Native American Red Road offer basic tenets and/or guidelines in how to lead an upstanding, moral, and honorable life. This extends into the cultures these concepts stem from (and even beyond them) and the social arenas within those cultures. It speaks to how to live, how to interact with others, and how to treat the world and its inhabitants.
1. I am the Lord thy God, ... Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
2. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven images.
3. Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.
4. Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.
5. Honor thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long.
6. Thou shalt not kill.
7. Thou shalt not commit adultery.
8. Thou shalt not steal.
9. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.
10. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's house.
What is apparent, but much less prevalent, within these two paths is something called Social Intelligence, which is defined as a person's ability to understand and manage other people, and to engage in adaptive social interaction. As well as, an individual's fund of knowledge about the social world. Another term for this would be Interpersonal Intelligence.
Social Intelligence is something that goes beyond both IQ and Emotional Intelligence (EI). It encompasses ideas like social awareness, which is comprised of primal empathy, attunement, empathic accuracy, and social cognition and social facility which includes synchrony, self-presentation, influence, and concern.
To put it another way, its not about how smart you are or how well you believe you understand people. It's about how you interact with others in a one on one situation, or in a more public situation. This includes things like how much real concern you show for others, how much empathy you feel for them, how attuned you are to their issues and/or suffering, how you present yourself (the approach you take to interact with another person), and how much influence you wield over the person you are interacting with.
Now, after that LONG discussion about the Middle Path and the Red Road, you might be scratching your head and wondering what these concepts have to do with something a bit more psychological in nature like Social Intelligence. And this is an important question.
The answer lies in the fundamental basics of each path. In following such paths (and I am not suggesting you convert to any particular religion here) or such moral/ethical ideals, a person begins a twofold journey.
One part of this journey is into themselves through introspection and self analysis. It encompasses recognizing one's own mistakes, owning up to them, and learning to let them go. It then becomes an acknowledgment of all of the lessons that have been bestowed upon you in your lifetime to learn and grow from.
The second part of this journey is external in nature. It begins with observing the world around you, with clear sight, which means sight not hindered by preconceptions, judgments, and prejudices. In these observations, the person learns about human behavior and interaction, and more generally how the world works.
And when these two things come together, a singular record of one's own history and an acknowledgment of the lessons one has gained, and a blossoming awareness of the world around you (without blinders on) through observation and interaction, what you find is something quite amazing. Social Intelligence....Social Awareness....Empathy....Compassion.
Now does this say these paths are the only two ways to attain this? Not at all. This discussion was just a comparative analysis of The Middle Path and the Red Road in particular. And ultimately, despite whatever belief system we cling to and/or adhere to (religious or otherwise), we all come to our own understanding of this in our own way and in our own time. And there is no harm in choosing a way that fits you best. But it never hurts to have a deeper understanding of different cultural/religious beliefs, particularly if they can broaden your perspective a bit. So think about it.
Sunday, February 21, 2010
So lets get started, shall we? But be warned, please, that everything offered up here isn't to offend anyone, to cause anyone to be overwhelmed emotionally, or to bring about pity for me.
But before that the time of being put into a mental hospital, I began to cut myself horribly and even became bulimic. Both offered me a sense of control which up till that point I felt as though I had none of. It was as though I had no control over my life, and nor did I find that I had any outlet for release for my sorrow, anger and depression.
When I got out of the hospital at the ripe of age of 15, I began to become sexually active to the point that one could have deemed me a 'slut' or 'promiscuous'. Either works, if we are perfectly honest. And for the sake of this blog, there is no denying the obvious truths of who I was at that time.
As I grew older, I began to date (beyond just being sexually active). My choices of relationship interests were those men who did drugs, who were consummate abusers/emotional manipulators and those who were abused themselves. And these choices were directly connected to the lack of self worth I felt about myself. It was like I was vicariously mutilating myself by staying with men who reinforced my already low opinion of my self. And just so you understand, alot of the time I walked willingly into these situations.
I dated a drug abuser (will omit names for their privacy since I'm sharing my story and not theirs) for about 7 years starting in high school. Being with him, cause me so much emotional turbulence that I ultimately realized that I would be dead within a few years of staying with him, because my emotions were so erratic that he even accused me of being Bipolar.
From there, when the drug abuser and I would break up sporadically, I would choose other people who were adept at manipulating people. And this was for dyadic reasons. One was that I had absolutely no self esteem and these people reinforced this belief of myself and my value regularly. And the other reason was because I was also learning from these people: how to manipulate, how to use people, and how not to care when I did it.
With the father of my first daughter, I was with someone who willing disappeared for days or weeks at a time. He even went so far as to shut off the water in our apartment, while I was pregnant. He would also starve me for long durations of time, as well.
With him it got so bad, because he shut off the water in the house, I would end up licking the accumulated ice on the air conditioner in order to have something to drink. This continued on to the point that when I experience morning sickness I would throw up in our backyard because there was such an accumulation of feces and urine inside the toilets, that it would make the most stalwart person cringe. And when he did return with food for me, it was so greasy that I couldn't stomach it or hold it down.
On the day I left him, I was so starved, that I put on dirty cloths and dragged (quite literally) myself to a payphone in order to call my family for help. And this was because at a moment, right before I left, I realized that my unborn child and I were going to die.
I could not let that happen, but it wasn't for me that I thought these things. It was for the unborn child which was growing inside me. She, at that moment, was my saving grace and only reason for surviving.
After we moved from New Orleans to a place in Tennessee (and the birth of my first child), what I also discovered was that I was again completely isolated from the world around me. I didn't have any of my old friends and/or lovers to anchor me and distract me from my own turbulent onslaught of emotions. After this time, I fell into such a deep depression that I was extremely suicidal, to the point I would hide razor blades for the time I could muster up enough courage to actually end my life.
But you see, at the same time as plotting my own demise, I was also praying...nay....begging God (yes even for a Neo-Pagan Shaman) to give me a miracle. Because, in truth, I did not want to die, but I could see no way out of my melancholy. And I realized I couldn't do it alone, because I felt so lost, that I couldn't imagine I could be saved, much less think that I was worth saving.
And then one day, when everyone else had given up on me, because of how depressed I was and how erratic my behavior was, a very kind woman took me in her arms, listened to me, for 6 hours straight, recount my life of sadness, resentment, anger and pain. And she told me, probably the one thing I needed to hear most in that moment....that god loved me and all I had to do was open my heart and let that into my life.
And that night, after finishing our discussion, I did as she suggested. Because you see, even though I had not ended my life physically, emotionally I had already died and had stopped fighting. And that night, as I lay in bed, I finally surrendered, which opened the way to something miraculous (I have no other way to describe what to me was a miracle of no small order).
I felt something come into my room that night. I felt it touch me. And I felt both warm and cold at the same time. Because even though I could feel this powerful presence, full of undying and unending love in the room, it also sent shivers down my spine, but not out of fear. That night....I finally died and was reborn.
Things didn't change overnight, though. We moved back to New Orleans and slowly things began to get better bit by bit. I started school, from which I went on to get my associates degree from. And I made friends.
But as these things tend to do, I met another man who was much like the father of my oldest child. This time though, I was married to this man. And I walked headlong into it, willingly, knowing exactly what the outcome would be.
With this man, everything seemed to go well for a time. But, as these things tend to go, this changed, as well. He began by lying to me. And then, it escalated beyond that point.
One night I watched as he attempted to kill his own father. And it was then I decided to leave him. I was pregnant again, and I wanted to take my oldest child, and the one that was yet to be born, away from all the suffering.
On the heels of this, my grandfather passed away. And at the time, while pregnant, I was running a 102 fever. And my husband refused medical treatment so he could by Christmas presents. So I went to my grandfather's funeral extremely sick. And when I shed tears, it was not for the man who I had idolized and considered my second father, because I realized he was in a better place and out of pain.
Having decided beyond a shadow of a doubt that I was leaving, I prepared to go. But he demanded I leave my oldest daughter with him to ensure that I would return to him. Instead, in order to keep my child with me, I gave into his request to act as if nothing had changed and I let him rape me the night before I left with a 102 fever.
The next day, I left with my beautiful child and the one I carried within me. And I made the arduous journey back to Tennessee, still ill beyond imagining.
From there, I again began to rediscover the overwhelming sense of isolation, which again spiraled me into a deep depression. But this time, there were no thoughts of ending my life, despite the pain.
Some time later, when I was in my 7th month of pregnancy I was finally able to go to a doctor. After my first visit, the doctor insisted I be put into the hospital because I was suffering from something call toxemia/preeclampsia. What this meant was that both my unborn child and I were both in danger. For me it was a danger of having a stroke and for my child, it meant the possibility of dying inutero. And ultimately, within a week of the first time I visited my doctor and went into the hospital, I gave birth to my child, who stayed in the hospital in the neo-natal unite for over a month because she was born so early.
The emotional trauma of everything that had accumulated within my life, and had not truly been dealt with at that point, began to take its toll on me once more. And yet again, I did not contemplate suicide, because I knew, by this point, that I was not alone and I was supported by both family and deity.
Slowly after this last experience, I began to focus on myself and my children. I began to heal quietly in my perceived isolation. And that alone, was a journey that took years to come to terms with, deal with, and rediscover myself and my own potential through. And in all of those moments, of uncertainty, fear and depression, I clung to the fact that I was not alone.
The person who suffered all of that trauma, changed....grew up a bit, if you will. I learned to forgive and let the past go. And I learned to smile and laugh again.
I can not sit here and say that this is every person's story. We all experience life's ups and downs in our own way. And we cope with them the best way we know how. Nor can I say this is a full accounting of everything in my life, but these are the most important details I feel like I need to share here.
And through it all, what I discovered about myself is that I am an Empath who shares the feelings of others, who in fact has even drowned in them from time to time. And I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that these were my life lessons to be learned from, so that I could grow and develop into someone.....who was better than what I used to be.
Empathy, which is the main gift of an Empath, is a double edged sword. It can give one the amazing ability to see things from other people's perspectives and to share in their pain. But it also has its down side.
An Empath with unresolved emotional issues in their lives, will often describe their gift as though the feel like they are drowning beneath the onslaught of other people's emotions. They can not discern their own emotions from others. And sometimes, they even lose their own sense of identity in the act of empathizing so deeply with other people. It can leave them bereft and confused, even to the point of being suicidal.
This arises because the Empath has so many unresolved issues in their lives that they can not form healthy boundaries, detachment, and the ability to say no to people who are in need. It is almost as though they are driven to give help even to the point of willingly sacrificing themselves, without limits or concerns of self preservation, to the needs and desires of others, in the name of Empathy.
And as much as one would like to believe that this is noble, in the extreme, and altruistic, it is based on the fact that they are unable to face the reality of their own lives and the multitude of issues and emotions there in, which tends to be filled with self loathing and hate. So they turn, instead, to others, who are in need of support, validation, and love. And this gives them a superficial sense of value and worth. But the most resounding truth of this action, is that when we see no innate value within ourselves, these types of actions are self destructive, not healthy acts of love and compassion.
Because what happens when the adulation, praise, and thanks disappear? What happens when the Empath who does this is left alone again, with no one to help? It brings them to their knees because they are forced to face their own private demons and the issues they have repressed and/or run away from in the first place.
These types of acts, stave off the onslaught of one's own suffering....for a time. But ultimately, Empath or not, we come full circle and must face those things time and time again. Because they might be hidden for a time, as we distract our minds from those issues in order to focus on other people's problems, but they are not really gone. And they resurface no matter how much we do to distract ourselves from their reality.
We all suffer, in our own respective ways (despite the level of suffering). We all doubt. And we all know fear in our hearts. These things are an unavoidable part of life, despite how we might wish to the contrary.
But you are NEVER truly alone, despite how it feels in your moments of doubt, indecision, fear, and sorrow. And there is hope, if you will allow yourselves to see it, recognize it for what it is, and cling to it, despite the momentary pain the assails you.
There are people in this world, who will understand you and share in your pain, Empath or not. And who will not judge you, despite what you've done, who you imagine yourself to be, and where you stand in life. And that one concept, while hard to fathom in singular moments of pain and suffering, is a truly life changing idea.
So remember, you are loved and supported. And know, not everyone places the value of who you are in your actions, the self deprecating you heap upon yourself, or the way you perceive yourself.
And you are only a victim of your own life, as long as you truly believe it. Because on the other side of that coin, you are also a survivor who has been empowered by the suffering you have gone through. Let them be your life lessons, as you learn to heal yourself and offer help to others. Because beneath the facade of your own self loathing, shame, guilt and behaviors, there is a person full of potential who basks in the light of hope eternal.