To feel the pain of others, as others do, is almost like being a medium of sorts: you don’t ask to see things, you just see them, and sometimes they are exhausting and painful. Empathy is also a beautiful ability: you are able to identify so immediately with another that they feel comforted by the understanding. You see them and all of them, and they don’t feel so alone. Sometimes empathy inspires people to work their entire lives to help those who are suffering. Some have to shut if off completely, lest they become incapacitated by the pain. It’s a pretty intense ability, often felt at the cost of our well-being. But empathy does not require self-sacrifice or taking actions that are unhealthy for you for the sake of others. There is such a thing as healthy-empathy and you will help others more by practicing it. Remember the pamphlet on the airplane: you must first secure your mask before attending to others.
With physical and emotional balance comes a clarity and a connection to one’s gut. That gut tells you a lot more than your brain can. It’s like an inner compass that will guide you and keep you on track despite your brain. When you disconnect from your body via stress, anxiety, and or causing your own body pain, you lose the ability to accurately feel your gut. That compass gets buried. Trying to help others at the cost of hurting yourself is like trying to suture another person while you’re slowly bleeding to death. When you are happy, healthy, calm and rational you are the most capable; the most aware. That’s more like trying to suture another with gloves, a mask, and really comfy Nike’s on. You’re the most able to give of yourself, and of a self that is healthy and clear-headed. Without that balanced state you are giving from a much more compromised state.
Healthy empathy is win-win, better for both parties, and it’s not something you have to figure out how to do in your own mind. It will come naturally from a goal to maintain physical and mental balance. If you secure your mask first, the rest will follow.
If you are naturally empathetic and yearn to help, be attentive to your body and emotions. When anxiety takes over, work on constructive ways to alleviate that anxiety and know that it is just that: a chemical state that needs to be corrected. Treat it with something healthy and positive that will correct the chemicals, (walking, running, breathing exercises, hanging your head below your heart). Don’t bury it in food or turn the TV up so loud you can’t hear it anymore. If you can master this single tool, you will more effectively help others. You’ll also probably live longer.
The actual feeling of empathy is separate from the habits that surround it. How you react to your empathy is up to you and within your control. The more you sacrifice your happiness and balance for others, the more you will disconnect from that very inner compass that will guide your abilities.
You can best give to others and help them when you have the faculties and awareness that come with self-care and self-love. Without self-care much essential balance, rational thought, and grounding are not present. Remember in order to help another, you must first help yourself. When you abide that rule you will find the help you do give is more productive and more effective than if you had ignored yourself and cast your mask aside.
Happy Sunday friends, love to you all! xoxox Sarah
Featured image License All rights reserved by wizzzardthe1 on Flickr