“Sometimes shit is going to go wrong in your life. Sometimes, you’ll feel like everyone is stabbing in you in the back and you can’t catch a break. These are the moments to take a step back. Step back and ask yourself if you are trying to make something work that wasn’t meant to work for you… Sometimes things don’t work out because that path you’re on is just that: a path… that path is filled with ‘Stepping Stones.’ Some of those stepping stones are big, some small, some slippery, some beautiful, some painful. Those stepping stones are part of your life journey… and when you navigate those big slippery stones that are painful… that’s the universe telling you that you’re growing and it’s time to take the next turn.”
Empathy is described as: 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 in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary.
A lot of people are able to sympathize, however, empathy is a little deeper than sympathy. To sum it up: empathy is the ability to relate or ‘walk in someone else’s shoes’ where Sympathy is feeling sad, sorry or bad for someone. Now, you might not be one to mix these two up, but I know plenty of people who have.
I learned about empathy in drug & alcohol classes in college (the irony, right) and that lesson flipped a light on in my head. In order to be good with people, empathy goes a long way. This is true when dealing with alcoholics, addicts and the mentally challenged. This also holds true when dealing with someone who has a story that is hard to grasp.
I’d like to say that after the mountains of crap I’ve climbed in my life that I am one of the most empathetic beings on the planet. I can be; but not always. I’m human, therefore I judge. It happens and it is sad but I owe it to myself to be honest with myself and my readers. There will be no sugar-coating on this blog… ever.
And here is the scary thing about empathy. It cannot be taught. It is something inherent inside of most beings, and other beings lack the trait. Still, others, like me, are empathetic at times and other times think things like:
you got what you deserved.
I cannot relate.
I’ve heard it a million times.
that is not an excuse.
suck it up.
And who of us hasn’t thought these things when listening to another’s woes? We might think it about the mother who is a stripper, the father who has a hard time paying child support or the screaming boss. It happens.
What is your experience with sympathy vs. empathy?
Emotions are a part of our internal make-up. All emotions derive from two core feelings: love and hate. Slice it how you want, all the positive feelings we have stem from a form of love, all the negative feelings stem from hate.
I just finished reading a great book (I reviewed it – the link to that will be up within a couple of weeks) called, “Why You Drink and How to Stop” by Veronica Valli. I was skeptical at first, but I kept an open mind and although I am over six years into my sobriety, I learned some valuable information from this book regarding emotions.
One of the worst behaviors I ever learned was “acting out based on emotion.” Being a woman who wears her heart on her sleeve, if something made me feel sad or angry, I would act accordingly. Likewise, if something made me feel happy or fuzzy, the addict in me would react in a positive manner and want more, more, more.
Now, human beings are emotional beings. Duh, like I am telling you something you do not already know. However, when we let our emotions rule us, we get into trouble. There is no law or rule that dictates “everyone must know how everyone feels all the time.”
I will share a psychotic story from my past:
When I was 22 years old, I was already married for six years. Yep, I got married when I was 16. It was part of that whole “alcoholic thinking.” As an alcoholic, I thought outside circumstances could fix the way I felt inside always.
I had found out my husband at the time was cheating on me and I went ballistic. Like full on rage mode: seeing red, black, shaking, and everything else, that comes with unabated rage. Being ruled by my emotions (all stemming from hate) I decided to do what I thought was in my best interests and show him.
So, being out of my mind (and to make a long story short) I wound up smashing my beautiful 1986 Monte Carlo into his pick-up truck. Yeah, not smart. This is not the best way to express emotion! Now I had new feelings and emotions to deal with: remorse, guilt and sorrow.
In the midst of the insanity, I thought I was expressing emotion in a healthy way! I mean, I was pissed and needed to let someone know, right? Well, maybe… but there are healthier ways to express emotion.
One of the best tools I learned in sobriety is to take a moment and calm the hell down. Just because I am feeling “some kind of way” does not mean I need to freak out, hop in my car to drive like a maniac or start throwing dishes.
Some of the ways I have successfully controlled my emotions:
Calling a sponsor or a friend and talking it out.
Chanting a mantra. “Feelings aren’t facts, facts aren’t feelings.”
Going for a walk or some other physical exercise.
And yes, even taking a nap.
I know I have brought up journaling a bit in previous posts, but writing does help. Moreover, finding what helps (not hinders or hurts) to control and deal with emotions is the key.
I still have a tendency to wear my heart on my sleeve, which may just be one of those character defects I have to learn to control if it has not been removed.