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More on Empathy and Compassion

I’ve been blogging about the differences between empathy and compassion, and the pitfalls of empathy. Recently, I’ve had conversations with several patients, many of whom also who work in the helping professions, to learn more about the appeal of empathy. Remember that empathy is the idea that you are suffering because the other person is suffering. As a result of this, one’s motivation is to “fix” the problems that are causing the other person to suffer so that one does not suffer — in this way, we want to relieve someone else’s suffering so that we also can be relieved of our suffering. Based…

Fall: A Season for Letting Go of What No Longer Serves You

With a change of seasons, we can learn from nature: Like the leaves that fall from the trees, Fall is a time to let go of those things that no longer serve us. This is borrowed from Native American lore. May you be inspired by this metaphor in your own life. What can you let go off that is no longer serving you?

More on Empathy and Burnout

In an earlier blog entry, I described  some of the differences between empathy and compassion. In another blog entry, I outlined some of the pitfalls of empathy, to include burn out at work. This writing is devoted to describing how empathy can drive burnout among helping professionals. It is a relief to know that I am not somehow shirking my humanity do not feel the pain of families were making end-of-life decisions for a loved one, or who are getting the news of a loved one staff, or people I am telling that they have a mental disorder. It is…

Empathy Interefering with the Care of Others

Empathy has been named an “essential learning objective” by the American Association of Medical Colleges in there is a special focus on empathy training in medical schools. For the most part, empathy can be useful when it includes all sorts of good things and most of what goes into the name of empathy training in medical school is hard to object to, such as encouraging doctors to listen to patients, to take time with them, and to show respect. It’s only when we think about empathy in a more literal sense (I feel your pain)  that we run into problems.…

Empathy vs Compassion

A widely held belief is that we all benefit from having more empathy. The ability to put ourselves in other people’s shoes and our ability to imagine the suffering of others is often regarded as being at the core of humanity. In recent years, a growing body of literature has found important differences between empathy and compassion. Today we know that empathy and compassion involve different neural pathways. Also, in the case of empathy, “you suffer and therefore I am suffering” whereas compassion occurs from a place of helping: “I’m sorry to hear you are suffering. I’ll try to help…

What Is This Thing Called Joy?

I recently read “The Book of Joy,” by his holiness the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. The question is, What is this thing called joy, and how is it possible that it can evoke such a wide range of feelings? Paul Ekman, famed emotions researcher and long-time friend of the Dalai Lama, has written that joy is associated with feelings as varied as: pleasure – of the five senses amusement – from a chuckle to a belly laugh contentment – a calmer kind of satisfaction excitement – in response to a novelty or challenge relief – following upon further…

Learning How to Be Your Own Best Friend

We all want to have our feelings validated. This is a great tool for being present with other people and demonstrating that we understand how the other person feels. You aren’t trying to fix the problem or tell the person that they shouldn’t feel that way. Instead, you witness their emotions and show them that you are listening, that their feelings matter, and that you understand. You might also share a similar experience you’ve had to help demonstrate that you understand how they might be feeling. You can validate your own feelings, too! One of my favorite tools to teach…

Responding to Others’ Feelings

We all want to have our feelings validated. This is a great tool for being present with other people and demonstrating that we understand how the other person feels. You aren’t trying to fix the problem or tell the person that they shouldn’t feel that way. Instead, you witness their emotions and show them that you are listening, that their feelings matter, and that you understand. You might also share a similar experience you’ve had to help demonstrate that you understand how they might be feeling. A good example of this is to imagine if you had recently lost a…

Mindfulness and the Power of Now

The practice of mindfulness is based on the idea that life is best lived in the present moment. Mindfulness calls us to the be right here, right now. There are several advantages of being in the present moment. We let go of sadness about the past and anxiety about the future because our attention and awareness is focused on The Now — what we emotions we feel in our hearts, the sensations we feel in our bodies, textures we feel from our touch, objects that we see, how food tastes, and what scents we smell. I say that it is…