My girlfriend Donna gets truly sad when one of her friends is sad or struggling. I have found this willingness to feel deeply with someone more and more rare in our culture.
Many of us like to think we are empathetic to what our friends or clients are feeling. But are we really willing to feel with them if it is uncomfortable?
We listen to what someone is saying, but if has deep feeling, we often do not allow it to drop down to our heart. Instead we respond from our intellect with what we think would be appropriate to say. We formulate the right thing to say.
Even the counseling and healing professions have become largely formulaic and intellectual. Common practice analyzes what the client is saying and responds with a strategic, intellectual response.
Well intentioned, yes- but disconnected and contrived. Without allowing the energy of their feeling into our heart, it is not possible to offer an empathetic and honest response. And our poor friend or client continues to feel all alone in their emotional state. No one was willing to connect and feel with them in their time of need. Now that's sad.
We do this because we are conditioned to rely on a formulaic response from our intellect. And, we believe that if we allow ourselves to go beyond our intellect and feel what they are sharing, we will not know what to say and do.
Precisely the opposite is true. If we do allow what they are sharing to drop down to our heart and sit with it, a truly empathetic and emotionally connected response will come to us.
But we have to trust in our ability to access our internal resources and intuition for an empathetic response. I have sat there many times listening and waiting for something to come to me. In the meantime, I might say, "Wow," or "That sucks," but at least with some honest feeling.
So we trust ourselves and sit with it. And they keep sharing because we did not shut them down with a canned, intellectual response. And soon it comes to us. We start to have a sense of what to say and do. Then we just have to trust it enough to act on it. And they walk away feeling like they are not alone anymore.
About the Author
I, Michael Hoffman, am a licensed psychotherapist, teacher, and author with 25 years experience in counseling and teaching experiential workshops. I have maintained this blog since 2009, and my second book Natural Way of Being will published in 2019.
I offer in-person and video-conferencing counseling, intensive workshops, and online courses to allow participants to directly experience their natural way of being and the life they would have for themselves.