Wondering About Empathy 3


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SENSITIVITY.   That "other world" that we know is possible becomes realized much more by our becoming its people than by the projects and institutions we create on that journey. We create from what we are far more than from what we think we should be. And we create stuff outside us to help us become more aligned with what is possible. So let us focus on our projects and institutions emerging and developing out of our continually becoming more cooperative and democratic beings, not from who we are now.

That's my reason for focusing some blogs on empathy. Empathy enables us to get each other. Getting each other makes tolerance, appreciation, emotional understanding, compassion, and love possible. No empathy, no solidarity with roots that last and last through thick and thin.

We are wired to become deeply empathic. Many early experiences and later ones lead to us to shutting down. Much of our personal journey is the great challenge of learning how to open up in spite of past traumas, small and large. Democratic movements worth their salt foster this.

Below is my adaptation of a brief discussion about sensitivity, an important aspect of empathy, by Jeannie Zandi:

As children, we were not allowed to mature wide open, and so when the coping mechanisms of our maturing fall away, we are left feeling as open and soft and unprotected and unequipped to deal as does a newborn. Patience and tenderness toward one’s being are vital. This sensitivity must be embraced and we must start to listen to our bodies and intuition to take care of our newly softened self.

Part of the package of conditioning is protection and body armor in the form of numbing, alienation, and rigidity. Like the butterfly coming out of its cocoon we have to give up this protective gear to gain the fullness of our sensitivity. Messages from one’s childhood such as “you are too sensitive” will start to rise and we will think this sensitivity is a bad thing. Not so. To be sensitive is to be able to feel deeply, both the deliciousness of being alive, and the agony of it. To hurt is to soften, and the body is brilliant at re-softening and reopening as it digests harshness and hurt. As well, this opening to sensitivity also allows us to discover and develop new aptitudes.

May yours and ours be an empathic new year.

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