Tuesday, February 17, 2015

enough about me already, let's hear about you

Today I'd like to ask you something. I'm asking you to put yourself in someone else's place. You can choose anyone, and any way you think best. We can do it together.

Perhaps you'd like to read a blog from a woman who has pushed through suffering.


Perhaps some of you will go see the movie, "Still Alice", and step inside someone with early onset dementia. Or you can read the book.

Perhaps some of you will try to listen to a stranger, a friend or a family member today.


If any of you decide to do this exercise with me; please tell me (in the comments below) how it worked out. Or perhaps tell us all about a recent experience.

I'd love to hear from you.



Laurel said...

I am taking care of an 89 year old women. I have been spending the night with her so she can stay in her home after hip surgery.

Janet said...

Hi Laurel!

Thank you for sharing this story. What does it feel like for you, to be with her?

ES said...

My example is definitely lame by comparison, but i wonder if it counts as a point somewhere over on the "other end" of the empathy spectrum, a more fleeting, momentary kind of empathy. It's riding the subway.

I feel like the subway is a sort of empathy snowstorm. You don't really exchange much with the people, but there are always these moments with them, feeling for their tiredness, or being considerate to their space and motion. The snowflakes are there only briefly, but there are a lot of them. It's an interesting experience, emotionally.

I'm curious if you think this counts as empathy as you define it, or rather just something else -- like courtesy, or some kind of imagined connection.

Janet said...

Thanks ES. I would say that if you are getting an impression of another person, you are feeling a brief sense of empathy. One of the items you mention, 'being considerate to their space and motion' is bringing this into clearer light for me; because you are taking the feeling of empathy (I understand what it's like to be that guy over there, a person on a subway, in a crowd and unable to move) and taking action based on that feeling (moving out of his way or giving her more space, intentionally). In those cases you are starting with empathy and building on it to something else. It doesn't devalue the feeling, IMHO, instead, it makes it more tangible.

What do you think?

ES said...

Well, i guess i'm not sure. Some of the experience just seems mechanical -- e.g., everyone wants to be able to move, and it's not hard to figure out where people are trying to go. I don't know if that's empathy or just trying to be efficient/conscientious. However, there is definitely an element of getting a sense of how people _feel_, however fleeting. I don't know if that's empathy, or just total guesswork or imagining something that may not be there. It seems like it has an empathetic component, at least.