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June 4, 2017

How to Inspire Intellectuals, Insensitives & Jackoffs to Grow Empathy (& Estrogen).

As a hyper-sensitive person (in a good way), I sometimes struggle when I’m in intimate relationships with brainiacs, tough guys, robots, and those who place feelings on the bottom shelf.

If I’m not careful, I can become quite the whiny, little, needy weenie. Or an unreasonable, self-righteous dick.

I’m hitting this one hard because I’m done with the pattern.

Now, instead of succumbing to a victim-mind, when I sense the other person is embodying an obvious lack of empathy, I lean toward the position of educator, doubling down on empathy with the hope that a tiny percentage will trickle into the heart of the other person. And it’s working! Thank heavens, because being a whiny douche bag or bitchy dick is exhausting.

If you have no idea what I’m talking about, you might be one of those folks I’ve struggled with in the past. Or you might be an empath who bumps into the same walls. Either way, these disconnects are challenging, right?

Here’s an example of a dialogue that formerly would have crushed my spirit and rendered me lethargic and wing-clipped for weeks:

As my friend and I were hiking through a beautiful forest:

Paul: I feel deeply connected to these beautiful trees. And there’s such light and sweetness in the air! Can you feel it?!

Brainiac-Robot: Um, nope. Hungry?

While there’s no harm in her response, my desire to be understood—and to have a mutual experience with the other person—is what has most often tripped me up.

I used to feel justified in my hurt feelings because, “Isn’t being more open and loving and magical what it’s all about?” Um, no. It’s about respecting that the universe is complex, and it has a wide variety of intertwined agendas and aspects in play.

I used to respond to these types of disconnects by saying things like, “Well, can’t you just try to have some empathy here? I mean, aren’t I worth it?” But that’s a form of manipulation, which is what weak, uncreative people do.

Let’s face it. It’s downright silly for me to expect someone else to have the exact same perspectives and experiences as me. Even if I feel disappointed, it’s unreasonable for me to expect another person’s empathy. Who knows what they’re going through. My job is to have empathy for myself and creation, but that’s not everybody’s job. I just feel better when I’m being empathic.

Empathy is different from compassion. Empathy is embodying the other person’s feelings. Tasting them and finding ways to improve them. Compassion is being aware (and respectful) when someone is in pain. I’ll take compassion any day!

My new educator approach has me changing my egoistic responses to phrases that are more inviting. For example, “Hold my hand, and let’s go touch this tree together. Imagine the tree breathing and singing. Maybe we can both open our hearts together and share a moment of love with the tree. Just a tiny moment!”

This approach is effective because I’m actually empathizing with the other person, rather than judging them or demanding that they “get me” upon every new-age whimper that comes out of my mind or mouth. If they reject the offer, at least I arrived at a place of empathy, rather than reaction.

Clearly, when I’m feeling connected to every fluffy moss and crackling twig in the known universe, it doesn’t mean that it’s of benefit to the universe when my friends and lovers feel the same things. It might just be that they’re more focused on the things that I’m missing in that moment—for example, forgetting to lock the car or, “Holy shit! That’s a bear! F*cking run!”

A recent exchange:

Paul: I was working with a client this morning, and I could feel their pain from an early childhood trauma. It was overwhelming, yet it was such an honor. We walked through it together. Do you know what I mean?

Brain-Robot: Dude, I’m not set up for this kinda conversation.

Paul: Cool. You hungry?

Maybe I’m evolving. Then again, let’s not jump to conclusions.

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Author: Paul Wagner
Image: Flickr/Wilerson S. Andrade
Editor: Travis May

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