Empathy #2: Your Heart Is Safe With Me
Thanks for reading the Introductory post about Empathy and Empathy #1: Visit the Gallery of the Heart. And now, time for a short lesson that combines Biology, Psychology and Theology.
The Ancient Greeks (and contemporary Neurobiology; Chart #3) thought your Viscera (your internal organs such as your heart, stomach, liver, kidneys, intestines, reproductive system, etc.) is where your Visceral emotions (course, base, earthy or crude emotions, like suffering, but also where anger, fear and love) were thought to originate. Your Visceral organs are located in the large cavity of your body that we call your “Trunk.” If you place one hand at the base of your neck and your other hand at the base of your genitalia, everything in between is the vital area where your visceral organs are located.
What is of interest here is that the medical term for the part of the human anatomy that we call the Viscera is the Greek word Splanchnon. Even more interesting is that Splanchnon also happens to be the Greek word used in the Bible that translates into our English word “Compassion” (Matthew 9:36). So what is our takeaway from this interdisciplinary lesson?
One of the takeaways for me is that if the “heart” is hurting, grieving, traumatized or misunderstood, then the appropriate response is compassion. When this vital part of ourselves or of others is exposed (their emotions or our viscera), we’re encouraged to demonstrate a compassionate and empathetic response that conveys to them that their heart is safe with us. Simply stated, their viscera needs our compassion. The best way to ensure that this is done…the best way to make sure their heart is safe with us, is to demonstrate compassion with our spoken words, tender touches and just as important, by providing a listening and empathetic ear that strives to understand their visceral emotions.
Think about it. As with any part of the human anatomy, if we have the opportunity to touch the inner parts or organs of another person, the hope is that we do this with great care and with tender and skillful attention, because whoever is touched is in obvious need of our help and our touch or the way we respond will determine if our spouse or friend will either feel greater pain, or, will begin to heal. So when others are feeling hurt, pain, anger, sadness, depressed, shamed, guilty or fear, empathy prompts us to demonstrate compassion to their viscera in order to fertilize healing outcomes. Their heart needs to be safe with us.
“We think we listen, but rarely do we listen with real understanding, true empathy. Yet listening of this very special kind, is one of the most potent forces for change that I know” – Carl Rogers, Psychologist
In a moment I’d like for you to view a short 4 minute video called “If we could see inside the hearts of others” by Cleveland Clinic. In the video, we have the opportunity to consider the life experience of others and what they may be dealing with and feeling at any given time.
A few questions for your consideration are…
How do you think the people felt about their particular life circumstance? Could you imagine how they felt? Could you feel what they were feeling? Did you gain an appreciation for what they were going though? How would you interact with the people in the film if you could see inside their heart? How would you interact with them if they were your family members, close friends or people you encounter in your day?
After viewing this, could you see yourself demonstrating a compassionate response to the visceral emotions they may be feeling? If so, then you are positioning yourself to convey to them that their heart is safe with you. Click the image below to view the video, or here if it is unresponsive.
Application #1: I simply encourage you practice empathy, sympathy, and compassion and to live your life so that others feel and then convey that they know their heart is safe with you.
Application #2: Strive to imagine what the other person is feeling and share what you have discerned. Remember, Psychologist Edward Titchner defined Empathy as “projecting your self into what you observe.” At the right moment, share what you think the other person is feeling. Use these Emotions and Feelings Charts to help you. I am sure the other person will appreciate your kindness and thoughtfulness.
Application #3: Above all, create safety. Safety is a prime ingredient with helping others to open up and share their heart with you. Work to create safety by listening, validating and honoring the experience of the person in your presence.
Thanks for reading this info on Empathy. Future posts on Empathy will be labeled “Empathy #3,” “Empathy #4” and “Empathy #5” and so on.
Thanks for visiting and please visit the other blogs written by Dr Ken McGill: Daily Bread for Life and “3 – 2 – 5 – 4 – 24″ for additional information that could be helpful. I welcome your comments below or via email and your favorites, your retweets and your “+1’s” if you have a brief moment and find the information helpful. Again, it is my desire to provide the very best info for your consideration.
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