This guest article was written by Mike Carcerano and shares his experience about an all-too familiar feeling when the world is coming down and the cards are stacked against you. How our peers choose to interact with us during this stressful time can mean all the difference.
Power of Empathy
Discovering the power of empathy has enriched my life. I’ve always treated kindness and respect to others as second nature as a part of life, but to take it a step further, I now consider empathy as the ultimate form of it.
It is a powerful and wonderful tool we can practice to one another that strengthens relationships in what can be some tough times. Empathy can be as simple as saying “I know how you feel” or “I was there once, too.”
Like so many others, I have experienced tragedy and despair. Two of my best childhood friends took their own lives and I lost my grandfather to cancer, whom I was very close with, in the span of three years. I saw so much suffering all around me during those times. While the people who were around me were experiencing the same feelings, I still felt isolated and trapped in hell. It was in my darkest moments, the thought of taking my own life crossed my mind. It has been difficult moving forward knowing that this lingering pain exists, even to this day.
A Helping Hand
One of my best and most empathetic friends, Arun, was one of the first people to reach out to me when my grandfather passed a few months ago. We had a conversation that was real and heartfelt.
I learned he had experienced a similar tragedy within his own family.
He knew how difficult it was for me to experience this because he had been there. It wasn’t easy for him to endure that pain, but he was able to connect with me through our talk and share ways that I could try to overcome my grief.
I’ll forever be grateful knowing that at my lowest low, someone put the effort to empathize with me when I needed it most.
When we experience the depths of pain, we understand the importance and power that empathy can bring to healing it. I learned that I can be more aware of this around me, and I have the same ability to provide this to other people. I can better connect to others in this way to establish trust and companionship.
The beauty of practicing empathy to others is how meaningful and real it feels.
We get down to the same emotional level as someone, connect with them in a way that is relatable, and hopefully provide understanding to what they might be experiencing. Making this connection with people gives that much needed comfort and an opportunity to see that they aren’t alone. It creates tighter bonds, strengthens relationships, and eases pain.
While showing empathy to others can be incredibly impactful, growth also will happen if you can self-empathize with your own thoughts.
Allow yourself to feel the way you feel, but understand it and try to share the same empathy with your own thoughts and how you have overcome them before.
Let’s say you were not invited to an event some of your friends were going to that maybe you’d want to also attend. A way you could self-empathize would be considering their mindset. Maybe they didn’t know you were available or maybe it was never on their radar to extend the invite to you but not for anything you did—simply they could have forgotten to.
We can reframe these thought patterns to positive alternatives, which can be a simple self-empathizing gesture. It is difficult to sometimes express this to others because we feel unsafe, scared, fear judgment; self-empathy as a core foundation can again help us escape these unwanted feelings.
It’s definitely not easy to handle all of what life gives us. Anger, emptiness, loneliness are feelings that are not something we overcome easily either.
We’re our own hardest critics, but we can change the way we critique ourselves along this journey.
We can create small goals that help us towards our own happiness, and as these goals are met the progression towards it will feel natural.
We can always empathize better with others and ourselves.
To be cliche, we can’t change the past, but we can shape the future.
Empathy is the most mysterious transaction that the human soul can have, and it’s accessible to all of us, but we have to give ourselves the opportunity to identify, to plunge ourselves in a story where we see the world from the bottom up or through another’s eyes or heart.
– Sue Monk Kidd
Do you have a story where someone showed empathy during a dark time in your life? Share it in the comments below!