Contempt, Compassion, and Empathy

Empathy really is a buzz word nowadays. It’s held up by many as the standard of excellence in emotional functioning and the antidote to contempt. Empathy is seen as a higher level of awareness and the solution to social ills. But there is a problem with this ideal.

Empathy is feeling someone else’s emotions as if they are your own. Although on the surface this would seem a noble and compassionate thing, especially when held up in contrast of contempt which is judgement of someone else’s emotions, to feel someone’s emotions is…well…immature, selfish and in fact a form of contempt!

This is not to say understanding someone’s feelings is inappropriate, not in the least. That is the root of compassion, which is a healthy respect for and awareness of the emotions of others.

But in its truest form, empathy is an example of someone with poor boundaries who is unable to distinguish between themselves and others thus feels a strong need to fix the problems for others in order to find peace themselves. Many empaths talk of being overwhelmed and taken advantage of, which is a way of blaming others for their failure to protect themselves by establishing healthy boundaries. To act to change someone else’s circumstances can often be a form of contempt because the message is you know better then they, the victims, do.

Contempt and callous disregard for the feelings of others is an easy target to disparage and the narcissist easy to blame for society’s ills. The person exhibiting contempt is demonstrating rigid boundaries with complete distinction between themselves and others, which is viewed as toxic and dysfunctional. True, there is an imbalance present in this way of coping and to reach authenticity and enlightenment a shift needs to happen away from a focus on the judgemental coping mechanisms into wise and compassionate processes. Yet empathy is not the answer either.

The empath is also often toxic and dysfunctional yet in a way deemed acceptable to society because the appearance of helpfulness and caring, yet the drive is just as internally motivated as the actions of the narcissist. There is an imbalance present here, too, and a shift away from the emotional coping mechanisms into wise and compassionate processes needs to happen.

Compassion does not mean your are suffering with the people you feel compassionate towards. They are not you and you are not them, their emotions are not yours to feel. But compassion does elicit discomfort when imbalance, injustice, or negativity is witnessed. Compassion involves the desire to see balance restored, in whatever form the victim might feel it needs to take. As soon as you decide what form restitution or balance must take, you are no longer being compassionate, you are being contemptuous. To demand anything on anyone’s behalf except your very own, is to show contempt of that person’s or groups’ ability to determine their own needs. And unless they asked for your help, you disempower them by taking up their cause unless you yourself are directly affected by the imbalance.

Don’t mistake activism for compassion and empathy for support. Those without voices do need to be heard, but unless you are one of the voiceless, your sounds will drown out the meaning of their silence. Speaking from a place of experience is the only way to drive change, and listening from a place of compassion if you are not the victim, is the only way to support change.

Manufacturing Gratitude

It’s ok not to be grateful. Especially for something you never asked for. Especially when you do not feel grateful. Especially if someone is telling you to be grateful.

Shame on them.

Gratitude is an emotion. Emotions happen when they happen, not when you tell yourself to feel them. You are sad when sad, glad when glad and mad when mad. Emotions simply are. A product of the material world, they are a sensory response to the current social environment. You can’t tell your fingers to feel warm in a snow storm. You can’t tell your face not to feel hot in the sun.

Why do you think you can tell your feelings to experience gratitude?

Gratitude bubbles up from inside you when conditions feel balanced and satisfactory…TO YOU. Your personal definition of balance or satisfaction may be wildly different than someone else’s, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with your perspective. Being told you should be grateful is being treated with contempt. It is telling you to judge yourself and your feelings, and find yourself guilty.

Beware giving yourself that same message! When you ponder your feelings and determine you shouldn’t have them, you are being unfair to yourself. Try telling your hand not to feel the burner under your palm. Same task, but because we fail to recognize our intangible emotions as an extension of our nervous system, we treat them like a part of our soul.

Emotions are information. Not actions nor facts.

Gratitude is a breathtakingly glorious emotion and it’s understandable those experiencing it want you to feel it too. Fake it til you make it, practice gratitude, choose thankfulness. Great ideas, but missing the point.

Manufacturing a facade of an emotion does generate pathways of practiced nerve patterns. Acting out routines does create habits. This much is true. But the emotion of gratitude is spontaneous and joyful, not habitualized and mechanical.

Funny thing, when it wells out of you, you realize it doesn’t want to follow those practices, routines and habits! Gratitude wants to playfully take you out of your comfort zone into your curiosity. It drives you to tears with its intensity but not to acts of creating lists.

You are grateful, or you are not. There is no try. And that’s just fine.

Dissatisfaction is a sign you are ready to grow. No matter how well-appointed the nursery might be, every child reaches the stage of needing to experience more, explore more, discover more. Gratitude and satisfaction go hand in hand, with imbalance chasing both of them away.

What imbalance exists that is pressuring for change? Curiosity demands an exploration when gratitude is nowhere to be found in a situation. And in the Moment when the source of imbalance is revealed, appreciation will flow through your veins because suddenly the game is afoot and your journey will begin!

So embrace a lack of gratitude as being the summons to the post, where you are to begin a steeplechase toward a higher level of understanding yourself. From discomfort comes growth and after growth comes gratitude!

Schrodinging Everything

Hedge your bets and prepare for all eventualities with the hopes that things will come out hopping when Synergy finally presents the opportunity to open the darn box.

Greeting every day with curiosity, hope and acceptance means being ready for anything in any Moment. Being receptive to whatever springs up on you means you’ll never be disappointed with the chances you didn’t take, the opportunities you didn’t seize or the Moments you missed.

Assume all possibilities are open to you until the moment you know the truth.

This includes options you may perceive as negative. Don’t rule out failure or hurdles…in fact, count on them thus they won’t devastate you. Have Plan A, Plan B, in fact prepare the entire alphabet just in case. The more you understand the parameters and possible outcomes for every decision you face, the stronger your position for satisfaction in a perhaps unexpected form.

We don’t know what is best for ourselves. We don’t know what we need. We often don’t know who we even are, so how can we be certain what is in our best interests?

Synergy knows. But it’s up to us to accept her wisdom and be receptive to her gentle guidance. We blind ourselves with our thoughts and feelings, setting our hearts on things that were never meant to be, because we are trapped in our past or dreaming of our future.

Obstacles, barriers and disappointments are merely rungs on the ladder ascending toward enlightenment and true understanding of self, others, and the universe. Our purpose is to discover our purpose, which can’t be chosen, can’t be predicted, only unveiled.

Every decision has a Moment for making it. Not talking about it. Not planning it. Not dreaming about it. Those are not decisions, those are efforts. Until the Moment of Truth, efforts encompassing all possible outcomes yield the best return on Synergy’s investment in us. So, Schrodinger’s cat is both alive and dead, treat it as such until time to open the box!

Spiteful Pleasure?

We’re told to feel guilt and shame for the thoughts in our head. We self-chastise for offenses we didn’t commit, merely imagined. But…really…it’s NOT the thought that counts.

Thoughts and feelings are mere shadows in the Mattersphere, somewhat perceptible but not able to take action on their own. You are your actions, not your thoughts, in the material world. Even in the Eternal world, you are not your thoughts because thoughts are data fragments floating around in our local hard drive brain, they were not supposed to take up residence! They will not follow us in the present moment or in death.

Ever taken spiteful malicious pleasure in someone else’s misfortune and then felt awful afterward? Even though you had nothing to do with their circumstances and did not bring about their pain, did you feel guilt and criticize yourself for not being a good person?

Why?

What did you DO to deserve your self-condemnation?

You had a thought.

That thought was satisfying to you. Remove judgement from it, because judgement is a construct better left to Eternity. The thought was not malicious or spiteful. It was simply a thought, and your satisfaction in it simply satisfaction. Accept both without guilt or shame.

Synergy created us to be curious and hopeful and to seek satisfaction. Feelings are supposed to be sensory responses to the social environment, not tied to our internal environment. Thoughts are meant to pre-process Datter, and then disappear, not get stuck in loops of thought – feeling – thought – feeling.

The short circuit of our self-awareness makes us judge ourselves about the sources of satisfaction and pleasure, whether a thought or an act, and then society perpetuates that judgement. Notice children have no shame or guilt? If you learn to live in the Moment and accept your thoughts as simply information triggered by the events and circumstances around you, and you let go of contempt and criticism of those thoughts, and even of past behaviours. Did you hurt someone? Let it go but don’t do it in another Moment. Did someone hurt you? Let it go but keep safe boundaries in another Moment.

When you occupy the Now, there is no wrong or right. There is acceptance, curiosity, hope, joy, growth and gratitude. No matter whether the Moment includes pain and strife or ease and comfort, acceptance and satisfaction can be found. Every one of us is trying to survive the best we can in each moment, and each moment is what it needs to be.

Pain and Suffering

Pain is part of the price of admission for living, for growing character and resilience. Suffering is voluntary and arises from resistance to the reality that people will disappoint your expectations, goals will fail to fulfill you, and you will let yourself down when you turn out not to be who you believed you were.

No expectations, only boundaries. Even for your own mind and body. Surrender your self-expectations, too, allowing instead discovery of your purpose. That is how to avoid suffering.

Physical and emotional pain only interfere with life if we allow them to. We hear stories about mind over matter and admire feats of courage where someone overcomes great discomfort in moments of crisis. Are those people different? Do they have a gift?

No, they were present in the Moment and received strength and tools to escape the situation using their own existing core emotional and physical structure. They were not distracted by doubts or fears of not being good enough or making mistakes.

Pain arises from imbalance. Physical imbalance comes from structural or chemical deviations from optimum. One person’s source of pain is not the same as another’s, a debilitating deficit for me is not a source of dysfunction for you. Addressing them requires the use of all the escape room tools and resources available in your situation. The process of healing the imbalance must start from inside yourself, from identifying what it feels like. Physical suffering sometimes comes from the uncertainty and fear of not being able to articulate the nature, quality and parameters of the pain, not necessarily the dysfunction itself.

Emotional imbalance comes from social and relationship deviations from optimum. One person’s source of emotional pain is not the same as another’s, a debilitating toxicity for me may not be a source of dysfunction for you. The process of healing the imbalance must start from inside yourself, from identifying what it feels like. Emotional suffering sometimes comes from the uncertainty and fear of not being able to articulate the nature, quality and parameters of the pain, not necessarily the dysfunction itself.

Each of us is individual and unique. Sometimes we suffer because we are told we should, because another person experienced pain in a similar situation. Pain is subjective, it is in the mind, and can be used for growth.

All pain has purpose. No suffering does. Giving meaning and reason to pain alleviates suffering. Spending a Moment to investigate the pain with curiosity and acceptance will reveal to you the purpose. Embrace the pain, because at the moment it is your reality and all that is, is as it must be.

And, if you have been suffering…forgive yourself. That moment is over and a new one just beginning.

Hopeful Assumptions

We are constantly forced to make assumptions. We are in frequent interactions with others but don’t always receive all the information we need to understand their behaviour by which to choose an appropriate and effective response.

Every single one of us makes judgements, has a running commentary in the back of our minds, forming opinions about those influencing our lives at the moment. This is completely natural and necessary as a safety mechanism to prep us to respond to the moment. To cue us for action based on the circumstances since obviously our behaviour amongst hostile individuals will be drastically different than when surrounded by unknowns or by family.

And there’s where problems can arise.

No expectations, only boundaries. Don’t trust anyone so accept that they have the potential to hurt you. But hope for the best and love them anyway.

We assume familiar people are safe, unfamiliar people may not be, and hostile people are dangerous.

When it comes to emotional wounds, those closest to us have the greatest power to hurt us and our assumption of safety puts both sides in a position of expected behaviour which can set them up for failure. Especially if there is emotional dysfunction present making even common courtesy fly out the window in moments of distress.

No adult is responsible for another adult’s well being; as much as we’d all like to assume others will not intentionally hurt us we must accept that they will, given the right set of circumstances. Even the best of us has a breaking point. And no matter how well you think you know someone, no matter how close you think you are to them, you will likely never see how close they are to shattering.

We must have no expectations that anyone will be able to protect us from their sharp edges and broken pieces. But to be a part of society or an organization or a family, we must love them anyway and make ourselves safely vulnerable to them with our boundaries in place. Our trust in them gives them hope that they are trustworthy, a priceless gift which Synergy gives to us every day. Our boundaries give us hope and responsibility for our own safety.

Trust means having no expectations, only boundaries. A boundary is an escape plan if things go wrong. It is not an expectation of behaviour, it is a planned, intentional response to misbehaviour. ‘If she yells at me one more time, I am walking out the door.’ A boundary does not need to be announced, approved, or accepted by others, but advising the perpetrator of their violation and the consequence can be a part of a boundary before acting on the escape plan.

Forwarning is not recommended for emotional abusers because boundaries feel like control to them – boundaries are not control of an abuser, they are control of the victim and since abuse is frequently about control, to assert a boundary shifts control from abuser to abused thus does truly represent a loss of control, control they never should have taken. To notify them they are losing control can trigger worse behaviour.

Assume the worst in any situation, prepare your mind for the worst, accept that the worst might happen, and figure out exactly how trusting this person might harm you. No risk? Great. High risk? Then what are you willing to gamble? Every action you take, if purposeful and deliberate, will have minimal risk with maximum satisfaction, if you surrender to the reality that you alone – with Synergy’s support and guidance – are obligated to take care of yourself. You cannot trust anyone to have your back, but you can hope they do. Cover your back as much as you can, before you give them the gift of exposing it to them. Vulnerability is a treasure that, when shared, increases immeasurably.

Hopeful assumptions mean you respond to the best scenario by allowing situations to play out naturally, only acting if you must. Love them anyway, unless they actually DO trigger the boundary but since you prepared yourself for that you were not surprised.

And if the outcome IS the best, then you get to be pleasantly surprised that your trust and hope were rewarded. Either way, the outcome was meant to be.