Posts Tagged With: empathy

Day 1868: More than a million of us are hurting.

When I was hurting yesterday, I noticed a sign at my local pharmacy.

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More than a million of us are hurting, every day.

When you are hurting, does it help to know you are not alone and that more than a million of us are hurting?  Or does that  make the hurting worse? Maybe it’s just me, but knowing that more than a million of us are hurting helps AND hurts.

More than a million of us are hurting and sharing photos.

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I may not be happier than a pigeon with a french fry, but maybe I’ll be happier after I try that Kinesiology Tape on my hurting shoulder.

More than a million of us have watched “Jazz for Cows” on YouTube.

More than a million thanks to my friend Eleanor (who recommended I try the Kinesiology Tape),  CVS, cows, cat, birds, jazz, The New Hot 5, everybody else who helped me create today’s post and — of course! — YOU.

 

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Categories: personal growth, photojournalism | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 28 Comments

Day 1867: That sucks

When a co-worker mentioned something unfortunate yesterday, I said, “That sucks.” She agreed by saying, “That stinks.”

When you encounter something unfortunate, what do you say?  I’ve also heard people say

  • that bites,
  • that blows,
  • that blows dead rats,
  • that takes the biscuit,
  • that’s unfortunate,
  • that’s awful,
  • that’s terrible,
  • bummer, and
  • I’m sorry to hear that.

No matter what you say, acknowledging unfortunate events does not suck.

People have been saying “that sucks” and other such phrases to me lately because I fell, tore my rotator cuff, can’t take over-the-counter pain relievers (because I’m on the anti-coagulant medicine Coumadin), and am experiencing a lot of pain. Yesterday, an orthopedic doctor advised against surgery (because of my age) and prescribed physical therapy, which would suck without pain medication.

Do any of these photos suck?

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That sucks that nature can’t fix a rotator cuff tear. I wish it could.

That sucks that my singing was a little pitchy last night  when I sang at a social work party.

That sucks that you can’t really hear the chorus:

We work each day

For not much pay

No time to play

But it’s okay.

Is “it’s okay” the opposite of “that sucks”?  I’m trying to get from “that sucks” to “it’s okay” today.

Thanks to all who helped me create this “That sucks” post and to my readers (who do not suck, stink, blow, blow dead rats,  take the biscuit, etc.) including YOU.

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Categories: personal growth, photojournalism | Tags: , , , , , , | 35 Comments

Day 1686: First do no harm

First, I try to do no harm.

Second, it’s impossible to live a life where we do no harm. But “First do no harm” is a worthy ideal, lest we irrevocably harm each other.

Before today, I believed that “First do no harm” (“Primum non nocere” in Latin) was part of a doctor’s Hippocratic Oath. While it isn’t, it does capture the intent of the oath, and I see no harm in that.

Yesterday, the phone rang early in the morning while I was trying to do no harm in writing my daily blog.  I was afraid that the ringing would harm my boyfriend Michael by disturbing his sleep, so I rushed to grab the phone. Because our new home is still unfamiliar to me, I slightly harmed my head on my way.

I hope I do no harm by quoting this resulting dialog:

Phone caller: Hello! I’m calling from the Department of Public Health. We are doing a survey about people’s health habits. Your number has been randomly selected and I would like to ask you some questions about you and your family’s health blah blah blah

Me (interrupting): I need to tell you that in trying to answer this phone before it woke up my boyfriend I just smashed my head which is not good for my health, so I’m going to go now.

Phone caller (sounding amused): No problem.

I could have said, “No problem for YOU. What kind of public health policy is this?” but I had already harmlessly hung up.

I hope to do no harm with these photos.


First, I hope I do no harm to the walls in our new place by hanging up some pictures. Second, I hope our cats do no harm with their claws.

At 9 AM, some genius from Apple is calling me about my photo posting problems here on WordPress. Perhaps there’s a techie equivalent of the Hippocratic Oath.

Here’s the first thing that comes up on YouTube for “First do no harm. ”

Do no harm by leaving a comment and I’ll do no harm by expressing my thanks to all.

Categories: personal growth, photojournalism | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 31 Comments

Day 208: Another side of mind reading (empathy)

This post is dedicated to my ex-business-partner and not-ex-friend, Jonathan, whose birthday it is today!

I’ve written, in this blog, about the cognitive distortion of mind-reading:

Mind reading.  Without individuals saying so, we know what they are thinking and why they act the way they do. For example, you assume that somebody is having a critical thought about you, you don’t check this out, and this affects your actions and feelings towards them.

The more I work with people, the more I see cognitive distortions, like mind reading, that cause people pain and get in the way of them connecting with other people.

At the same time, the more I work with people, the more I think that distortions are a tough habit to break, because they are reflections of human thought processes necessary to our survival.

Why do we mind read so much?  Why do we think we know what other people are thinking, often for the negative?  (E.g., “this person doesn’t like me,” “this person means me harm, ” “I don’t trust this person,” “this person sees in me the things I dislike in myself.”

Why do we have thoughts, like that, so automatically?

Well, there ARE people out there who might be dangerous, and — for survival — it’s good to be vigilant, scanning the environment for those people, so we can protect ourselves and ours.

Likewise, we do other cognitive distortions — like fortune telling and catastrophizing — to be prepared for the future by expecting the worst. As a mode of survival.

Cognitive distortions. Distorted forms of thought processes that have been necessary for our survival.

In my work as a therapist, I encourage people to be mindful of cognitive distortions — those thoughts that don’t help them. At the same time, I also ask them to respect these distortions.

For example, in a therapy group this past week, I said to the members, when we were discussing a particular distortion, “These thoughts think they help us.”

When I said that, I mind-read immediately, thinking, “Nobody is going to understand what THAT means.” But instead, one of the members said, “Oh!  I get it!” And she wrote it down.  And when we ended the group, and named something we wanted to take with us, she named that (what I thought was a clunky, awkward, and unclear) phrase again, as the most helpful thing she got out of the group.

These thoughts think they help us.

And there is another side, of each of the cognitive distortions, that does help us.

For example, the other side of the distortion of mind reading is ….

Empathy.

Empathy is when we try to put ourselves in somebody else’s shoes. To imagine what it’s like to be them.

What’s the difference between the cognitive distortion of mind reading and empathy?

Empathy is expansive. Mind reading is restrictive.  Empathy takes into account difference and experiences that you might not have had; mind reading narrowly focuses on your own fears and assumptions. Empathy takes time and care; mind reading is instantaneous and automatic.

Yesterday, when I was walking to work, I was thinking of this blog and possible future posts.

And I thought of empathy, and two videos I could include in a post about that.

Video # 1

I’ve thought of including this piece of video in a blog post several times before (including earlier this week.)

It’s a scene from the end of the first show of “Six Feet Under, ” the HBO series created by Alan Ball,  about a Funeral Home family business.

I loved that show, because it centered on the human experience of death, in a way I hadn’t seen before on TV.

And the ending of that first episode was a revelation to me.

I’ve only seen that episode once, and it’s been over twelve years.  But that ending stays with me, and I think of it often.

I wasn’t sure I would be able to find that ending scene today, to include it here.

But I found something on YouTube, that I think will do nicely.  It’s a five-minute excerpt from that first episode, which includes (1)  the opening credits (which I also loved),  (2) a very short scene with Nate, the oldest son, and his mother, and (3) that ending scene, which has stayed with me, so strongly.

This YouTube video is dubbed in Spanish, which I don’t speak, but I love that, too. Why? Because there is very little dialogue (between Nate and his mother), and all the important things that happen are non verbal.

Especially that last scene, which has no dialogue at all.

Here’s some background that might be important to know for that last scene. What has proceeded it?  Nate, the main character, has come home to be with his family, after his father has died (after being hit by a bus) and realizes that he needs to stay and help take care of the family business, which is a funeral home.  He is pretty reluctant and pissed off about this.

One more thing about that last scene: the person he sees sitting on the bench and then boarding the bus is … his father.

The first time I saw that scene,  (especially the part after the father boards the bus), I felt amazed.

I wonder what you will see in it?  I’ve never shown it to anybody before, asking that question.

Here it is. I’m going to watch it again, pretending I’ve never seen it before, and see how I experience it:

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Here’s what I saw, again, in that last part (which was shorter than I remembered), which involves some mind-reading on my part. Here’s what I thought Nate was thinking, as he looked at those people who walk by him, after he sees his late father:

“All of these people are going to die. Every one.”

And when I first saw that scene,  I was amazed, because it captured an experience I’ve been having, since I was quite young. An experience I guess I felt alone with. The experience of  looking at people (and myself) and realizing the above.

What feelings do I have, in response to that realization?

Fear. (Although less of that, as I grow older.)

But also, incredible tenderness.

Which leads me to the other video I wanted to show you, today.

Video # 2

I saw this video, called “Empathy: The Human Connection to Patient Care,” very recently, at the hospital where I work.  It was created by The Cleveland Clinic, a non-profit U.S.  hospital, which sponsors conferences on “The Patient Experience”, including the “Empathy and Innovation Summit” coming up in 2014.

When I first saw this, I looked at it with a more “critical eye,”  because of my professional background. That is, before I became a therapist, I spent many years with my ex-business partner Jonathan creating marketing, PR, and other corporate videos.

However, this video affected me a lot, also:

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Before I end this post, I have to reference Star Trek (The Original Series).  Here’s an image, from the 1968 episode called “The Empath.”

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That’s Gem, the Empath, who is being taught — for the survival of her species — to feel, share, and experience other people’s pain, despite her fear.

Thanks to Alan Ball, “Six Feet Under,” The Cleveland Clinic, Gene Roddenberry,  Star Trek, and all of you (evolving) empaths out there.

Categories: personal growth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

Day 202: Looks

I went to my 43rd high school reunion last night.

Here are some random thoughts about that.

When I entered junior high school (from a really small, religion-based elementary school), I knew very few of the over 200 people in my new class.

I started junior high school the year after my whole world turned around — when I had my first cardiac pacemaker implanted (on the same day that John F. Kennedy was shot, which turned everybody else’s world around, too).

I didn’t know many people in my 7th grade class. Nevertheless, I remember being happy to be entering that big world of more diverse, interesting people. I remember observing people, with fascination and with gratitude to be there among them.

It felt like an adventure and a relief, in a way.

Some people were kinder than others back then. 13-year-old kids aren’t very far along in the process of developing empathy to others. (Developing empathy is a growth process in human beings, which sometimes gets short circuited by unfortunate circumstances.)

But for the most part, I remember a lot of people who showed kindness to me. And I could have been a prime target for bullying — (1) I was unfamiliar to lots of people and (2) I had a medical condition that a lot of people knew about. (Because cardiac pacemakers were so new, and because the one I had implanted was so big and stuck so far out, the doctors thought I needed to wear a brace and leave early from class, with somebody carrying my books for me.)

But I only got bullied by one person and it was pretty mild (even though I did witness, at times, other people getting bullied worse, which was awful).

I had a lot of great experiences, learning to know the people in the class, as we grew from ages 13 through 18.

One thing I remember feeling bad about for most of those years of junior high and high school?

My looks.

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Not sure why I felt so bad, in retrospect. Actually, I can guess:

  • I didn’t look like the models of good looks I saw everywhere in the media.
  • The guys in junior high and high school didn’t seem interested in me, that way.
  • I had this weird pacemaker sticking out of my body, which affected how I felt about myself.

Last night, at the reunion, some of the guys told me that they were interested in me, back then.

Why didn’t they let me know when we were in school together?

Because they thought I wouldn’t go out with them. They had lots of reasons why they thought I might reject THEM. I was very surprised to hear that.

I think a lot of people hear stories like that — and other surprising stories — when they go to a reunion.

That’s the end of the blog post for today, ladies and gentlemen.

Thanks to people from my high school, everybody who ever felt insecure in school, and — if that doesn’t cover everybody reading today — the rest of you, too.

Categories: personal growth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

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