Empathize Deeply with Others

“Emancipate yourself from mental slavery. None but our self can free our minds.”
– Bob Marley

Perhaps one of the best ways to deeply relate with someone is to listen with both ears. That is with our actual ears so as to hear what is being conveyed, and also with our internal ear that we might feel the motive behind the words. As a case in point a friend could say that they are doing ok  if you ask them how they are, but their facial expression or the tone in their voice may demonstrate the contrary, thus the need to develop our internal ear so as to empathize more intimately with the other. Yet we need not stop here, for there are deeper layers of meaning to be ascertained.

Much of what we think others are trying to communicate is largely funnelled through our own mental filters and biases. So quite often we are actually imposing our own understanding upon another. We may never be able to rid this jaundice way of perceiving, but we can work to suspend our judgement while listening to another. Practicing acceptance of another’s correspondence, without actually agreeing or rejecting their views, can open our minds & hearts into deeper levels of knowing.

Empathy by its very nature is an act of humility, interlaced with kindness and courage, a means by which we can commune with another human being, as though their suffering & joy becomes our own. Without the crude instruments of a surgeon, we can heal those who are afflicted by simply being present with them. This transformative act may appear radical, nevertheless it can strengthen the chords of our humanity, and in turn bring about a paradigm shift by which our attitude can be softened; i.e., our conception of things can be relaxed, more open to seeing things in various ways, without getting fixated on a single possibility, or viewing reality strictly through a black-&-white lens.

Unfortunately the act of empathy doesn’t come automatically. ‘Tis something to be cultivated over time and with lots of practice. Initially we can experience a strong resistance towards this state of being, mainly because it conflicts with our biological orientation for self-preservation, not to mention the cultural strands that reinforce our self-centred or egocentric bent.

In the beginning empathy can make us feel afraid and/or vulnerable. The limbic system can over stimulate the brain, making it difficult to think clearly when approached with a situation that may appear dangerous, but in reality is completely harmless.

Take for instance when my nephew and I visited a park in north Toronto, Ontario, back in 2008. There were about a dozen young men of African descent playing basketball. My nephew, who was only 5 years of age at the time, was terrified to approach them. A little firmness was required to assuage his anxiety so that we might watch a friendly game during our leizurely stroll through the neighbourhood.

Regardless of who or what instilled such fear in this child, there were no grounds to justify that either of us were in danger. Thankfully I was there to expose him to this subculture, to help him see past the prejudice that many of us have fallen prey too over the years. This kind of preconception can prevent us from exercising empathy, from seeing people as human beings, and in turn make others feel alienated and unwanted, which makes life difficult for everyone concerned.

To open our hearts to empathy we have to be willing to be vulnerable. There’s no guarantee that we won’t ever get hurt in the process. On the other hand, the more we make people feel alienated   the greater the animosity and friction, which can lead to additional problems to say the least. Learning to empathize with others may not derail the crazy train but it could slow it down enough for people to get off before it crashes.

For those of you who have read this to the end, and feel you have made a new friend, click here for my home recorded version of the Redemption Song by Bob Marley; sing this song with me if you are committed to ending police brutality against African-American people or at least listen to the lyrics with both ears.

About Philosopher Muse

An explorer of volition and soul, a song under a night sky and a dream that forever yearns to be.
This entry was posted in Spirituality and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Empathize Deeply with Others

  1. Jeff Cann says:

    This is actually a Marcus Garvey quote that Marley wove into his most beautiful song.

  2. Forestwood says:

    “Perhaps one of the best ways to deeply relate with someone is to listen with both ears. ” To realize this early in life, is a great gifts. You are way ahead of much of the general population!

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