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Are you hiding behind empathy?

When you discover the magic of empathy, you might encounter the temptation to stay there even when your own feelings and needs are wanting expression.

As you begin to offer empathy in more and more interactions you will likely find that most people are starved for empathy. A little bit of empathy can open a floodgate of feelings and needs for them and they jump at the chance to be heard.

The more skilled you become the longer you can continue to stay present to their feelings and needs and the more they open and express. It's easy for the interaction to become one sided.

Over the years I have consciously cultivated this ability to hold a space for others and offer empathy. It's comfortable and usually easy. And, I have caught myself hiding there.

In Nonviolent Communication the intention is to create connection by attending to what is most alive. In my experience, attending to what's most alive opens the door to compassion and wisdom. If you and I are connecting, we will notice how peaks of aliveness flow back and forth between us. We follow that aliveness like music in a dance. 

Offering empathy is to focus your attention on the feelings and needs of the other without losing connection with yourself. Your attention is on the other and still you notice when feelings and needs pop up for you. Then when the music shifts you say, "I notice something came up for me just now. Are you in place to hear it?"

This week look for opportunities to express your feelings and needs when you might be tempted to hide. Let yourself follow that aliveness through your fear of vulnerability. Step more fully into who you are in each moment.

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4 Responses

  1. Nov 09, 2012
    Chris DeSmit

    I love the question: "Are you hiding behind empathy?" It caught my attention right away, as one of the answers to ways I check out from being present and vulnerable (an assignment from The Vulnerability Project)usually through addictions and compulsions of various kinds. I've come to realize there are more ways of hiding than through drugs and alcohol. Thanks again, LaShelle, for your brilliant elucidation.

  2. Nov 09, 2012

    Thanks for writing Chris. I am so glad to hear this was helpful.

  3. Nov 10, 2012

    oh... this resonates so dearly...

    i know how easily, in my state of "opening up space for others" i can lose sight of what i feel...

    lately, though, i find myself getting angry, pretty quickly, when i've crossed the line and denied my own need... which is a great cue for me to recognize that it's time to honour that need of mine...

    thanks for writing this. helped to hear your words and to think of it as a form of "hiding"...

    love, jessica

  4. Nov 11, 2012

    Thanks Jessica. Great that you are recognizing the message anger is bring you.

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