Empathy is the glue that bonds people in an intimate relationship. When there is an empathic connection, people feel understood, they feel seen. Empathy is not the only way for people to bond, but it is necessary for an intimate connection. Bonding over a common activity or common experience may foster a connection just as doing something for someone else might engender gratitude or appreciation. But in order for there to be intimacy, empathy is required.
Posts Tagged ‘mindfulness’
Human beings are an odd lot. We are easily embarrassed, we are seldom content, we always want more of something, we often feel that someone else is better than ourselves, and we often wish we were someone else. I doubt that a cow ever wished it were a giraffe. I cannot imagine an elephant wishing it were a tiger. Animals seems to be content with who they are. They simply strive to be the best that they can be. Human beings, however, often wish they were someone else. They wish they were prettier, taller, shorter, younger, older, richer, smarter, faster; they seem constantly comparing themselves with someone else and come up short.
When I was a graduate student in clinical psychology in the 1960s, psychologists were practicing along the lines of the medical model where the focus was on the treatment of diseases. During that period, the renown psychiatrist Dr. Karl Menninger, founder of the world famous Menninger’s Clinic in Topeka, Kansas, published a groundbreaking book entitled The Vital Balance, in which he proposed that mental health practitioners should put more emphasis of strengthening the healthy parts of an individual’s personality rather than exclusive focus on the psychopathology. This was a marked departure from the then current emphasis. Around the same time, Dr. Abraham Maslow, a psychology professor at Brandeis University and founder of the human potentials movement, in is book, Toward a Psychology of Being, decried the emphasis on psychopathology and stressed the importance of emphasizing the potential for self-actualization inherent in all people.
Panic attacks take anxiety to an extreme often resembling a heart attack: tightening in the chest, shallow breathing, sweats, dizziness, and rapid heartbeat. They come on suddenly, usually dissipating within 10-20 minutes. But during that period the individual feels as if he or she were going to die. Once they occur, the individual begins to anticipate the next occurrence. This anticipatory anxiety may trigger a full-blown panic attack. As a consequence of an attack, individuals may begin to restrict their behavior to activities that are familiar. They may avoid public places for fear of having an attack, e.g., they may stop going to restaurants, being with friends, driving, and any other place from which escape might be difficult.
Have you ever noticed how small things your partner does can aggravate the hell out of you? These quirks, habits, or idiosyncrasies become like tiny cinders in your eye that drive you crazy. Then one day, out of the blue, your partner comes home from a routine doctor’s visit and announces, “I have cancer”.
You probably have heard, or read in pop psychology books and articles, that people are either right brain or left brain thinkers, referring to those who are more creative and intuitive than their left brain counterparts who are more logical and disciplined in their thinking.
Self-help books are being sold by the millions. People are continually seeking to enrich their lives, fulfill their potential, and find greater happiness. Some people will follow every new form of therapy, take multiple workshops, and explore every new wave for personal growth. Many often expect that by participating in this ever increasing plethora of life enriching exercises they will achieve enlightenment and everlasting peace and harmony in their life immediately; they assume that the journey will be quick and progress is a linear path to change. Most of these folks will be sorely disappointed.
Many people have experienced a visitor in their home that gives them more grief than joy. They often anxiously anticipate the arrival of the visitor and can hardly wait for vistor’s departure. One of my patients used this as a metaphor for describing her husband’s drinking; she refers his imbibing Johnny Walker scotch whiskey as “Johnny came to visit again; I wish to hell I could get rid of him.” I began to think of this metaphor for other unwanted visitors that seem to drop by uninvited and unannounced such as cancer and other such diseases that make their unwanted appearance.