A surprising new empathic skill: Complaining! (Consciously!)

posted in: Empathic Skills | 16

When people think of empathy, they tend to see it as a soft skill, full of yielding and niceness. That’s a part of empathy, but there’s a deeper and more full-bodied form of empathy that helps you engage with people when they (and you!) are not feeling nice at all. In The Art of Empathy, I share a number of relationship skills for dealing with conflict … Read More

The difference between empathy and enmeshment

posted in: Empathy | 22

Hello fellow empathic people! Did you know that there’s a distinct difference between healthy empathy and enmeshment? I’ve spent a lifetime exploring how empathy works, how it goes awry, how we can understand it more clearly, and how we can create a ground for self-care and self-empathy within our everyday lives. I’ve also been looking at an idea about empathy that goes something like this: Empathy … Read More

Is it a Feeling or is it an Emotion? Revisited!

posted in: Emotions | 92

We’ve all seen it. Something is said or written, and someone will go off. I mean off. Rage, hatred, or both at once.  A fight starts, and maybe these intense emotions get handled between two people, or maybe they don’t (online interactions specialize in the maybe they don’t category). So the raging people invite allies to share (and justify) their intense emotions, and a flame war … Read More

We can only talk if you can be emotional!

posted in: Emotions | 8

So I’m leaving the YMCA after my swim yesterday morning, and I overhear an older couple having an argument. I don’t know what preceded this statement, but the man snapped at his wife, “We can’t talk if you’re going to be emotional about it!” “Hah!” I said in my head as I walked past them, “Hah! And you think you’re not being emotional, old man? I … Read More

Working through depression

posted in: Empathic Skills | 38

When suicides are in the news, people tend to talk more about depression. Medical and psychological researchers (and news outlets) focus a great deal of attention on depression, and it seems that every week brings a new story about what does and doesn’t work for depression. This is great; it’s a positive movement that is helping to make depression more of an everyday topic (instead of … Read More

Shame: The excruciating, exquisite, and indispensable emotion

posted in: Emotions | 42

Last week, two shocking events occurred: the Norwegian killing rampage undertaken by Anders Breivik, and the death of singer Amy Winehouse. As it is online, many people, armed only with unexamined opinions and a keyboard, lined up to diagnose Anders as mentally ill. Others are certain that Amy died of an overdose, though no evidence of that has been found (her toxicology inquest will resume in … Read More

How much emotion is too much? (revisited!)

posted in: Empathic Skills | 60

When I talk about The Language of Emotions, one of the central ideas I try to get across is that all emotions are useful. If you can approach them with care and ask them the right questions, there aren’t any “bad” emotions. Every emotion has a specific function, and all of them are important and instructive. Some very intense emotions (such as hatred and panic), which … Read More

Emotions: Action-requiring neurological programs

posted in: Emotions | 12

I just read Antonio Damasio’s book, Self Comes to Mind: Constructing the Conscious Brain. It’s a good, though quite involved read, in which Damasio is laying out some theories of consciousness, based on his work as a neuroscientist. How does a brain create a mind? How does the mind create a self? What are the connections between wakefulness, consciousness, mind, and self? Can you be awake but … Read More

Protecting yourself from emotional abuse

posted in: Empathic Skills | 42

Whew! The earthquake and tsunami in Japan, the seemingly endless turmoil in the Middle East and Africa, the financial crisis and the economic downturn it caused, and over the weekend, the Supermoon? That’s a lot to take in. Even without any media jacking you up, it’s a lot to take in. So here’s my suggestion: Be very mindful about what else you take in. In Buddhism, … Read More

The Happiness Myth

posted in: Emotions | 2

Right now, I’m re-reading an amazing book by the historian, philosopher, poet, and funny kook Jennifer Michael Hecht. The Happiness Myth: Why What We Think is Right is Wrong. If you’re feeling troubled about the current state of the world, and confused by what seems like weekly changes to scientific theories about happiness, this book is just what the doctor ordered. There is so much to … Read More

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