Friday, 26 September 2014

Gifts of Infertility Series - #13 – Compassion and empathy

We don’t all see the world the same. That is obvious. But many of us – after loss or infertility or both – find that we no longer see the world the same as our younger selves either. If the world had been safe before, then it is no longer safe. If we felt we had belonged before, we no longer feel we belong. If we thought that there was meaning before, maybe we no longer feel there is meaning. The world changes and we change with it.

Seeing the world differently for me meant that I was suddenly aware that many people don’t see the world as safe, struggle to find meaning, and no longer feel they belong. I could see the vulnerability of so many of us, and could understand others' pain or fear or isolation, having come face to face with these myself.  I understood grief and the grieving so much more, no matter what the loss is. And there are so many losses in this world.

I was able to take my experiences, the process of grief, longing, loneliness, and healing, and use them to try to understand others.  The desire to try to understand had always been there for me. But I started used it consciously, realising that previously I had probably empathised when it was natural, easy, or made me feel comfortable. 

This might seem contradictory, but I also understand much better that we can never make assumptions about what someone is thinking or feeling. Empathy and compassion forces me to think things through, to try to understand the different reasons why someone might act the way they do, say what they say, feel the way they feel. This understanding helps the compassion come more easily, and as it does, judgements and assumptions slip away.  And so the empathy grows.  Of course, that enables me to help people. I like that. 

8 comments:

  1. Mhmmm, I still have loads of work to do in the empathy department, currently my anger (about my boss) and hurt are completely blocking my ability to listen learn or understand, fuelling my judgement and assumptions.
    Deep sigh. I thought I was doing so well, being there for a friend in need when other friends couldn't or wouldn't listen anymore. But it doesn't stretch to my professional life

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    1. So I better keep reading here!

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    2. I am far (FAR) from perfect, Valery, don't get me wrong. But at least I'm a lot better than I was.

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  2. These two gifts, when practiced, have helped me reduce bitterness towards and about the world.
    Empathy is worth practicing daily...it is very very rewarding.

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    1. You make a very very good point. That we need to practise empathy daily - or as frequently as we can. That way it becomes easier.

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  3. I think,too, that it's important to practice empathy, and infertility and loss helped me to imagine, sometimes, where people are hurting even if they aren't conscious of the hurt themselves. But I also think that being able to imagine where someone came from or how they feel is different from forgiving them or condoning behavior that we know is wrong (in response to Valery's worry about her boss). As we practice empathy, we should also practice self-care ... something else I could be better at doing. Thank you for this post (and for stopping by to comment, which is, in itself, a practice of empathy)!

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  4. I've never thought about using my experiences as an infertile woman to better understand and help those around me. Simply put, grief is grief, regardless of the source, and I'm in a unique position to potentially understand and help others because of my grief.

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  5. Really love this post. I think infertility was the biggest shock of my life ('coz I naively thought that I'd be able to get pregnant easily like my mom and my bro's wife and 'coz I really thought it was the least selfish wish I'd ever had in my life). Infertility really shook my entire world, but I have gained new perspectives because of it in so many ways.

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