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Discovering Empathy

Empathy as a Buffer to Anger

Picture credits: Gregory Colbert

by Chez Pink Elephant

As I mentioned in one of my previous post, feeling anger is extremely healthy and recommended as long as you are not hurting yourself or others verbally or physically. It took a long time for me to realize that I had a lot of unexpressed anger that was ready to erupt at any time. However, only recently I realized what helped me keep my anger under disguise.

Until a year ago, I thought I had no drop of anger inside of me. I thought I was incapable of feeling this strong emotion which I felt could rip my heart and blood veins apart. And even though I felt physically small bursts of anger, it was so easy for me to put them out just like pouring a big bucket of cold water on a small fire.

So what made it so easy for me to control my anger? Some people use denial, emotional numbing, others believe that anger is a sin and they alleviate it through prayer, some use sports to get out at least that physical tension. Well, believe it or not, only a few months ago I realized that I use empathy to keep my anger under control. And when I say empathy, I mean that hard-core empathy that makes you walk every step of the way in your aggressor’s footsteps, imagining how hard it must have been for them, imagining their anguish, their pain, their ordeal in such a way that I had no place left for my truth, for my pain and suffering. I used extreme empathy in order to understand inappropriate behavior, disrespect, to forgive and forget and to continue to love as if nothing happened.

Even though empathy is something that everyone strives for and is taught at a very early age, empathy used to the extreme can allow someone to erase their own needs, emotions and frustrations for the sake of another person. It is so easy to forget about your need when you focus so hard at understanding someone else’s need and want. Since you are suffering so much, it becomes very easy to relate to someone else’s pain and frustration, and you almost project it as if it’s your own. Empathy also allows you to find a million of excuses for someone’s behavior. Used to the extreme it can even go as far as fantasizing. You begin creating a story for that person. You think about the horrible parents that they might have had and about how they were probably abandoned by their loved ones, about the fact that they might have huge confidence issues or might even suffer from a psychological disorder and thus who can blame them for it? You find excuses that they turned out this way only because of other people and that behind that inhumanity lies only suffering and pain. And if you relate hard enough and picture their story as detailed as possible, you almost forget about yourself. You forget about the reason you almost felt anger, you forget why you hated them from the bottom of your heart, and you forget why they repulse you and why you promised yourself time and time again that you would stay away from them.

And this is when I realized that empathy is a very powerful tool. Empathy can either emotionally empower you or emotionally numb you. It is wonderful to be able to relate to other people’s emotions, pains, pasts, life experiences, but where is the limit? When do you realize that you have to be empathetic with yourself? When do you realize that you also need empathy from others? And when do you stop when you are so used to giving it rather than receiving it?

As always these issues came out of nowhere in my art work that speaks sometimes louder than words. In my next post I will show you how I visualized this buffer of empathy around my anger and how it’s such a positive thing to realize and understand the mechanism that you are using in order to cope with powerful emotions. Being self-aware is the first step in self-healing.

Source: Pink Elephant