Understanding Empathy

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Finding yourself stuck in a cycle of negativity, or similar arguments with someone you love?

Our relationships can suffer because we minimize one anothers feelings.  Even if doing so was not our intention.  Many of us lack the ability to see another persons perspective.  Often times we are too focused on our own feelings and experiences, that we completely miss the mark.  We miss opportunities to connect with others, because we are being “selfish”, or at least coming across as such.

More and more, I’m noticing that much of what we communicate tends to get lost in translation.  We attack one another simply because we believe we were wronged in some way.  The worst part is that when these messages are misunderstood, many of us fail to gain clarification on the intended message.  As a result, maybe you spend the next day replaying that conversation in your head.  Man, have I been there one too many times! I admit that I have let my imagination run wild, without taking a moment to calm those nasty convos in my head.

Then, when I am able to confront the “issue”, I often learn that I was wrong.  So, realistically I’ve spent an unimaginable amount of time dwelling over things that could have been cleared up if I was able to understand the other’s interpretation without having my feelings block my judgement.

Psychotherapist Cindy Sigal, AMFT (Relationshipshttp://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2014/06/08/the-power-of-empathy-in-romantic-relationships-how-to-enhance-it/) has a wonderful perspective on how to improve empathy in our relationships.

What is EMPATHY?

Cindy discussed three different types: Cognitive (we don’t lose sight of our feelings).  Here we are able to recognize others feelings without experiencing these same feelings ourselves.

Emotional (sharing feelings with your partner or others). If your hurting, I’m hurting. If you’re angry, I’m angry too.

Compassionate ( a whole person response (changing our own behavior).  With this type, we realize what our partner may be experiencing, and actively alter our behavior to increase positive feelings.  For example, you may know that today wasn’t a good day for the other person.  Instead of adding onto their current stress load, you do something different.  You may say kind words, or pick up their favorite snack.

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In addition to understanding the different types of empathy, it will also be helpful to identifying the Road Blocks from experiencing empathy.

-Getting sucked into our own perspectives (how we are feeling vs our partner): From my experiences with others including what I’ve been through personally, is that many disputes/disagreements occur when you feel the other person isn’t listening, or feel as though they do not care.  Many of us become stuck with defending ourselves when communicating, because for some reason we feel attacked.  What can possibly be resolved if both of you aren’t even attempting to understand the others perspective?  You’d don’t have to agree with them, but this will help you grain clarity.  I’m definitely still a work in progress!

-Focusing on negatives: Can you imagine a lifetime full of complaints, with no motivation to make any positive changes? #exhausting. We all have our days of picking out the “wrongs”, but what about trying to clear a tiny circle off of that filthy mirror from time to time.  This will definitely keep your relationships “stuck” in the helpless zone. Try finding at least one positive for every 3 negatives.  This may be challenging if your thinking has already been shaped by constant negative messages, but your situation is not hopeless. Train yourself to think differently…it’s never too late to learn something new. 🙂

-Treat ourselves how we would treat others: I admit that am not the best example of this.  I allow others the ability to make mistakes, and offer them my best advice and encouraging words.  But, I don’t always allow myself these same luxuries.  Yes, I want to push myself, and learn from past experiences.  How will this be possible if I won’t even give myself the opportunity to reflect on these roadblocks?

I hope that today is a wonderful day for everyone, and we all are able to improve our Empathy!

What contributes to your overall satisfaction in your romantic relationships ( past, present, or future)?

-XOXO

FreeBryd

Photo #1:http://www.canstockphoto.com/

Photo #2: http://www.lifetimeloveaffair.com/

Are you able to forgive?

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A few days ago I was forced into a 5 week long-distance relationship! Ugh! My boyfriend has to do some traveling for work, and I won’t be able to see him in person until mid September. We’ve been together close to 4 years, and this is the longest amount of time that we have been away from one another.

The day he left was pretty overwhelming for me. I sat in bed just reflecting on our relationship. ALL I could think about during those moments were: If I only had 5 more minutes, I shouldn’t have been so mad at him last week, why didn’t I try to reconcile much sooner?

I played around with these questions in my head for quite some time. Needless to say, I was bummed for not taking more advantage of the time that we did have together. Neither of us are saints. So we do have our share of disagreements, screaming matches, and “I’m not talking to you” days. But, I admit that I have the not so favorable trait of holding a grudge.

Since I was in the position of honestly checking myself, I knew that I was the problem. I often ignore many attempts at forgiveness, all to “make a point”. As I sat there silently reflecting, none of those disagreements mattered. My biggest concern was that I’ve let so much valuable time past. Today, I am telling myself that it is perfectly normal to not always agree 100 % of the time with another person. In fact, it’s IMPOSSIBLE to avoid disagreements with others; especially loved ones WITH whom you’ll constantly interact. What does matter, is how you choose to come back together. Like I’ve mentioned, my best move was to ignore the attempts at moving forward, and would miss opportunities to be able to grow individually and as a couple from these experiences.

I want to learn how to forgive sooner than I have been able to do so in the past. For me, a small argument could end up spilling over into the next day…or maybe even the next after that. I’ve allowed my “anger” to keep me from interacting with someone who I care deeply about…and for what? I seriously asked myself: Aren’t you tired of wishing you did something more after the fact? Indeed I was. So, this changes ASAP.

Some thoughts to keep in mind for my current & future self:
1) Get it together, and do it quick!
~Write or reflect on what happened. Ask yourself: What do I need to see happen to
move on? Is this something that I can do personally? Why are you feeling this way?

2) Remember the love you share.
~Write or reflect on your happiness: Why we are together? Remember the countless
moments consisting of laughs and 100 % weirdness. Do the good times trump the
disagreement?

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3) Check yourself for unnecessary negative thoughts that are keeping you from being
truly happy.
~Write or reflect on what you are telling yourself to “stay” mad:
What are you telling yourself that is keeping you from being able to forgive? I
sometimes think of the worst possible scenario :-/
Do you want things to get better? Always!
What are you doing to keep this from happening now? Being comfortable with being
upset, and often avoiding communicating.

4) Come back together and stop being so dramatic…as I’ve heard before from others
before!
~Apologize, break the ice (say something silly), talk about it, and move on!

I normally don’t share something so personal, and I’m not one to share such intimate details on social media. But, I wanted to do something to get me to take more accountability on following my own suggestions by documenting this. I’ve also learned recently from a close friend that opening up just a little bit more could actually lead you to help others. I don’t know who this post will reach, but I hope this helps.

~With Love,
From Me.