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Muse: No Such Thing As Too Much Empathy!

-Rishabh Drolia, June’2020

Lately, I have been struggling to find answers to thoughts that majority of us have probably been going through.

“I want to help; how do I help them? "

So, started talking to some friends and my brother who is a psychiatrist about what is it that constitutes help when we talk about people dealing with mental health issues. Turns out its not rocket science and yet majority of us fail to provide and look for it. It’s Empathy.

In this article, I have tried to gather non-exhaustively reasons for us to provide help and ways in which we can do it.

“I am dealing with this terrible phase of my life, and I want someone to be there ‘with and for me’ and to be able to understand my circumstances.”

""Okay, you mean to be able to SYMPATHIZE with you?”"

“No, that’s not what I meant!”

“I want someone to connect with the emotions I’m going through, not trying to instead demotivate me for the same.”

Here’s precisely where most of us go wrong!

We’re all facing problems, having our fair share of bad days, failed relationships, disappointment in self, hindrances, and so on, and having someone to feel the kind of pain, a similar vibe, and emotion is not less than a physiological hug!

Your choice to look for help and provide help is what is needed, over and over again.

“When you allow someone to feel sorry about you, unknowingly, you lose yourself to them; rather, when you allow someone to share your sorrow, unknowingly, you earn yourself in them."

We’re all different, and we all react differently to different situations, so is with empathizing, I might do it the other way, and you might do it some other way! If we look at it, there are documented ways how you can be there for someone without pitying!

COGNITIVELY, wherein you’re trying to simply figure out how the other person feels and what they might be thinking. Sometimes called as perspective-taking! It has a lot to do with the person’s intellect and vision! Further, it helps at motivating them and understanding diverse viewpoints. It is defined by knowing, looking through, and then comprehending on an intellectual level. As most of us know, to understand sadness is not the same thing as feeling sad. It takes a whole lot to step into someone’s shoes, after all.

EMOTIONALLY, is when you feel physically along with the other person, as though their emotions were contagious. You actually try to keep yourself there, you are then a person with the ability to fully take on the emotional and mental state of another. For instance, when your partner or anyone you deeply love comes to you in tears, it’s a natural response to feel that pull on your heartstrings.

COMPASSIONATELY, with this kind of empathy, we not only understand a person’s predicament and feel with them but are spontaneously moved to help, if needed! It takes courage, benevolence, and selflessness to be able to empathize with someone compassionately!

Fun fact, deep down in our hearts, this is the type of empathy that we’re usually striving for!

But no matter how you choose to be there for people, either cognitively, emotionally, or compassionately, someone’s rightly quoted “One of the most important things you can do on this planet is to let people know that they ARE NOT ALONE.”

Power of Empathy. Why empathize? Does it create an impact?

It is not your empathy but your commitment to it that relieves someone else’s suffering, and hence important in every way.

There are actually several reasons to foster empathy for others, and its importance isn’t only for the ones who’ve been empathized with, but also for the one who empathizes!

The moment you choose to be with someone when they need you the most, to be able to look at things from their perspective, helps you invite emotions and feelings that might be of use to you at a later stage of life because nothing done for good goes in vain. You tend to build ties with the person you empathize with, just letting them know “you’re there” is powerful in endless ways, you don’t really have to fix something or feel it for them. Rather you have to just FEEL IT WITH THEM!

Here’s a small poem that describes the power of EMPATHY-

“Sit Beside me’

and try to see,

how things are going down the lane,

and turning me insane,

I know you can see those tears’

coming out of several fears’

that I tend to bury down my heart’

seemingly trying to tear me apart’

I don’t want you to feel sorry

I don’t at all want you to worry

Just sit beside me

and try to see

with love, compassion and empathy

look at me with everything but sympathy!”

No one’s asking you to move mountains; it’s as simple as “kindness” that changes everything

You are somehow HEALING the other person, something that should exist a little more in the world, there are so many people out there looking for someone to just be there and honestly, empathy has no script, there isn’t any right way or wrong way of doing it, it’s simply listening, holding space, withholding judgment, emotionally connecting and communicating to them the fact that you’re there for them.

For me, the core of empathy is CURIOSITY!

I did not want this article to move in the direction of suicide, but without that the source of empathy for most of us lose meaning. Any such incidents just forge our emotions to feel strongly and strongly about it but fades away just as easily, only coming back at a huge cost of someone else’s life.

One of the most powerful descriptions of suicide I’ve ever read. David Forster Wallace, Infinite Jest

The so-called “psychotically depressed” person who tries to kill herself doesn’t do so out of quite ‘hopelessness’ or any abstract conviction that life’s assets and debits do not square.

And surely not because death seems suddenly appealing. The person in whom its invisible

agony reaches a certain unendurable level will kill herself the same way a trapped person

will eventually jump from the window of burning high-rise. Make no mistake about the

people who leap from burning windows. Their terror of falling from a great height is still as

great as it would be for you or me standing speculatively at the same window just checking

out the view; i.e. the fear of falling remains a constant. The variable here is the other terror,

the fire’s flame: when the flames get close enough, falling to death becomes the slightly less

terrible of two terrors. It’s not desiring the fall; it’s the terror of flames. And yet nobody down on the sidewalk, looking up and yelling ‘Don’t!’ and ‘Hang on!’, can understand the jump. Not really. You’d have to have personally been trapped and felt flames to really understand a terror way beyond falling”

How can you start? How can you empathize, because not everyone is naturally empathetic?

Start conversation with strangers, go beyond small talk and ask them how they’re doing and what their daily life is like.

Put away your phone and other screens when you’re having conversations, even with the people you see every day, so you can fully listen and notice their facial expressions and gestures. Don’t just stand in someone else’s shoes, as the saying goes, but take a walk in them! If someone’s behaviour is bothersome, instead of first asking them, think about why.

Sit by yourself and wonder, when was the last time you were there for someone, held their hand, wiped their tears, and told them, “I’m there for you, you’re not in this alone” when was the last time this happened?

Are we not too busy into ourselves, giving a cold shoulder to people who need us in little big ways, to simply be there and just be there?

It’s time we look around because sometimes it’s our own home and our family members, whom we need to empathize with, so might as well begin from there!

Don’t find people to empathize with, but develop this as a habit and a lifestyle that should come out naturally in your personality.

“You can only understand people if you feel them in yourself,” and yes, that is what the world needs, nothing but empathy!


Rishabh is from the batch of 2019-21 and is a part of Melange. He started writing quite early in his life and since then everyday emotions and surroundings have been a constant source of inspiration for him.He is one of those people who would take a sad song and make it his own and then make a poetry out of it.

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