2017 – The year of empathy, please

By December 20, 2016Bruce

Empathy did not come easy or early enough for me. Growing up in a contentious household during my adolescence, I unknowingly created my own internal wall of deflection of other peoples suffering. It was much easier for me to hide behind a facade of biting humor for most of my life than to stop and look deeply at my troubles or the trouble of others. I did not have the tools to be able to stop and examine my own suffering and use this knowledge and understanding to listen and relate to others. My emotional wall was tall and long. To protect my emotional wall I developed a knife like sense of humor to deflect any emotional invaders and the feeling they might bring.

I can divide a lot of my emotional way of thinking into 2 simple categories:

1. Before being diagnosed with cancer – I call this the “I am going to live forever syndrome” and everything is “fine” meaning that the view from the surface was always copacetic so why dig deeper and expose the dirty under belly. No need as everything was “fine” as it was. Status quo.

2. After being diagnosed with cancer – I call this the “Wholly ____ , I AM going to die!” wake up revelation. The underbelly has unearthed itself like it or not and I would have to “deal”. Now how I dealt with the situation wasn’t so fine.

You see, after receiving the worst diagnosis you ever want to hear 5 years ago, I was COMPELLED (certainly not by choice) to develop a mind shift in the way I thought in order to survive mentally. When I was first diagnosed, I just did not have the tools to deal with the real FEAR that confronted me. The result of this was……a mess. Me a mess. It was “oh woe is my time” for a long time. I couldn’t relate to others suffering because I was too busy suffering myself! At some point I finally realized, hey, this is it, this IS my situation, I am going to have to deal with it as long as I am alive, so let’s get going – suck it up and make the best of it. Once this new mind set took hold, I was able to crawl up from the self-pity hole I was in, and become……..aware and more mindful, and more empathetic. My cancer diagnosis shocked me into becoming a different, dare I say it, better and more empathetic person and I am honestly thankful of that. Weird, huh? My money says this probably happens to most people who are diagnosed with cancer – a horrible diagnosis with some unintended positive personal growth consequences.

Speaking and lecturing on my cancer journey has opened my eyes to the fact that we all are suffering to some degree and some people deal with a level of suffering that is simply incomprehensible to most of us. Through sharing openly my own suffering with others, I have been given the gift to truly empathize with others. I have also learned, that no matter what we as an individual are going through, there are many more who have had to endure even more difficult situations.

So all of these random thoughts come down to this: Everyone is dealing with suffering of some sort. If we give ourselves permission, we all have the ability to be more compassionate, caring and empathetic which will ultimately lead to more meaningful relationships with almost everyone we know. That person that cut you off on the freeway, the person who insulted you at work, they are suffering just like you, and there is a good probability that their problems would make yours look minuscule. Stop, take a few breaths, and let it go and let empathy take hold. These are the actions of a truly mindful person. You will grow, you will find yourself looking at situations and people in an entirely new mindful light. You will begin or continue to develop the tools needed to live a thoughtful, loving life regardless of your suffering. It’s possible – I am doing it!

What time is it? RIGHT NOW!

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