DEAR FRIENDS- Empathy is a beautiful aspect of our miraculous capacity for love. We can define empathy as the ability to intuitively sense- with warmth and caring- what another person is feeling. Empathy between people is major aspect of "feeling connected". Where there is empathy there is no rejection, no judgement, no "stranger". In empathy there is an kindness that heals and unites us. Without this blessed capacity of our hearts to touch and hold each other's inner selves, life would be very lonely indeed!
Just as empathy is an essential aspect of loving and connecting with another person, so is our ability to be empathetic toward ourselves central to the ability to love ourselves unconditionally.
So allow me to ask you the all-important question- how much compassion and empathy do you have for YOU?
When we were newborns and young children, our emotional well-being depended on our parents'- and especially our Mother's- ability to empathetically "sense" what we were feeling and needing. This rapport of Mother with her child's inner world enables her to respond not only to her child's physical needs (hunger/sleep/being held etc.) but also to maintain an unbroken emotional and energetic connection with him/her.
Without the Mother's intuitive grasp of what her child is feeling he/she suffers from a painful sense of isolation. The child feels separate and alone in a visceral way. Think of how painful it can be when you sense that your husband/wife/best friend- or anyone at all!- doesn't "get/empathize with" what you are feeling. It can be excruciatingly lonely!
Human beings, and especially mothers, are born with an instinctive capacity to make and maintain this empathetic/energetic connection. But if the adult's natural sensitivity has been diminished- or even fully shut down- by unconscious emotional blocks to their own feelings, this inborn ability to make deep contact with the child can be lost.
Given the fact that most people have significant emotional blocks due to unhealed pain from their own upbringing, I believe that most of us suffered from significant "empathic breakdowns" as we were growing up.
The buried legacy of this early sense of disconnection has lifelong effects. As proof I offer the fact that almost everyone wrestles with feelings of loneliness and an unsatisfied need for connection. We certainly weren't born with a painful sense of being "disconnected"! We can only conclude that chronic loneliness is epidemic in today's world because of real problems in empathy that were experienced by millions of us as were were growing up.
And if sufficient empathy and contact wasn't given to us as infants, children and adolescents, this reduces how deeply we can "feel" and love ourselves!
In order to have a deep and abiding feeling of self-love, we need to create - from within!- the steady, warm and empathetic connection to ourselves that we needed from our parents when we were young. In a very real and miraculous way, we need to become unconditionally loving mothers and fathers to ourselves!
And I guarantee that this CAN be done!
Now here is what we must awaken to- and overcome. Most of us are not aware- on a steady moment-to-moment basis- of much of what we are feeling. This very importantly includes how are thinking and feeling about ourselves! In other words we are "out of contact" with how we are treating the one who needs our empathy, love and acceptance the most. Us!
Staying fully "in touch" with your feelings- and crucially your basic attitude toward YOU- is essential to learning how to develop the feeling that you truly love yourself.
To help you unconditionally love and empathize with yourself from within, I offer you this potent and amazingly effective self-awareness practice!
The basic idea is that you are going to establish the self-loving habit of "checking in" with how you are feeling and relating to yourself- frequently throughout the day.
The "Return to Love" Practice: Restoring Self-Empathy and Compassion.
1. A number of times through the course of your day, take a moment- and a deep breath- for yourself. Turn your attention inward and ask yourself these two basic questions: "What are the feelings inside me right now?" and "How am I feeling toward/about myself right now?" Both of these questions will put you "back in touch" with your inner world.
For example: Are you blocking/denying certain emotions because you don't know how to deal with them or think they are "wrong"? Are you feeling cold or indifferent toward yourself? Angry at yourself? Unworthy or ashamed of yourself? Self-critical and "pressureful"? Numb or guilty or even hateful toward yourself?
Ideally you are feeling confident in yourself. Proud of yourself. Warm and patient and kind toward yourself. But often this isn't the actual situation- otherwise the widespread anxiety, depression and unhappiness we see all around us wouldn't exist!
The important thing is to simply and clearly- just like in Zen meditation- see what is actually happening inside you!
2. If you recognize that your thoughts/attitude have drifted into dark and unhappy places such as fear and self-criticism, guilt and shame (and you may find this occurs far more often than you realized!):
a. First, relax your body and take a few easy breaths.
b. Then, allow your attitude toward yourself to "soften". Have empathy for yourself- first by reminding yourself that YOUR FEELINGS ARE VALID AND YOU DON'T NEED TO FEAR THEM. You have the unconditional right to your emotions and you will find the way to handle them constructively.
And secondly- restore your loving self-connection by affirming that there is NEVER ANY VALID REASON TO BE HARD ON YOURSELF. And that, just like an innocent child, you need patience, warmth, love and understanding most of all!
c. As self-tenderness and empathy return, let go of any self-criticism, self-judgement, guilt, shame/unworthiness and pressure. Repeat this healing truth: "I need and deserve nothing but kindness".
d. Finally- lift your spirit by placing your attention and contemplation on all that is beautiful and right about you.
e. Through this step-by-step process- which in time will become a life-giving habit- you re-establish a positive, empathetic connection with yourself and "return to love''!
Be prepared to "re-attune" yourself a number of times throughout your day, as your thoughts and attitude will tend to "fall back" toward their less than unconditionally loving state.
This ongoing "self-meditation" to restore your connection to YOU- through empathy and love- will create a new and joyful relationship with yourself.
Once you experience the "great awakening"- that your underlying attitude toward you is THE major factor in your ability to be happy- you start an inner revolution that heals you forever. The "Return to Love", practiced day by day, enables you to remember your amazing beauty and worth and always accept yourself exactly as you are. From personal experience I promise that your commitment to return to self-empathy and compassion - again and again and again- will steadily and surely lead you to home to the unconditional love you long for and have always deserved! LOTS OF LOVE- BRYAN