Posted in Emotional Health, Relationships


They say you shouldn’t judge a person before you’ve walked a mile in their shoes.  If that’s true then how do we cultivate empathy in others.  Those who are facing health challenges could hold classes for the loved one’s in their lives to explain the complexities of their illness and all the ramifications of treatment.  That’s obviously an unrealistic expectation.

Let’s look at the continuum.  First we have sympathy.  Sympathy is the experience of enmeshment with the person who is challenged.  You literally feel the person’s pain.  This is not helpful to either of you and can create a cycle of negative energy.  You’ll both be on the hamster wheel with no way off.

Empathy is the absorption of the other’s pain.  It’s like the episode of Star Trek with “The Empath”  she absorbs the pain from the other person and processed it through her own body.  People experiencing challenge believe you’re a hero.  Unfortunately it’s because they have someone doing the work for them.  There is little chance that you, the person with the health challenge, is going to grow and create healthy avenues for wellness.

Finally there’s compassion.  Compassion is the state where you don’t go into the emotional state with the other person but you’re fully present.  This is the greatest gift you can offer someone with a health challenge.  Acknowledging their challenge, their bravery, their courage and their resourceful and allowing them to come up with solutions is powerful.

It’s easy to get seduced by the story of someone who is ill, but that’s a trap without a happy ending.  Developing the ability to sit with the pain, but not have to eliminate another’s pain is difficult, but empowering for the person with the life-altering health diagnosis.

As someone who is ill the obvious would be to have someone remove the pain and let you off with no responsibility.  Obviously that’s not possible, so don’t you want your loved one’s to show compassion and give you the strength to emerge stronger than before?  Let me know how you would encourage your loved one’s to develop compassion.  Sharing this information with the world could end a lot of suffering for those facing an illness.


I've lived my life in service to others. I'm focused on mental health and how it impacts our relationships, culture, and society. Through creative expression and narrative I believe we can impact change.

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