August 22, 2008

This one's for the girls

Empathy: the intellectual identification with or vicarious experiencing of the feelings, thoughts or attitudes of another.

The book I’m reading, I Know I’m in There Somewhere: A Woman’s Guide to Finding her Inner Voice and Living a Life of Authenticity (told you I love self help), says that “girls as young as in the third grade have already developed the ability to chime in with their friends’ feelings, even to the point of exaggerating their similarities. They learn to say in effect, ‘I know just how you feel; I feel the exact same way.’”

This is a little amazing to me, and yet, it makes total sense. What happens when you go to your girlfriends when you are hurting or sad or feeling a little blue? They empathize with you. When I go to one of my girlfriends, I can absolutely rely on them to feel my pain, relate my situation to a situation in their lives or at the very least, pretend that they’ve been there before.

And only, ONLY, after they have fully empathized with me and are sure that I understand that they are right there with me, do they begin to offer me solutions to my problem. Maybe it’s because I’m a girl and it’s the way I’m wired, but this ritual comforts me. I find that many times when I’m upset about something, one of the main reasons I’m upset about it is not because I want to fix it, but because I worry that something is wrong with me because I’m upset about it in the first place. Empathy releases me from that fear and comforts me because it says, “Don’t worry. You’re fine. I’ve felt the exact same thing. You are normal.” And personally, feeling like I’m normal can go a long way in helping me get over just about anything.

Overall, I guess what I’m trying to say is a big ‘ole thanks to all you girls out there. Maybe you’ve been there for me. Maybe you’ve been there for someone else. Regardless, thanks for being there, for feeling the pain, for shouldering the burden, for sharing the tears and for never trying to “fix” things until the time is right.

It’s an art, that empathy, and we girls seem to have gotten it just right. So, give yourselves a nice pat on the back, and have a great weekend. You deserve it.

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