Monday, August 20, 2012

Empathy - Curiosity and Intrigue

In my recent blog post exploring the disparate emotions stimulated by a soccer ball; I used quite a bit of colorful language in an attempt to inspire the reader to have empathy for a great number of people.

Recently I have been exploring the topic of empathy as it relates to all aspects of my life.  I have come to the realization that throughout much of my past, I was not consciously aware that other people truly existed.  Yes, that may sound a bit over dramatic; let me clarify.  Of course it is true that I understood other people physically existed, in a similar way to a house, a plant, or an rock.  It is also true that I understood that others had thoughts and opinions which allowed them to make decisions and take actions independent of my own.  What I did not see is that their selves existed.

Self is often defined in many ways by many people, so let me clarify where I am headed with the definition of self I have found helpful. I would like to propose self as an ecosystem (some have called MEcosystem) of complex interrelated thoughts spanning an unimaginable range of interactions and experiences.  Not only is this self based on a person's direct experiences, but more-so it is founded on that person's interpretations, their stories, of their experiences.  A helpful metaphor for this mecosystem is another chaotic complex system we call weather.

We each experience this complex mecosystem every day of our lives.  We are inconstantly making connections from our present to our past allowing us to be creative, productive, and maintain a complex range of relationships with the outside world.  Our selves are defined by this complex weather system of swirling information and interpretations.  What we see when we look at other people though, is quite different.

Their weather system of self is not in direct view of our senses.  Their complex experiences and stories are locked away inside their mind, with the only thing visible to us being the external effects of their own mecosystem.  All we see is the weather that spatters up against our windows.  We only see the final results of their complex system of thoughts.  We see what they say and how they act.  In some cases, if we are very trusted, an individual may relate to us some of what they think about why they act, but even then, this is filtered by their mecosystem before it is presented to us.

It is this whirlwind of past experiences and interpretations found in others of which I was not aware.  This empathy for the selves of others, has been a byproduct of my continued attempts at self-empathy.

As I have dug into my own history over the past year, I have come to realize how much my own interpretations of my past have, and continue to color my view of the present.  As I come to understand how deep the roots of my history ground how I see every waking moment of my present, has inspired me to explore this topic of self-empathy and empathy of others with my best friend and partner, Sharon.

My adventure of self-empathy with the exploration of my mecosystem is just beginning, and will likely last a lifetime.  This self exploration allows me to have a heightened sensitivity to the complex systems of self which result in others behavior and communication choices.  I still judge others on the morality of their actions and the virtue of their communication, but I have a profound respect for the cyclone of self which brought them to this point.

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