Balance purpose, relationships, and self-care

Empathy works. It always does.

Empathy struggle

Leave a comment

I struggle listening to her.

Doesn’t she see you don’t get more harmony and collaboration by putting your child in time out? Or that slapping him in a “pedagogically way” doesn’t bring more understanding? Let alone peace?

She should do the Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet by Byron Katie. So she can learn how to accept him as he is, instead of wanting to change him. If she connects to her own triggers that come up in this relationship, she can take responsibility for her own feelings and needs, instead of blaming her child for them.

Image courtesy flickr.comI get more and more anxious and frustrated and find it more and more difficult to listen to her. If only she would see the world from my perspective…

Wait a minute…

I want her to accept people around her as they are and accept responsibility for her own triggers? I want her to stop blaming others and wanting to change them?…

Didn’t I just try to change her myself?

What if I do the Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet? What if I accept her as she is? What if I work on my own triggers as they come up, instead of wanting her to be different?

I pause. I take a deep breath. I express myself. “I got triggered as I listened to you. I need three minutes to listen to myself, so I understand what’s going on for me. I want you to have the empathy you need, and I am not sure if I am a source of support for you in this moment.”

She stops and gives me space.

I realize I might not be up to listening to her strategies. And I might be up to respectfully understand the feelings and needs behind those strategies.

After a few minutes I ask her: “Tell me about your frustration.” She starts crying. She tells me about all those times she felt overwhelmed, lost, and scared. All the times her sense of support, understanding, acceptance, love, contribution were unmet. As early as a young child.

I listen. I get her. I totally get her. I get her pain and suffering and my heart softens.

Empathy isn’t difficult at all. As long as I focus on our shared human experience of feelings and needs. I might struggle at the level of strategies. If I do, I can always focus back on those precious feelings and beautiful needs. I bet you can too and find the connection, closeness, and understanding you want, when you focus on feelings and needs.


You want to learn to empathize with yourself if you are triggered when you empathize? Contact me 512-589-0482 for a free discovery session to see how I can help.

Author: Elly van Laar

I am a coach. I specialize in helping professionals schedule time for relationships and self-care. I have a Master's degree in Political Science, Leiden University, the Netherlands. I love meditation, walking, gardening, biking, and hanging out with family and friends.

I am curious to read your response

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s