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Posts Tagged ‘emotion’

Empathy & Sympathy Revisited

In Emotions, Love, Relationships on February 8, 2011 at 12:28 pm

written by Swag

Homeless man, Tokyo.

Image via Wikipedia


Situation: Seeing a homeless person that is asking for money on the street while in the dead of winter.

Reaction: You think to yourself. “Wow, I would hate to be in their situation.” You understand the magnitude of the situation in terms of suffering, but you understand it from your own perspective.

Sympathy is the art of understanding the circumstances of someone else’s pain from your own perspective. You are outside looking in, seeing how the pain came to be and realizing its magnitude for the person suffering through it.

Sympathy involves understanding someone’s situation and then imagining your own thoughts, feelings, and actions during those particular circumstances. You can tell when you are sympathizing because most of your thoughts/statements will start with “If that were me…” or ‘if I were in that situation…”


Adult Simba from The Lion King II: Simba's Pride

Image via Wikipedia


Situation: Mufasa (Simba’s father in the Lion King) falls off a cliff and perishes.

Reaction: You shed a few tears because you understand the feeling of intense loss.

People mistake sympathy with empathy because they unconsciously parallel the thought of being in someone’s situation with the thought actually being that person while in a particular situation.

If  sympathy is the art of understanding someone’s circumstances, then empathy is the art of understanding someone’s pain. Their emotions and feelings become real as you experience them as your own.

In a relationship, empathy is of much more use than sympathy. When you only sympathize with your partner’s struggles, you end up trying to impose your own will and logic on the situation. It’s a subtle invalidation of their feelings. Sympathy is a relationship killer because it belittles and overlooks the emotions behind the circumstances.

Empathy on the other hand, promotes forgiveness, acceptance and appreciation, all of which help to nourish a relationship. Learn to understand your partners emotions by experiencing them as they have. Appreciating your partner’s heart makes loving him or her that much easier.


She’s not your mother

In Relationships on September 15, 2010 at 10:00 am

written by Swag

Fellas. Do you treat your mom different from the way you treat other women? Do you treat your significant other the same way you treated your mom? Are you the type of guy to deem some woman wholesome and others uhhh…not so wholesome. Eh, well me too. Makes sense right? Everybody shouldn’t be wined and dined unless they are deserving of such a gesture. Some people you respect the same way you respect your mother. Your wife deserves the same treatment your mother deserves right? Ehhh, probably not. Honestly, it’s probably a bad idea to think of your significant other as another mother.

I just don’t know, but it bothers me to think my future wife would play the role of my mother. My girlfriend knows, I hate to be babied– and her trying to take care of me when I’m sick is like pulling teeth. That is  just one of my personal issues! The real question is: to what degree do we expect our significant others to relate to us as if they were our mothers?

Wife versus mother. The ideas should overlap– but not completely. We as men need to be sure of where to draw this line, least we abuse our significant others by expecting them to provide for us in the exact same manner that our mothers used to.

Trust: We trust our mothers and our wives. Trust is a concept that combines vulnerability and security. If you expect to share anything with anyone then you have to trust they will keep it safe. I know, in my own mind, I take pride in being the protector, the vault, the safe place. But I have also realized I can’t play that role all the time and it’s a burden to play that role for myself. I trust both my mother and my significant other because they provide that security everyone so desperately craves (whether they know it or not).

Confrontation: Be they your mom or be they the love of your life, the women in your life will inevitably confront you with some grievance. I remember the days when my mom would yell my name from the bottom of the stairs. It didn’t matter if I was sleep, doing homework, or watching TV….instant adrenaline rush. My heartbeat would increase, waves of sweat would roll down my face, and my mind would cycle through the previous three days wondering what it could possibly be that I did wrong. My girlfriend, on the other hand, has a completely different approach and usually what I did wrong had a more emotional tint. When she confronts me, my heart sinks and I hope whatever I have done isn’t so bad that she believes I don’t respect or appreciate her. While at times I feel like I am on trial, I know that she always trys her hardest to understand the situation from my point of view.

Clearly Drawn Line
Trust: We trust these women at different times in our lives in different ways. Granted you will probably never stop trusting mom dukes but when was the last time you cried in front your mom. I may be pushing the limitations on this one and threatening the masculinity complex this country has, but I believe grown men know how and aren’t afraid to shed a tear once in a while. Believe me when I say there aren’t many other ways to be more vulnerable with your significant other than that. Allowing your wife or significant other the opportunity to be your emotional vault increases intimacy infinitely.

Confrontation: The difference here lies in how we react to confrontation. Imagine being a teenager or a child and your mom is yelling at you for something you have done. You are probably upset, armed crossed and ready to receive your punishment. Anything to get her to, dare we say it (sorry mom)…anything to get her to shut up. You can not act this way with your significant other. This is no parent-child transaction. I have learned that if you actually listen to your significant other and allow her to bear her grievance, there may never even be a punishment (this of course depends on whether you take what she says to heart). And please DO NOT think of her talking to you about what she feels you have done wrong as a form of punishment, that will only make you resent her emotions. Emotions that you may have caused. You have to be an adult and respect her as an adult.

As men, there is much we need from the women in our lives. Trust, security, empathy, and hard-line of discipline when necessary. My mom knew me inside and out because she raised me. The longer I know my girlfriend, the more she knows me because I choose to show her myself, inside and out. It’s very natural to desire the qualities of our mothers in our significant others. This, however, should not be mistaken for the relationship we share with each woman. A mother deserves a son who grows into a man. That man is who a wife or girlfriend deserves to be with.


Swag’s Sound Off: I Can’t Read Your F’ing Mind!

In Sound Off on August 4, 2010 at 9:41 am

Call Me Now!I have no desire to be Miss Cleo’s male counterpart and I don’t wish I was psychic either. So if we are dating and something is wrong with you then I’m not going to be able to read your mind. You will need to figure out the reasons why and communicate them so I can know what’s up .

We aren’t playing TABOO, so I don’t want any hints and we aren’t playing CLUE, so don’t give me any of those either.

If we have been together for a while, then sooner or later I will be able to translate your subtle behavior. I’ll probably know how you are feeling just by looking at you. I am not blind and can obviously see when you are distressed.

Despite all this though, I still won’t know exactly why you feel the way you do at any given time.

Long term relationships cause us to be around our significant others so much that we end up believing we can mind read. We feel like we know everything there is to know about them and then expect them to know the same about us. This is not only an unreasonable expectation, it’s unfair.

I have absolutely fallen into this trap before. There are times when I forget my girlfriend is even a different person. Sometimes I forget to tell her things because I assume I have already told her. How did she find out? When did I tell her? Did she find out through osmosis?

It’s at those times when I realize I am not only taking our communication channels for granted, I am also taking her personhood for granted. We can be with people for so long that we end up considering them extensions of ourselves. But one of the most important things you can do to sustain your relationship is value your partner as a human being with their own thoughts, feelings, and behavior patterns. Believing your significant other can read your mind is the same thing as believing they see the world exactly as you do. You are discounting who they are and how they perceive the world as a complete person separate from you entirely.

If you communicate with me then I can learn to empathize with your feelings and be more considerate. Hint at me and all I learn is that I have done something wrong. I don’t learn what, why, or how it affects you. You can either treat me like a adult and ask me to step up to the plate or treat me like a child and punish me with scornful looks and uncomfortable atmospheres. Either way, I am going to react accordingly so please, PLEASE…don’t play games.



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