Sunday, May 21, 2006

Empathy; This week's 'write on' word

Empathy, the ability to realize how someone else is feeling.

Webster's defines empathy as "the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts and experience fully commincated in an objectively explicit manner".

Daniel Goleman, author of Emotional Intelligence, reports, "Empathy builds on self-awareness; the more open we are to our own emotions, the more skilled we will be in reading feelings."

To be without empathy or the utter lack of empathy, says Goleman, can be found in the minds of molesters and the in the morals of sociopaths.

This word empathy is powerful. The reason I'm writing about it is because either through aging or life shattering experiences or my total loss of innocence, my ability to empathize has diminshed. I have no intention of becoming a sociopath or any other type of unmentionable degenerate that exists in this world today.

So I am bucking up to the fact that I have to reenergize my ability to know how others are feeling.

Look at all that the power of empathy has done for this world. There are organizations all over the United States that help people deal with abuse, hunger, homelessness, illness, death, preventative health, continuing education, building or rebuilding lives, addictions, predictions, lack of, too much of, contructing new homes, giving away free makeovers for homes and faces, research and the list goes on forever.

All of which would not exist if a group of people lacked the power of empathy. A person really needs to be able to feel how bad another person feels about losing a home to fire or flood or how a person feels while trying so desperately to fight an addiction. Such empathy is what generates and grows organizations such as Red Cross or the American Heart Association.

My background, ok, I am about to blame my childhood or child rearing for my adult actions, has been that of survival by my own means. Which all boils down to spending most of my adult life doing things that will propel ME, just me, forward both in monetary and nonmonetary ways.

I volunteer my time to organizations that will make me feel better about myself. I choose jobs that will make me look good to others. I have, in a real sense, cheated those I have helped because I didn't really feel what they were feeling.

Well, maybe in my younger years, somehow I related my feelings of helplessness and needs to those I was trying to help. But, lately, my helping has been purely to help me feel better about me. I have never intentionally hurt another person for pleasure, gain or for revenge. But, I'm not sure I have truly helped someone feel better because I don't believe I have taken the time to really let empathy play a part.

Knowing another's feelings without that person communicating directly about those feelings. Wow. That is powerful.

Empathy is part of everyone's emotional intelligence. As such, according to many years of research, empathy can be learned or relearned. So as I write about empathy this week and maybe part of next week's writings, I will be teaching myself to stop, listen and feel what those around me are experiencing and hopefully will find a way or ways to sincerely help someone in need.

Hopefully, you'll empathize right along with me.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Avoidance of Fear

Avoidance has been my theme for the past week and it would appear it is going to remain my theme for this week. I had to give that one minute speech last night and I did ok, not great, but not embarrassing either.

Nonetheless, the entire day before the little speech, I could not eat, talk, think or relax. I got a fortune cookie at dinner the night before that said that "Fear is really just excitement that needs an attitude adjustment."

Not bad. I tried to think of my fear of the one minute speech as excitement. Then I remembered that I try to avoid getting too excited, so I had to continue to avoid facing up to my fear. Remember this was fear of a one (1) minute speech.

Really I think it boils down to all of my avoidances. Avoiding the truth that I avoid success, I avoid taking care of my future, I avoid facing up to my past and all of that brings me to avoidance of action, avoidance of feelings and of course I have to be avoiding writing.

I can't not be avoiding writing at any time of my life.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Avoiding the one minute speech

I have to get up in front of 60 people next Tuesday and give a one minute thank you speech. It is only Thursday and I'm already fretting about the whole ordeal.

I've been a computer teacher since 1985 and have no problem standing in a room full of people as long as they can look at the computer screen or the overhead screen and not directly at me.

This speech, one minute otherwise known as an eternity, is one that I would rather just avoid. Two of my bosses and one of my co-workers will be there to show their support, or to hear me make a fool of myself for one minute.

I'm thinking of avoiding the whole thing by calling in sick. I never call in sick, I usually avoid using any of my sick days, but maybe it is time to throw off the avoidance robe and get on with life.

Really, avoiding the one minute, feels like an eternity, thank you very much speech is the best solution. I think. I'll let you know. I just can't keep avoiding the decision. We'll see....

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Another take on avoidance

My 'write' on word of the day came back to me in another way this afternoon. What's it mean when you see someone in a store, oh let's say the bookstore, and you or they quickly duck around the corner to avoid seeing you or you seeing them?

I have been the avoider and the avoidee at times. Today, I was the avoidee. When I do the avoiding, it makes perfect sense. I don't want to be seen in battered clothes that I've been wearing to wash the car or paint the stairs. I really don't want to talk to someone because I'm not in a very good mood and don't really want to make small talk or big talk for that matter. Sometimes, I'm just in a hurry and don't want to spend time catching up with someone.

But, when I am the one being avoided, now that makes me angry, sad and I daresay, depressed. Why would someone want to avoid speaking to me, even just a quick hello? The person looked dressed perfectly and did not appear to be in any hurry, until she saw me, which made this person quickly exit the store. By all appearances it was a complete and utter avoidance (snub).

The bigger lesson here, even though I'm looking for the answer to why someone would purposely avoid speaking to me in public, is avoid and avoidance hold much more meaning in life than the act of avoiding to write or the act of allowing oneself to actually be oneself, if that oneself really knew who they were or are.

Yes, indeed, avoidance.
My 'write' word for today's posting is avoid and all forms there of such as avoidance. I am a great practioner of avoidness. I avoid many things in life such confrontation, action, success (oh yes I have much practice at avoiding success), fear and most of all I have avoided writing.

I have had this tumultuous relationship with writing since the ripe age of 13. Being much older now, ok being 47 now, it has been a relationship lasting 34 years. It has been on again, off again, love, hate, hard work, no work and committment, renewed committment and failed committment. But, I digress and I avoid.

The world is filled with people practing avoidness. People avoid paying taxes, going to work, falling in love, getting married or getting divorced. Our entire country is avoiding the truth about 9/11 and the fact we could be attacked and killed again on our own soil.

So what are my feelings about the word avoid? And, why would I want to write about it, especially so that the entire Internet world could easily read about my feelings about the word avoid?

Let's take a path away from the word avoid for a moment so that we can come back to it with a little more background and substantiation. There are several books that have been around since at least 1995 by author Danial Goleman that describe emotional intelligence and how it affects our personal and professional lifes. The research and the presentation of the research are very good and have opened the door for me personally to determine who I am and why I have made the choices that I have made.

Because of my almost lifelong struggle with the need to write, I have moved through several different careers including teaching and educational administrator. Although the careers I continue to fall back on have been in the educational arena, I have worked in public relations, sales and marketing, freelance writing (the lowest paying job ever there was), computer programming, software trainer, technical writer and a brief stint at photography.

So because of all this avoidance of the truth, I have also spent much of my time being self-centered and perfoming endless soul searching and trying to find the methodolgies, if you will, to allow me to admit that I am not really a writer but a dedicated educator who can write fairly well. I've tried meditation, hours of prayer, reading all of the self-help books, talking and rationalizing for hours and hours to family and friends.

I love being in education, especially higher education. When applied properly, education can be a terriffic life changer and many times a life saver. So I do recognize the true benefits of a good education and truly appreciate the opportunities I've had to participate in those life changing and life saving activities.

But, I continue to avoid the truth of my inner soul which is that of a writer, I think. My problem is and has always been is that I'm not sure I have the deep down talent that propels the most successful writers to keep trying, giving up all the outside forces of life such as food, travel, expensive cars and so on to give themselves to the art.

The emotional intelligence theory explores the power of emotions over IQ and looks at how empathy, hope, optimism and knowing theyself make up the master aptitude for success in any job. The first book also looks at flow, the state of self-forgetfulness. I am currently reading all three books on emotional intelligence concurrently so I will continue to post ideas and opinions about the topic as I finish each book.

For now, these particular theories have finally reached me and seem to be providing a way for me to look at all of my avoidance activities. Maybe I don't have a true writer inside, maybe I do. But for now, if I can stop avoiding letting the real me emerge, I am convinced I can stop avoiding some semblance of happiness.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

This is my first time -- where have I heard that before

This is my first posting. Does anybody really care. I do. It took a lot of thinking and actual soul searching to decide to blog. I am a want to be writer that has actually made a modest (very, ok extremely modest) living for a number of years as a freelance writer.

Making your way in this world as a freelance writer is not for the meak or the weak or for those that like to pay the electric or buy your children shoes on a regular basis. So I quit and went back to working in education.

I like working in education. The only thing I like doing more for a career is, you guessed it, writing. But, believe it or not, education pays more than freelance writing.

I have written two books. Business related topics they are and deep in storage they probably will remain.

Anyway, all of that has led me to this blog. My big plans for my blog include writing all kinds of brilliant, funny, thought provoking and just plain marvelous thoughts and opinions. They will be my opinions. All of the words will be my words. And, most important, I will be writing.

So, stop by anytime if you are interested in an opinion or two on a topic or two. If not, I'm still going to stay here and write away.