Empathy: Third Road post electionLos Angeles Post-Examiner

Empathy: Third Road post election

Like many of you I have been struggling mightily with the election results. I have gone through a period of mourning and disconnection, but I have read some things in the last few days that have given me some clarity on what to do with what is going on.

The first was from La Shell Charde regarding worthlessness and belonging. She sees too many of us living with both of these. She goes on to discuss how the actions we choose to manage this actually make it worse. We have all been trained to believe we can somehow be worthless and don’t belong. It is imperative, more so even now, that we help each other to see our own worth and to support a sense of belonging in all of us. This belonging isn’t just to some group, but it’s the belief that we can all get our basic needs met: safety, support, nourishment and love.

Then I came across an article about the More United movement in England. Many people there are feeling the same frustration and fear regarding Brexit as we are with this election. This is a crowd-funded movement to influence their upcoming elections in a way that reflects values that they have identified. They are clear this isn’t a political party, anyone can join, and they will support anyone who reflects their values regardless of political party. The values are opportunity, tolerance, democracy, environment and openness.

Finally, I came across a conversation in the comments of Facebook that hit home. The comment was regarding some sort of political issue, it doesn’t really matter which one; it was the conversation that was important. One person commented that people were “morons” to believe that Trump voters were bigots, even if they had previously voted for Obama. As long as we believed this Republicans would still win. This is when the conversation got real.

“So here … (finger pointing to the above comment). This guy here? I couldn’t have PLANNED it better. Really? I’m supposed to respond to this person with, like what? Empathy? Look at this, it defies logic. Someone tell us how to deal with people like this? And they are legion.”

Same person comments again:

“Because you all know how this goes. We have all tried it. You can’t even try to educate these folks. You can’t. They won’t have it. Someone-please-tell me. What in the HELL DO YOU DO WITH THESE PEOPLE? It is literally crazymaking. You just want to utterly disengage. But we are being told to engage. Engage with madness. What? Please, someone. Fix this.”

Van Jones

And here was the response:
I want to acknowledge and validate your honesty and clarity. I totally get it and you are correct in many ways. Loving THEM just feels out of alignment and fake as Cheetos. But instead, we can try by taking a stand for what we truly LOVE. Transform their racism, by standing up for a love of equality. Transform their injustice by standing for a love of justice and fairness. Transform their meanness by standing up for a love of kindness and compassion for others less fortunate … There’s a list a mile long to work with right now with those blankety blanks! I’ve started by taking a stand for my love of Mother Earth and the environment because those guys want to destroy it … etc. This is a powerful time for all of us to stand up for what we love and do something about it in massive numbers, collectively.”

Many of us just don’t have it in us to empathize with others we see as the enemy right now. We need a very large dose of self-empathy. Furthermore, we will never get what we want by saying what we don’t want. I know Van Jones wants to recruit a “Love Army” to fight against the Trump administration. I think there are many people who are put off by the term “love” right now.

All of this came together for me in a thought. It would be helpful if people could come together under shared values, not related to a political party. These are the values I envision, but there certainly could be more.

    Openness — We support immigration and understand that it is a strength to our country, not a weakness.
    Belonging — We want everyone in our country to feel secure and know they belong. This belonging involves the security of knowing your basic needs can be met safely, including healthcare, housing, food and relationships.
    Opportunity — We want a fair economy in which our country’s riches are spread more evenly and everyone can contribute.
    Education — We believe an informed electorate is necessary for the success of all. Our citizens must have the ability to think critically and it is our responsibility to invest in the education needed to help everyone have more opportunity.
    Democracy — We want all of our voices to be heard in a more equal and fair way, without the need for large sums of money.
    Environment — We want to protect our environment and prevent future harm.

We can organize at the local level to be sure these values are being met, and if they aren’t, figure out how they could be. We need information shared regularly across our nation on how our goals are being met. We need identifiable resources to help us problem solve when they aren’t being met. I think many of us are willing to step up and help if we are given concrete actions that fit into our already busy lives.

Just being more clear about what we want is self-empathy. Perhaps Van Jones will be able to provide the guidance we need, perhaps others as well. But when we can get clear on what we want, and believe it’s possible, there is hope. And hope is what we need right now.

Photos from Wikipedia

About the author

Heather Schlessman

Heather Schlessman, PhD is a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner who has spent her career either working with or teaching about families. She is also a mother who, like so many other parents, spent years muddling her way raising 3 wonderfully different children, one who happens to be experiencing a disability. Fortunately she has a life partner who muddled along with her. Spending most of her time trying to be perfect, as that would be the safest way to live, she became aware of a desire to be able to see people in a more compassionate way. Little did she know that the person she needed the most compassion for was herself. There is a saying that when you are ready to learn a teacher will appear, and so it was for Dr. Schlessman. She was introduced to the work of Dr. Marshall Rosenberg, the developer of Nonviolent Communication, and her world completely changed. She learned a way to have an intimate connection with herself and others, a way to truly contribute. Her passion now is to help others find their way to a more compassionate life. You can find more of Dr. Schlessman’s empathic expressions along with her husband’s, Rev. Mark Schlessman on their website. Contact the author.


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