Tag Archive for "Empathy"

Autism, empathy, and the mind-blindness of everyday people

Hello! I’ve completed graduate school, and I’m now Karla McLaren, M.Ed! My master’s degree is in education and curriculum design with a concentration in linguistic anthropology, and my focus is on autism, empathy, disability rights, and human rights. Over the next few months, I’m going to be posting pieces of my own research and the excellent research I’ve found. For instance, if you’d like to explore healthier and more empathic ways to engage with the autistic people in your life right now, check out my Matrix of Autistic Sociality page! A note about the identity-first language I use: In my academic work, I intentionally use identity-first language (autistic person) instead of person-first language (person with autism). Person-first language is an attempt to foreground the person first, and to add the disability as an appendage, i.e., “person with learning disabilities.” Though often well meaning, person-first language is a tactic that actually (Read more...)

The difference between deep empathy and niceness

When people think of empathy, they tend to see it as a soft skill — as a yielding and pleasing kind of behavior. They think: If you listen to me and agree with me and make me feel good, that’s empathy. If you fix my problems and soothe everything, that’s empathy. Empathy equals niceness. But there’s actually a deeper form of empathy that transcends mere niceness and helps us engage with people across lines of discord, difficulty, pain, and trouble. I call this a full-bodied empathy, and it is a deeply emotive process that makes room for things that that don’t feel good and don’t seem particularly nice. In this deeper form of empathy, you don’t jump in to fix things right away. Instead, you create a space for people to sit with problems and conflicts until they are able to find the brilliance (their own brilliance; not yours) sitting (Read more...)

The Magical Healing Powers of Art

Art is a specific empathic healing practice This month’s newsletter about art has started a lot of conversations; this post expands on the healing power of art (artistically)! Artistic expression is a wonderful and soul expanding thing for anyone, but it has a particular healing quality for anyone who wants to understand and work with empathy, because art helps you express and channel emotions intentionally. Empathy is first and foremost an emotional skill, and learning how to work with and understand emotions is a vital part of developing healthy and intentional empathy. Whether you write, draw, paint, sing, compose, play an instrument, design, do metalwork or paper arts, work with fabric or jewelry, create with wood or ceramics, dance or do martial arts, do graphic arts or photography, do math or science, or work in your garden or your kitchen – artistic and creative expression will give you a way (Read more...)

How do we celebrate our mothers?

How do we celebrate our mothers — The ones who are here and the ones who aren’t The ones who gave their lives for us and the ones who walked away The ones who lovingly directed our lives as if we were art projects And the ones who never knew how to welcome us into the world How do we celebrate our mothers — The ones who were ready for anything we could bring And the ones whose childhoods impeded their capacity for love The ones who held themselves liable for every possible outcome in our lives And the ones who threw us into the deep end of the pool The ones who chose our fathers wisely, carefully And the ones who were children themselves, desperate for love, or unable to choose anything at all How do we celebrate our mothers — Do we live out their dreams for themselves (Read more...)

The difference between empathy and enmeshment

Hello fellow empathic people! Did you know that there’s a distinct difference between healthy empathy and enmeshment? I’ve spent a lifetime exploring how empathy works, how it goes awry, how we can understand it more clearly, and how we can create a ground for self-care and self-empathy within our everyday lives. I’ve also been looking at an idea about empathy that goes something like this: Empathy means that you agree with me, that you support me, that you feel my emotions alongside me, and that you meet my needs, even if I don’t articulate them. When you do that, we’re empathizing and you’re empathic. Really?

The Six Essential Aspects of Empathy, Part 1: Emotion Contagion

The Art of Empathy is here! My newest book and audio learning program, The Art of Empathy: A Complete Guide to Life’s Most Essential Skill, is now available — and I’m so happy to share it with you! I’ll be sharing each of my Six Essential Aspects of Empathy here in this blog, starting with the first, which has a strange name: Emotion Contagion. Before empathy can take place, you need to sense that an emotion is occurring – or that an emotion is expected of you. There is currently great debate about how we realize that emotions are required from us, but it is agreed that the process of empathy is dependent upon our capacity to feel and share emotions. Empathy is first and foremost an emotional skill.

Embodying Empathy — An April Workshop in Berkeley!

A day-long intensive with Nick Walker and Karla McLaren Saturday, April 6th, 2013 in Berkeley Empathy is everywhere in the news, in books, and in our conversations about each other and our world — and empathy is possibly the most important social skill you possess. However, empathy can be very fragile. It is common to get triggered and lose the capacity to empathize in the presence of conflict, difference, anger, fear, anxiety, and defensiveness. You may attack or withdraw, or you may become unable to think or feel your way to a more workable response. The solution: Learn to fully embody your empathy so that it becomes a safe and reliable stance that you can return to in times of trouble.

How accurate is your empathy?

How good are your Emotion-Recognition skills? Last week, we looked at a vital part of the first aspect of empathy (Emotion Contagion), which is your capacity to feel your way into the emotions of others. And with the support of the concept of Einfühlung, we also opened up our idea of empathy to include your capacity to feel into and alongside nonhuman actors like animals and nonliving things like art. With the help of your innate Einfühlung capacities, you can feel your way into nature, art, music, literature, and movement — and you can have intense emotional experiences and empathic relationships with things that are not alive. In my new book, The Art of Empathy, I rely upon this empathic capacity when people are hyperempathic and overloaded with the emotional needs of others. I have them begin to direct their empathic skills toward art, literature, music, dance, movement (etc.) — (Read more...)

Einfühlung and Empathy

Hello again! Last week, we looked at the first of my six aspects of empathy, Emotion Contagion. We also talked about the importance of art for people whose Emotion Contagion skills are very strong (hyperempaths), and also for people whose skills are currently less developed. The good news is that the six aspects of empathy are changeable, malleable, and manageable throughout your life span; therefore, you can make changes to your empathic skills — either to increase them, or to calm them down. This week, I want to look more closely at artistic expression and at the way that the word empathy came into the English language. In this excerpt from my upcoming book, The Art of Empathy (October 2013, Sounds True), we’ll look at the surprisingly recent history of the word and its roots in arts and aesthetics (the appreciation of art, beauty pleasure, and taste). Understanding the artistic (Read more...)

Welcome to The Year of Empathy!

Hello and Happy New Year! Last month, I turned in the manuscript for my new book The Art of Empathy, and it will be published in October! I’ll be posting weekly about empathy this year — about my work, about the empathy research being done in over half-a-dozen different academic disciplines, and about ways that you can work with each of the six aspects of empathy that I’ve defined and organized for my new book. I’m really excited about The Art of Empathy, and it will be fun to talk with you about it all year — here, on Facebook, on Twitter, and in my newsletter. To start us off, let’s look at the first aspect of empathy, which must occur before the complex latter stages of empathy can occur, and that’s Emotion Contagion. Emotion Contagion Before empathy can take place, you need to sense that an emotion is occurring (Read more...)

Empathy and autism

Empaths, we’ve got a situation. After these most recent mass murders, people are focusing their fears onto mentally ill people and autistic people. This is not only cruel, but it’s counterproductive, since autistic people and people who are mentally ill are far more likely to be victims of crime than to commit crimes. Since the Sandy Hook murders occurred, I’ve been very quiet, reading academic books on murder and violence, selectively accessing media, and watching people in my Facebook feeds reacting, sharing information, raging, grieving, posting, counter-posting, and theorizing wildly about the young man named Adam Lanza who killed his mother and then went to a local school to kill 26 people and then himself. The opinions are still exploding, people are grandstanding, fake messages from Morgan Freeman are circulating, and feverish, ungrounded theorizing about mental illness, autism, survivalism, gun safety, and school safety are being argued about ferociously. All (Read more...)

How the world didn’t end — again

Hello time travelers! Last year, I made a prophecy about the Mayan 2012 prophecy, which is being promoted by some as either the end of the world or the beginning of a new dawn in human spiritual development. Since I grew up in a spiritual group that believed in an earlier version of this exact same prophecy, I took an empathic, historic look at prophecies that foretell the end of the world, the end of an era, or the beginning of a new, Utopian future. I’ve time traveled into the near future (you’re welcome!), and I can tell you with assurance that there will be two equal and opposite reactions on December 22nd, which is the day after the supposed end of the Mayan calendar: 1) The world won’t end, and 2) It won’t matter, because the prophecy will still feel true. End-of-the-world prophecies are powerful stories that speak a (Read more...)

Six Essential Aspects of Empathy, part 3

Hello, part 3! In part 2 of this post, we looked at the third through fifth aspects of empathy. In this post, we’ll look at the culminating aspect, which I call Perceptive Engagement. As a reminder, here is my empathic compilation of the six essential aspects of empathy. Emotion Contagion: Before empathy can take place, you need to sense that an emotion is occurring – or that an emotion is expected of you. There is currently great debate about how emotion contagion occurs, and how we realize that emotions are required from us, but it is agreed that the process of empathy is dependent upon our capacity to feel and share emotions. Empathy is first and foremost an emotional skill. Empathic Accuracy: This is the ability to accurately identify and understand emotional states and intentions in yourself and others. Emotion Regulation: In order to be an effective empath, you’ve got (Read more...)

Six Essential Aspects of Empathy, part 2

Hello, part 2! In part 1 of this post, we looked at the six aspects of empathy that I’ve compiled for my new book The Art of Empathy (October, 2013), and we delved into the first two aspects (Emotion Contagion and Empathic Accuracy). In this post, we’ll delve into aspects 3 through 5. As a reminder, here is my empathic compilation of the six essential aspects of empathy. Emotion Contagion: Before empathy can take place, you need to sense that an emotion is occurring – or that an emotion is expected of you. There is currently great debate about how emotion stimulation and contagion occur, and how we realize that emotions are required from us, but it is agreed that the process of empathy is dependent upon our capacity to feel and share emotions. Empathy is first and foremost an emotional skill. Empathic Accuracy: This is the ability to accurately (Read more...)

Six Essential Aspects of Empathy, part 1

Hello again! I’m writing my new book on empathy — The Art of Empathy (October, 2013) — and I’m organizing the processes involved in empathy so that you can identify your specific areas of strength and challenges.  Over the next few posts, I’ll talk about the six aspects that I’ve identified from the research and from my own decades of practice. An empathic compilation of six essential aspects of empathy Our understanding of empathy is undergoing extensive transformation, and there is not yet scientific consensus about the differing aspects of empathy. As I’ve studied the multidisciplinary research, I’ve taken it seriously and relied upon it – but I’ve also relied upon my lived experience as an empath (and my childhood as a hyper-empath) to bring an overarching structure to my inquiry. I’m also relying upon many decades of working with other empaths and helping them bring balance to their emotional (Read more...)

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