Let’s feel more, together, in 2018
Insight to the emotional realities of others can be transformative. Empathy – our inbuilt ability to sense, understand, and subsequently share the feelings of others – is a universal gift among mammals; we’ve evolved with the specialized capacity to feel the individual states of those surrounding us through a complex system of interdependent structures of the central nervous system – predominately, what are simplistically called the limbic and neocortical regions of the human brain.
These connected networks are even working now, assisting in processing these words, categorizing the collection against your existing inventory of knowledge, and settling upon suitable emotional and memory-based responses. In a near-instantaneous fashion you are able to parse a mass of characters upon a screen to identify – and with impressive accuracy – the basic meaning, tone, and voice with which this post was crafted.
This is fucking amazing.
Back to empathy, always
As intricate as the human mind is, the expressions it inspires are often beautifully accessible, with our basic emotions presenting universally across continents and cultures; between those old and young, those who’ve not met prior, and even in environments rife with human tragedy, a sincere shared smile can offer a sense of inner peace that is not entirely explainable, though no less real than the lips it decorates.
Empathy is, without a doubt, one of our most powerful tools.
And empathy is everywhere
When your chest tightens and you gasp in accord with the characters at a pivotal point in a film, you smile in response to the overheard laughter of strangers, or even when you forcibly look away from a homeless individual seeking to share your gaze – each of these everyday experiences is an example of your empathetic response to the world.
Even simply reading these examples may have elicited a flurry of unavoidable emotional feedback.
Now the hard part
While empathy is often inescapable, to be intentionally empathetic requires openness to being seen. For many, this is the most trying feat in sincerely connecting with others. Inviting people to witness our emotional states can inspire fear and worry; emotions frequently seem unwieldy, and laying them bare welcomes others to inspect our being in a way which may feel more intimate than is comfortable.
But to be seen is a beautiful thing
Being seen, one is made immediately aware of the universality of emotionality; in an instant you are reminded, you are never alone in your feelings.
Again, you are never alone in your feelings.
And that fearful perspective? The one pressing you to hold close your inner state and resist the prying expressions of another attempting to understand you? This perspective is often facing inward – a place in which even the most introverted among us grow lonesome over time. Humans thrive in shared experience.
So in the new year before us, let’s feel more, together. Please – please – invite those around you to see and understand you; from offering an earnest response to the gently prodding, "How are you?" to holding the joining expression of another amid a shared moment of emotionality, allow yourself to connect with others in a way that welcomes fuller, more satisfying relationships.
In 2018, let's feel more, together.