The Truth About Empathy | Do We Really “Get it?”

I imagine that you’ve heard the word empathy. However, do you know what it really means? The truth about empathy has escaped many people, but there are those that know its true meaning. I’ve had a reoccurring thought lately that gets to the heart of empathy. What is this thought?

Do you ever have reoccurring thoughts about what others might be thinking about you…

especially in regard to how you orchestrate your life? I sure do. Even though I know that this type of thinking isn’t helpful, I still have moments where I think that I know what someone else is thinking about me. When I have those types of thoughts, I try not to linger with them for long because I know it’s self- destructive. Also, I try not to take these thoughts too seriously because I think it’s just part of our nature as humans. Even though I know what others think of me and what I do doesn’t matter, lately, I’ve had this reoccurring thought that perhaps others might think that I’m looking for sympathy through writing. It seems so strange to actually write out this thought. And by writing it out, I see how silly and unjustified it is.

Regardless of how silly and unjustified the thought is that others might think that I want sympathy…

now that I’ve shared this thought with the world, I find that I do want to clarify it. Maybe if I do, the thought will disappear into oblivion. The realist in me whispers, “No, it won’t.” I’ll give it a try anyway. I don’t want anyone to feel sorry for me or my family. This would be sympathy, and I’m not seeking sympathy. I don’t want anyone to feel sorry for me. And I certainly wouldn’t want anyone to change what has happened. To do so would invalidate my experience. Without my experiences, I wouldn’t be where I am today. What I do want is for other to “get it.” To me, if others could “get it” then we’d make tremendous strides in erasing the stigma of mental illness, providing the highest quality of care possible for persons living with mental illness and preventing suicide.

Without empathy, to me, it’s a hard sell.

How do I know? Because I’ve been there. Before my experiences with my loved one, I didn’t think about mental illness or stigma. I didn’t have to, and therefore I proceeded with my life as if it didn’t exist. If it didn’t exist in my life, as I knew it, why would it matter? However, once my life was impacted by the mental illness of one of my children, I took notice, and suddenly mental illness and stigma mattered. By the time it came to matter in my life, I almost lost a child. Let’s not continue to risk losing one another because we don’t “get it.” Let’s come together to share, talk and listen. Let’s come together and put aside our viewpoints. Let’s try to see things from the other person’s point of view. Let’s examine our attitudes. Let’s ask what the other person would do. Let’s walk in each other’s shoes so to speak so that we can make the world a better place for those we love and those around us. Let’s “get it” together.