Tag Archives: empathy

“I’ve just had a really long day.”

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She suddenly looked up at me, big blue eyes, glistening, “I’m sorry. I’ve just had a really long day.”

I cocked my head to the side and furrowed my brow to indicate I had no idea what she was talking about.”

She looked down sheepishly. “I’m sorry I snapped at you earlier. I’ve just had a long day.”

Quickly, and with a little amusement, I mentally reviewed this “really long day” for my not-yet-6-year-old.

This day was my first day back to work after a week vacation, but she still had the day off for teacher planning day following her spring break.

I let her sleep until the last possible minute. I even did her chores of feeding her dogs and fish. I let her have M&M cookies for breakfast. She came with me to work, and she quickly took over my office, the conference room, and eventually my boss’s office with her LalaLoopsies, markers, paper, tape, sand. Plenty of play on her tablet. Then, after work, she got a quick nap in the car on the way to dance. After dance, some running around on playground with friends. Tried out a new podcast on the way home, which she loved, then made plans to take the crazy dog for a walk. (We have 2 labs. One is old and calm. The other is only 2- that is the crazy dog.)

It was then she snapped.

Except, she really didn’t. I think she did yell at the dog, who was jumping, excited to see her, and briefly had a tone in her voice with me, that I called her on. For me, it was quickly forgotten. But as we walked with the dog, enjoying the weather and the discussion, it was bothering her- which brings me to the start.

I fought my natural inclination to respond with a sarcastic comment about wishing I had really long days like hers, and attended to HER feelings instead of mine. I thought about what I want when I am tired and irritable. I just want someone to hear me.

I brushed a wayward curl out of her face as I smiled at her. I acknowledged her really long day. I told her that when we got home we would eat and she could have a relaxing bath and then we would cuddle and read together before bedtime.

 

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I’m so proud of my daughter on the primary Election Day.

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My daughter is not yet 6.

I’m watching her swinging for a few minutes before we get ready for karate. Her crazy blonde curls are flying everywhere and she has the biggest grin. Joy. Open. Kind. Pure.

20 minutes before, in the car heading home from the precinct after I cast my vote for my registered party’s presidential candidate, my brilliant daughter was talking about what she thinks makes a good president. She said the president should have courage and should help people.

And then, in the simplest of ways explained why a president should seek to resolve conflict, not create it- should seek to solve problems not create division. She said if people don’t get along and just go on to the next friend, and then don’t get along and move to the next friend and keep going and going like that, pretty soon the whole world will just be mad at each other and not listening.

No matter what happens in the election today, or in November, or in 4 or 8 or 12 years from now, I will make a commitment to myself and to my child that I will continue to love and to be kind. I will seek to understand the other side, even if I don’t agree, and in conflict will strive to do so with respect.

I will do my best to live up to my daughter’s expectations for a president, so by default, a leader: to have courage and to help people.

 

I choose to love.

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As a therapist I have spent a great deal of time thinking about how people feel, how people think and how and why they behave certain ways.

As a therapist who specializes in trauma, I have spent countless hours with people who have trusted me enough to share details of horrific things they have been through. I have seen the devastating and long term effects caused by the violence of man.

I have seen what living in a near constant state of fear does to the human spirit. How it impacts relationships. How emotions and perceptions are affected. I have even seen how people lash out with anger and aggression because of fear.

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But I have also seen hope and I have seen healing. I have experienced healing. I have never seen healing happen from fear or anger. The moments of healing happen in a place of love and compassion. They happen when people are open to receiving and giving kindness. It happens when someone stands defiantly up to the fear- refusing to let the fear color their world anymore.

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It would be easy for me to let my fears of what might be or what could happen win. To circle the wagons and insulate myself and my loved ones from a cruel, harsh world. And it is a cruel, harsh world. But it’s also beautiful and peaceful and interesting and joyous and weird and so much more. I live with eyes wide open to the beauty and to the danger.

And every day I make a choice to approach myself and others with kindness. Every day I choose to contribute to the healing of others, of myself, of society. I choose to live in a way that reflects the kind of world I want for my daughter. I choose to make my love greater than my fear.

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What Can Mothers Learn From Cecil the Lion?

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I have been thinking a lot about the dentist that killed Africa’s most famous lion. As a therapist, I know I can’t assume things about people. I do not know what his thought process was that day. I also do not know what he was told by the others who helped him with the hunt.

I DO know that I don’t like the way I felt when I heard the news of Cecil. I would like Q to have a greater respect for wild, beautiful animals and not choose to be in this situation. I hope that he will enjoy observing these magnificent animals (far enough away so he doesn’t become dinner) and decide that playing soccer, golf, or other sports may peek his interest far more than big game hunting.

How do I teach Q to have a deep respect for animals? What am I doing that will help Q draw his own conclusions of what is “right” or “wrong” for him? (Gosh, this “parenting” thing is never-ending, huh?)

Model behavior

First, I am modeling behavior. I cultivate a love and curiosity for animals. I suppose my interest in them makes the task of modeling positive behavior much easier. When I was eight, I was given a cat for my birthday. Crazy as it may seem to some, that cat knew my secrets and was frequently my alarm clock in the morning (he would lick my face every morning trying to wake me up for school). The curiosity I had about what he “knew” and how he was able to communicate was never-ending. When we go for walks, Q points to each animal he sees and we stop for a moment to observe the creature.

Teach empathy

Second, I believe teaching empathy is important—empathy for people as well as other animals. As a therapist, I want to ensure Q has empathy so that he can develop and maintain deep, healthy, and lasting relationships with all creatures. I hug Q when he is sad and laugh with him when he is happy. (How to teach empathy can be complicated, but I’ll post more in a future blog.)

Q is still little, so I guess we have several years before we decide if this works. However, I already feel the weight of importance to model good behavior choices and a healthy lifestyle—along with countless other things—so let’s just add animal love to the list.