I know I’m not the only one. How many times have you tried to explain how you’ve felt, what you’ve experienced, or what you go through, and people misunderstand completely or are insensitive about your struggle? Or perhaps you don’t tell people anything because there is a stigma attached or maybe everyone always misunderstands, so you’ve given up trying?
Welcome to my world… but I want it to change. I feel many of our social issues in the world today indeed stem from lack of empathy, or seeing the other person’s perspective.
Queue my idea that I am calling the Empathy Project. I came up with it after spending much time having to teach my autistic son how to see situations empathetically, so that he would approach things more appropriately than he was (laughing at misfortune, using inappropriate descriptive words for people). After several years, it has paid off with him. My hope is it will pay off with others.
How can you join in?
I will provide an example of how I would like to present personal struggles to generate empathy. I would like for it to be a “walk a mile in my shoes” type situation. All I need is some brave souls to reach out to me, to describe their plight as best as possible. Whether it’s on a mental illness issue, physical disability, eating disorder, gender or racial issues, anything that is a personal struggle that a dose of empathy would help others to just stop and think.
You don’t have to share your personal information or backstory if you don’t want to. If you do, that’s fine too. The idea is to just present the struggle, so when people meet someone facing it, they can approach it from a place of understanding, not judgement, misunderstanding, or even avoidance.
Empathy Project: #1 OCD – Intrusive Thoughts
My first psychiatrist after moving states, was very dismissive when I told him my intrusive thoughts were mostly that I’m horrible and I’m stupid. He 100% did not understand, so here is how I would have made him understand, had I thought to do so.
Walk a mile in my shoes:
Record yourself saying the following things (it must be your voice):
“I am stupid, stupid, stupid. I hate me.”
“I am a horrible human being. I am so horrible. I hate me.”
“I want to die. I should die.”
“I want to hurt myself.”
For full effect, those statements should be bunched together in their own group and repeated, with random amounts of time between repeating them. 10 seconds to 2-3 minutes randomly.
Now sit down and watch a 2 hour movie. Play your recording and see how long you can manage having it play, loud enough to be distracting. For the full 2 hours? You are allowed to tell your recorded voice that those facts are not correct, because you do know they are not your thoughts.
That is how it is for me, any time I feel even a smidge of anxiety, sadness or even randomly. As someone with social/general anxiety and bipolar, that is going on in my head pretty much constantly.
Who is next?
My hope is I can get a variety of issues presented in a way that will shed light. I was recently discussing being overweight with someone with weight struggles, and she was expounding on how hard it got when she could not fit in airplane seats. I personally don’t know what it’s like to be someone of color (not white, basically), but I can only try to empathize with the struggles of being judged by my ethnicity or background. People often run the other way if they hear someone has Bipolar or Schizophrenia. That does not feel good when you feel rejection, no matter the reason.
Please reach out if you would like to present your personal struggle. If you don’t know how someone could “walk a mile in your shoes”, that’s ok too. If you tell me what you go through, I can brain storm on how to present it. God blessed me with being creative (thank you Lord!).
Don’t be shy, I don’t bite and I never judge!