Giving empathy, or channeling empathy–which are you doing?

(Note: NVC is an abbreviation for Nonviolent Communication, a fluid, ever-evolving language process created by Dr. Marshall Rosenberg. It is also sometimes referred to as Compassionate Communication, and is based on universal human feelings and needs, the giving of empathy and making humble requests rather than demands.)

I find there’s a key difference between these two practices, giving and channeling empathy. The NVC work of Dr. Marshall Rosenberg does not mention “channeling” per se, but certainly emphasizes the importance of giving empathy, to others or to one’s self.

Sometimes we find that we can give empathy only for so long, before we start to feel tired or low on empathy. In rare instances, we may experience the joy of actually channeling empathy, which leaves us feeling energized, touched, moved, and brimming with love and compassion.

Rosenberg points out with unmistakeable clarity how rare it is to find someone who can actually give pure, sustained empathy. That’s because we’ve all been conditioned or programmed, when faced with someone in pain, to quickly do or say something to make it better, to try to fix it.

Many of us think empathy is pretty much the same thing as sympathy, or kindness, or understanding, or agreeing with the person in pain. Many believe empathy is telling the one who is in pain that they can learn a lesson from this situation, or telling them how we think they should feel or how they should view the situation. Not that there’s anything wrong with any of those well-intentioned reactions. It’s just that none of them is anywhere near pure, sustained empathy.

Empathy is “given” and “received” only when we become a purely compassionate, nonjudgmental presence, able and willing to focus all our attention on the pain and hurt being shared with us, without fear, without so much as a wince. Empathy is often misunderstood as “feeling the other person’s feelings and pain,” but that is more of a psychic bond than the pure empathy spoken of in NVC teachings.

Pure empathy is at once the hardest thing to give if you think you are the giver, or the doer, or the healer. It is, on the other hand, the easiest thing to channel when you realize you are not the giver, the doer or the healer. When you connect with your own spiritual source deep within you, you find an infinite stream of purely compassionate, empathic energy. This emanates from a source far beyond the individual mind. It is like tapping into an ocean of that energy.

When you tap into it, as you provide that empathic presence for someone who is in pain, no matter how great or horrifying their pain, you feel only empathy and compassion flowing through you. Outwardly, your attention remains steadfastly focused on the words and energy of the person in pain, but inwardly, you are effortlessly connected with the ocean of empathy that, in theory, anyone and everyone can connect with.

The reason it is rare to find people who do this is because it is a very subtle connection, and is very much like the process of meditation. It requires effortless effort, letting go of all trying, letting go of all strategies, of all doing and thinking. It requires only being fully present in the now moment, just being there. That is what many channelers do, yet this is not about channeling the spirit of someone in the beyond. It is only channeling a very pure, deep source energy that has the potential to heal both the one asking for empathy, and the one giving or channeling it.

About swpollack

I’m an independent mediator and collaborative communication coach who can help you to co-create greater ease, connection and mutual understanding in your personal and professional relationships. As a non-traditional specialist, my aim is to get concrete results for my clients in a fraction of the time usually required by traditional therapy and counseling. Please visit my business website: . The emotion-based coaching work I do is deeply therapeutic, yet I am neither a psychologist nor a psychotherapist. Instead I work with a holistic, empathic process called compassionate, nonviolent communication. I also facilitate ongoing support groups for people who want to learn this organic process of nonjudgmental communication to help build bridges of connection, harmony, collaboration and understanding. For more about my Build Compassionate Relationships meetup group, visit: . I’ve been offering these services to the public since 2000 in the greater Miami and Fort Lauderdale area, as well as by phone and through Skype conferencing. . Nonviolent Communication is a process developed by Dr. Marshall Rosenberg. It’s based on a very pure, nonjudgmental language of feelings, needs and requests. I’ve found this to be a powerful tool in my mediation work which involves bringing two or more people together despite a painful history of conflict.
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3 Responses to Giving empathy, or channeling empathy–which are you doing?

  1. Lorilee Brys says:

    I like this post, enjoyed this one thankyou for posting .

  2. Rosskar says:

    Very informative and much appreciative. Thank you! 🙂

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