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When Too Much Empathy Blinds Us

Empathy is our ability to think and feel what another person is thinking and feeling. It’s an incredibly important psychological trait that we’ve evolved to experience to help facilitate social interaction, cooperation with one another, solving social conflicts, and creating overall social harmony.

According to psychologists there are 3 different types of empathy: cognitive empathy (thinking what someone is thinking), affective empathy (feeling what someone is feeling), and sympathetic empathy (a combination of the two, coupled with the motivation and drive to take action and do something about it).

It is this last type of empathy – sympathetic empathy – that can sometimes be unhealthy and even destructive in the wrong context and situation. While empathy is a very useful trait, at times it can be misused and abused.

For example, we are all familiar with how people elicit empathy from others in order to manipulate them, whether it’s a commercial trying to make you feel a certain way to buy a product, or a politician trying to make you feel a certain way to vote for them, or even a person you know trying to make you feel a certain way to change your behavior (such as maybe through guilt-tripping or shaming you).

It’s important to be attuned to the emotions others express toward us, but at the same time we can’t let these emotions run wild and dictate our behavior.

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Giving Ourselves Permission to Feel Bad

When we feel really bad about something and we look toward others for social support, what are we really searching for?

Do we want them to give us positive advice and make us feel better about our situation, or do we want them to just accept our feelings and let us know they are healthy and normal to have?

In a recent study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, researchers looked at how individuals can best provide social support to those who suffer from negative emotions and low self-esteem.

What they found was that individuals with low self-esteem didn’t respond well to advice like “cheer up” or “look on the bright side.” Instead, the type of social support they were looking for was negative validation.

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The Right to Take Up Space

I notice that many people in this world, especially those who suffer from low confidence and low self-esteem, have the belief that they “don’t have the right to take up space” in this world.

They walk through life trying to be as little of a disturbance as possible. Never speaking their minds. Never doing things they want to do. Never dressing as they want. Never really living their lives because they are too afraid of upsetting other people, or being judged for being themselves.

Here’s one little, but common example I often find. And it’s going to sound silly. It’s actually a pet peeve more than anything else. But have you ever noticed some people, when they sneeze in public, they try to hold it in. Or instead just give out a small (sound) you know?

It’s amazing to me that some people are hesitant to even do something as common and innocuous as a sneeze, because they don’t want to take up space – they don’t want to disturb others.

And a sneeze is natural and something that’s mostly involuntary (you can’t blame someone for sneezing or coughing even while watching a movie or play, where people are supposed to not disturb), so imagine how these same people deprive themselves of taking up space when they actually want to do something, or want to say something.

A lot of people are too afraid to claim the space they rightfully deserve. They are too busy trying to stay out of the way. You know, there are people that have others run into them, and they are the ones apologizing. So, someone runs into you, and you’re the one saying sorry? Why not just apologize for your existence at that point?

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Starting a New Chapter in Your Life

What does it mean to start a new chapter in your life?

How do you know when one chapter ends and another begins? Is it a physical boundary that you cross, or a mental boundary that you cross?

For many people, we identify “starting a new chapter in our lives” with major life events such as graduating school, starting a new career, getting married, moving to a new place, having kids, or retiring – but the truth is we can “start a new chapter in our lives” whenever we want.

We can have an infinite amount of new chapters in our lives. It all depends on when you’re willing to let something go, and when you’re willing to step in a new direction.

Starting a new chapter is ultimately something created in your mind. It’s the meaning you attach to the event that allows you to perceive the event as something that changes you or opens up a new door in your life.

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The Just World Fallacy: When Bad Things Happen to Good People

just world fallacy

The “just world fallacy” is the belief that a person always gets what they deserve in life.

If a person behaves as a good and moral person, then only good things will happen to them. And if a person behaves as a bad and immoral person, then only bad things will happen to them.

Commonly, the belief in the “just world fallacy” is often paired together with the belief in a God or divine order in the universe. For example, often you’ll see people justify a natural disaster destroying a town or city as God’s way of punishing them for wrong-doing.

Or when people find something going wrong in their own personal life, they will look to the sky and think, “What did I do to deserve this?” But the truth is that sometimes bad things happen to good people, for no good reason.

People don’t always get what they deserve, and this is a part of reality that we need to learn to accept.

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