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Empathy, Sympathy Or Directive When Supporting You Choose

64 posts in this topic

I read some mails with interest, especially the ones were members of the group express not knowing how to respond to the hurt demonstrated by other survivors and its not surprising is it given the gravity of some of the mails :o(.

In 'Person Centred Counselling' the main aim is the delivery of empathy, which means associating with how the other person feels, and more importantly naming the feelings that the survivor is currently unable to express...sort of helping them to see more clearly... I wrote the following in the hope that I can help all of those survivors who can't currently find a voice (don't know what to say), and thereby help to create a culture of empathy that assists the group to to truly support each other in times of need.....

A survivor falls down a hole and try as she may, can't get out.

A 'directive' survivor happens by and see's her in the hole and shouts, "How silly of you! If you just put one hand there and one foot there,you will be able to pull yourself out"!.. The survivor trapped in the hole isn't stupid she has tried all of that and is still trapped.

A 'sympathetic' survivor happens by, see's the survivor trapped and shouts, "Oh you poor thing, how terrible for you!" And promptly jumps into the hole, and gives the trapped survivor a hug. The survivor in the hole is really grateful and is warmed a little by the hug. But, she is still trapped, and now has company so there is even less room for manouvre...

An 'empathic' survivor happens by and see's the survivor trapped in the hole...has a look around, says to the survivor in the hole, "I can feel how frightened you are and how trapped and vulnerable you must feel at this very moment", places one foot into the hole and reaches down, the survivor places one foot on the sideof the hole and reaches up, their hands meet,they are as one and together they pull the survivor out of the hole... The survivor in the hole does most of the work, but realises that without the empathic passer by, that she would still be in the hole...

Which one are you and which one do you consider to be 'Most helpful'....

Good luck

Brian

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I think I am probably the sympathetic with (I hope) a dash of empathic!!

Another question could be 'who of the 3 would the trapped survivor like to come along and help?' At the moment I would like the sympathetic one!!

Karen

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Hi Karen,

"I think I am probably the sympathetic with (I hope) a dash of empathic!!

Another question could be 'who of the 3 would the trapped survivor like to come along and help?' At the moment I would like the sympathetic one!!"

Then you are in the right place Karen... :o)

Brian

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If I may, I see no reason why the sympathetic survivor can't jump down give the hug to the survivor that really needs that hug, then between the two of them since the space is so small to then figure out a plan to climb on each others shoulders and help each other get out of the hole. So by this the survivor in the hole gets the quick hug that they needed so badly then both work to help each other out.

I do see how it would be easier to be the empathic survivor in this case, help get them out of the hole and then give a hug. But I am more of the sympathetic type that would jump in, hug, and then want to form a plan and that being the plan to climb out.

So I am a bit of both. :)

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I have to be honest here it would depend on the mood I am in, seriously though I could have a tendency to be 1 and 3

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(((Brian)))

You and I discussed this issue a bit and I am really glad to see you post this. The example you used was a very good one and it certainly did allow me to see just where I am and where I think I'd like to be. This said, I think we both know I'm definitely at the number two position right now. Will I progress? I don't know but at this point I'm also realizing there's nothing wrong with offering comfort in any way you can. I do like Donna's point, though. Maybe there's a position between two and three? I also think that's maybe where I'd like to be. :) Very helpful post. Thank you.

:hug:

Meg

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Also - at this moment in time - the survivor in the whole may just wish the whole world just LEAVE THEM ALONE to waste away, never to be seen or heard of again

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Hi Donna,

"If I may, I see no reason why the sympathetic survivor can't jump down give the hug to the survivor that really needs that hug, then between the two of them since the space is so small to then figure out a plan to climb on each others shoulders and help each other get out of the hole. So by this the survivor in the hole gets the quick hug that they needed so badly then both work to help each other out."

Cant do this because there is no room for manouvre, there is less space in the hole, in fact they are both trapped and now the initial survivor has the problem of the second one to deal with too and visa versa.

And any way, who says that the survivor in the hole wanted company in there with them in the first place (see Karens email above) ? :o(

Don't get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with sympathy in the moment, it says I am human, you are human and we have both suffered similarly..I can take comfort from knowing that I am not alone. I have someone who wont judge me, when I feel bad they will give me a hug and listen to me and these things bring a level of comfort that help rather than resolve in the moment. As to whether this resolves 'your problem' is another thing all together. You receive much sympathy and understanding here, but has that helped the feelings you may experience to become less permanently ?

In therapy you will receive a kind of mental hug, none judgement, can take comfort, but you will also receive empathy which may allow you to get out of the hole too....:o)

"I do see how it would be easier to be the empathic survivor in this case, help get them out of the hole and then give a hug. But I am more of the sympathetic type that would jump in, hug, and then want to form a plan and that being the plan to climb out."

Glad you are both :o)...could you become just one, if itwere a real hole would you jump in ,in the knowlege that you too would be trapped ?

Its not easy being the empathic survivor because it relies on great trust on the part of both people, it requires a level selflessness to be there just for the survivor and not ourselves in the moment and it requires great inner strength to pull someone out of that hole :o(

Hope this helps and thanks so much for responding

Brian

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Hi Heather,

"I have to be honest here it would depend on the mood I am in, seriously though I could have a tendency to be 1 and 3"

In the knowlege that 3 helps more permanently to get and keep the person out of the hole, I'd bet you would become three more permanently :o)

There is the potential for enourmous quantities of emapthy within this site...because everyone here has found themselves in that hole at some stage in their lives and have or still want to be helped out of it...

Brian

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Hi Karen,

"wish the whole world just LEAVE THEM ALONE to waste away, never to be seen or heard of again"

Yes, so the passer by may be trying to help before the person in the hole has actually asked for this support, or finished trying to get themselves out of the hole... a distinct possibility!!

I see this every other day when people come to therapy because someone else wanted or insisted on that for them (a partner for example)...as you would expect it rarely works under such circumstances:o( and I suggest from the outcome that they only come back when it is truly their decision to do so :o(

Brian

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I think at the minute i hate with a passion number one, id like to see her do it! A mix of number 2 and 3 would be good, explaining they know how hard it is and they want to help but theres nothing that makes me feel better like a cuddle. However in saying that sometimes i dont want sympathy i just want answers. hummmmmm, i think in that case id go for number three, with a dash of two! Lol it made sense in my head!

Claire

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I try to be number 3 most of the time, because I know it's what I appreciate the most. I prefer to talk and have someone acknowledge what I'm going through, and then maybe get sympathy when I'm..well.. less grumpy :blush: .

Meg

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I am defiantly not number one,

A 'sympathetic' survivor happens by, see's the survivor trapped and shouts, "Oh you poor thing, how terrible for you!" And promptly jumps into the hole, and gives the trapped survivor a hug. The survivor in the hole is really grateful and is warmed a little by the hug. But, she is still trapped, and now has company so there is even less room for manouvre...

An 'empathic' survivor happens by and see's the survivor trapped in the hole...has a look around, says to the survivor in the hole, "I can feel how frightened you are and how trapped and vulnerable you must feel at this very moment", places one foot into the hole and reaches down, the survivor places one foot on the sideof the hole and reaches up, their hands meet,they are as one and together they pull the survivor out of the hole... The survivor in the hole does most of the work, but realises that without the empathic passer by, that she would still be in the hole...

Which one are you and which one do you consider to be 'Most helpful'....

I seriously think i am a mix of two and three, depending on the 'place' i am in in my own journey. i think sometimes i can be really supportive and emphathetic, but at other times i kind of dont have the energy for anything. saying that i still wouldn't be number one. If i felt i couldn't offer a helpful response then i wouldn't offer one at all (in fact i often just send hugs when i don't have words)

I think (and i may be wrong here), but to be an emphathetic survivor the person emphathising needs to be in a good place themselves, and must be feeling pretty sure of there own abilities to offer support. Being sympathetic comes easily to me (mostly) because i am a sympathetic person although in the scenario given above offering sympathy is comforting but in the moment leaves less room in the hole for manovere.

I am really not sure which i consider most helpful, and i guess that's real individual for each one of us,..... what i do know and that's why i love AS and the support here, is that i always get the 'right' level of support each and everytime i need it :hug:

I quite liked Karen's point

Also - at this moment in time - the survivor in the whole may just wish the whole world just LEAVE THEM ALONE to waste away, never to be seen or heard of again

I have been in that place many times, but reflecting back when i find myself in the whole 'leave me alone mood' i really actually need support..... i guess im confusing, not always easy to read in terms of my emotions and feelings...... I think as survivors though some of us seem to instinctivly know what the other needs, even if tehy don't directly ask for a specific thing in there post,

Dawn :wub:

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Wow dawn...

"but at other times i kind of dont have the energy for anything. saying that i still wouldn't be number one. If i felt i couldn't offer a helpful response then i wouldn't offer one at all (in fact i often just send hugs when i don't have words)"

Sometimes demonstrating the greatest empathy means saying nothing and giving the survivor the time and space to get to a place when empathy can help (real insight from you here :o)

"I think (and i may be wrong here), but to be an emphathetic survivor the person emphathising needs to be in a good place themselves, and must be feeling pretty sure of there own abilities to offer support. "

Not neccessarily, as long as the person giving the empathy is in the other persons frame of reference (rather than their own) then this isn't a problem, when in your own frame of reference you would undoubtedly be offering sympathy. When asking a similar question myself to a lecturer once, I was told that there is no bad empathy, many years later I now know this to be true...

"Being sympathetic comes easily to me (mostly) because i am a sympathetic person although in the scenario given above offering sympathy is comforting but in the moment leaves less room in the hole for manovere."

Yes, and this doesn't mean it is a bad thing, but rather it doesn't move the other peson on any, just makes them feel like they aren't in the hole on their own, but they are undoubtedly still in the hole...

"I am really not sure which i consider most helpful, and i guess that's real individual for each one of us,..... what i do know and that's why i love AS and the support here, is that i always get the 'right' level of support each and everytime i need it :hug: "

I guess that on that point the question would be that if you truly wanted to get out of the hole, which would you rather receive ? :o)

"I quite liked Karen's point "

"Also - at this moment in time - the survivor in the whole may just wish the whole world just LEAVE THEM ALONE to waste away, never to be seen or heard of again"

Yes and that is what you do when you don't respond, you give the space and time to the person in the hole to try and work things out for themselves first, that is their right andwhy this empathy is so powerful...

"I have been in that place many times, but reflecting back when i find myself in the whole 'leave me alone mood' i really actually need support..... "

Yes, you may want someone to say something like, " Hey Dawn, I sense great pain from you at the moment, do you want to talk about it"? sort of a recognition of your pain, to know that it matters...

"i guess im confusing, not always easy to read in terms of my emotions and feelings...... I think as survivors though some of us seem to instinctivly know what the other needs, even if tehy don't directly ask for a specific thing in there post"

Reason I wrote the three scenarios was that over the last few weeks a number of members have stated their need to leave the group for a while because it didn't appear to be delivering what they wanted...it is my belief that what they wanted was empathy after long periods of sympathy. Your right though we are all different and send different signals, and the signals we send don't always reflect how we may be feeling that very moment... delivering empathy means sense checking what your hearing and allowing the other person to resrespopnd accordingly...for example I may say as above :

" Hey Dawn, I sense great pain from you at the moment, do you want to talk about it"?

You may respond...

"Yes I am experiencing great pain at the moment, great confusion too"

I may respond

"What does the confusion relate too"?

Etc etc etc

See by being allowed to express the feelings and investigating them further with eachother, delivers healing... you don't have to be a counsellor to do this, just a caring human being who is in touch with your own feelings ...and you and the other members are certainly that!!

Brian

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Hi Meg, andthanks for the hug :o)

"You and I discussed this issue a bit and I am really glad to see you post this. The example you used was a very good one and it certainly did allow me to see just where I am and where I think I'd like to be. This said, I think we both know I'm definitely at the number two position right now. Will I progress? I don't know but at this point I'm also realizing there's nothing wrong with offering comfort in any way you can. I do like Donna's point, though. Maybe there's a position between two and three? I also think that's maybe where I'd like to be. :) Very helpful post. Thank you.

Yes, there definatley is a point between one and two, and that comes after delivering the empathy, you can do this with your virtual hugs which are always warmly received..:o)

One back at yer

:hug:

Brian

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wow, that was a huge Fraudean Slip on my part!! I had not realised I had posted the 'leave me alone' post. I wrote it then decided not to send it. Must have pressed wrong button. Now I am shaking and exposed, because I guess it is the real truth. I have had enough.

Karen

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Karen im exactly the same, its really nothing to be ashamed of. :hug::hug:

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Hi Karen,

"wow, that was a huge Fraudean Slip on my part!! I had not realised I had posted the 'leave me alone' post. I wrote it then decided not to send it. Must have pressed wrong button. Now I am shaking and exposed, because I guess it is the real truth. I have had enough."

Saying it as you feel it is never wrong and its so ok to feel how you feel. Looking back over the mails three responding members have agreed with you (they have all felt and feel that way too)...I definately feel this way on many occassions and that is the most human feeling of all sometimes.

If I am in my study and my door is shut, then the family know what is going on and leave me to work it out...

Of all the insights, your's was the one that was 'most human'... there is great healing in this Karen, empathy means someone else helping you to identify and work on the feelings you experience, they make you think differently :o(...

maybe this was a self revelation for you, that means you can now begin working on that area with your therapist..or with the people on this site...you won't receive judgement here Karen...hopefully you wont be to hard on yourself, you so don't deserve that...

Brian

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Cant do this because there is no room for manouvre, there is less space in the hole, in fact they are both trapped and now the initial survivor has the problem of the second one to deal with too and visa versa.

But yet there is room to hug the trapped survivor? In my own world and the hole I imagine there is room for the survivor that jumped down to help push out the trapped survivor. Then the now not trapped survivor becomes the empathic one and gives a hand to the sympathetic survivor that jumped down to give the hug which gave the trapped survivor enough strength to climb out.

Anyways, just my thoughts. :)

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Hi Donna

And valid thoughts as well!! because this is after all your world...

"But yet there is room to hug the trapped survivor? In my own world and the hole I imagine there is room for the survivor that jumped down to help push out the trapped survivor. Then the now not trapped survivor becomes the empathic one and gives a hand to the sympathetic survivor that jumped down to give the hug which gave the trapped survivor enough strength to climb out."

I wondered why someone would have to jump in to push the other out, only to be trapped themselves, bit like saying that the rescuer has to have experience of being trapped with the other person if they are to rescue them ...

If the initial passer by shows empathy then the journey out of the hole is quicker and only one person has ever been trapped...it would also mean a fantastic HUG at the top of the hole :o)

"Anyways, just my thoughts. :)"

Hey, your thoughts are excellent and make me search myself for answers...so grateful for them#

Brian

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I wondered where trust came in all of this. If i was the survivor stuck in the hole then I would have to trust the passer by whether they were sympathetic, empathic or directive. Also for myself I would have to be honest enough to let the passerby know that I even needed any help. I would shout up 'no, Im fine no need to worry, bye!' and get rid of them quickly then continue my struggle. When in fact what I truely want is for them to drag me out, take me home, and look after me for the foreseeable future!! This is of course the exact opposite to what I said earlier. I do not know how to account for that.

karen

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Hi Karen,

good points !

"I wondered where trust came in all of this. If i was the survivor stuck in the hole then I would have to trust the passer by whether they were sympathetic, empathic or directive."

Yes,you absloutely would, this is the main reason people stay in the hole trying to find a way out themselves (ongoing , stuckness) they understandibly find it difficult to trust or have noone to trust :o(

"Also for myself I would have to be honest enough to let the passerby know that I even needed any help. I would shout up 'no, Im fine no need to worry, bye!' and get rid of them quickly then continue my struggle."

Two causes for this generally.Firstly denial that they are actually in a hole even though they know that they are :o( Or a form of shame, they dont want to be seen in a hole, it will mean the mask slipping and they may be seen as weak (can;t have that when we have learned to always portrey the opposite).

"When in fact what I truely want is for them to drag me out, take me home, and look after me for the foreseeable future!!"

The empathic survivor will help you to drag yourself out and will be sure in the knowlege that you are strong enough to look after yourself for the foreseeable future. See the empathic survivor knows the strength you possessed prior to falling into the hole and are more than capable of looking after yourself :o)...

"This is of course the exact opposite to what I said earlier. I do not know how to account for that."

I'd account for it by the fact that empathy is the more scarey proposition and so when in a hole we tend to regress and miss the way we were looked after as children..our learned way of being and our most comfortable way of being is being looked after. We are all original and therefore you have the absoloute right to change your preference, for that is what empathy allows you to do :o)

Brian

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How about... it's my hole and nobody is meant to notice me in it !! ...

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hehehe foxy

How about we all sit in this hole together with chocalate cake and coke and blether the day away about nothing in particular. We could put up a huge diversion sign so that everyone walks down a different street (thanks Hope I stole that from one of your posts!) and I am sure we would have a great time! Sorry Brian we have hijaked your post!!

karen

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