A few years ago, I was having coffee with a dear friend, and he asked me this question: “What are you most afraid of these days, Anne?” I went into myself to feel this question, and I stared at him for a moment. I noticed a subtle ache in my chest. I kept my attention there, and the answer sprung forward, “I am afraid of what my anger can do. I am afraid I will lose the people I love if I let myself be angry.”
After he left, I reflected on my answer, which had surprised me.
A few months prior, as the #metoo movement was catching up to spiritual figures, I began to feel anger at the events that were unfolding in the news. In France, a world-renowned Tibetan Buddhist teacher had to step down from his leadership position after allegations of sexual and abuse of power. I had been a guest at his temple just a few months before. Taking in his teachings on a silent retreat I had not known what was happening behind the scenes. Back home in Nova Scotia,...
For most of my life, I couldn't see all the things I was doing out of habit, but that I truly didn't want to do. The belief that I had to was so engrained in me.
It's very easy for highly sensitive people like us to betray ourselves. We don't even know we are doing it. Especially if the circumstances of our upbringing brought us to overuse our empathy in service to others, it's become our default setting. And often to the detriment of our own self-preservation and our own joy.
Empathy is such an important (and needed more than ever right now) human quality. It allows us to understand and share the feelings of others, to know what others need. It is essential in building a resilient and creative society. In fact, I think it should be part of the school curriculum because it is the building block for everything else if we want to lead a healthy and meaningful life.
Empathy is at its strongest when we are young kids. If it is modelled to us, it stays intact within us. But when there is...