Sympathy versus Empathy.

After a meeting at work today and watching a clip on Empathy, I was left thinking about which matters the most. The clip highlighted that to be able to empathise, one needs to be able to place themselves into a similar position emotionally to the person in question. They need to have the ability to feel the same way. They may not totally understand your problem but will be able to tell you that confidently and offer reassurance and support to you without the need to give you any answers.

Sympathy on the other hand, was described as being condescending and rather judgemental. That is not something I totally agree with. There are times when sympathy is needed. One is not always able to step into someone else’s shoes or completely comprehend their suffering. I know I would have preferred either sympathy or empathy when enduring my father’s abuse. Anything that showed some form of care and concern. Sympathy does not have to be judgemental. Yes, there are elements of pity linked with sympathy and that can be absolutely patronizing and degrading and in those cases, people ought to keep their mouths firmly closed. However, there are times when we do not know what to say. There are times that shock us so badly, that we cannot believe another human being can treat someone in such a horrific way that we are dumbfounded with horror. We cannot find any words to help but we can offer sympathy at most. 

Some of us can offer empathy and relate on a different level.

The clip we watched did not show sympathy in a very complimentary way. Occasionally, I wish people wouldn’t feel they had to say something and leave things very awkward. Sympathy can leave you having to justify your pain. That, I can relate to.

Any ideas?

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To help you breathe better……

After last week, I decided to do some investigating of my own to find any natural remedies to aid my Asthma. I already know about the benefits of fresh lemon juice and its links to Asthma. I often drink lemon and ginger tea when unwell and have recently been having fresh lemon squeezed into a glass of water if any wheezing begins. It is not a cure by all means but it certainly helps. Other remedies include a few drops of eucalyptus oil on a tissue to be gently sniffed or drinking a strong black coffee (apparently it helps to open the airways).

I wanted to search for some breathing techniques too. For too long have I solely relied on my inhalers to relieve my Asthma symptoms. However, for my own resilience, I feel it is essential that I develop some more natural strategies to soothe and appease the pain.

A colleague of mine suggested Yoga. She is not the first person to mention it. My friend Katrina is constantly telling me to give it a go. She too suffers from Asthma and her regular love and practise of Yoga has practically sent it packing. I am not adverse to it, I just can’t seem to find enough willpower (or forced interest) in going to a Yoga class. It doesn’t seem “me”. Yes, health comes first before embarrassment but I doubt I’d feel very comfortable. I do not enjoy exercising around other people; an unfortunate side of Body Dysmorphic Disorder. I decided to take a look on YouTube and eventually fell onto a clip to do with the art of  “Pranayama” breathing. A Sanskrit word meaning “extension of breath”. Studies have shown it can be a great way to relieve asthmatic symptoms and reduce stress. I have only practised two forms of Pranayama – Shitali otherwise known as ‘Cooling breath’ where the breathing is done through the mouth with the tongue extended and Bhramari – Also known as ‘Bee Breath’ – where you make a humming sound while breathing. Both are equally effective. I tend to do the exercises at home before sleep and first thing in the morning (granted I have time before work!). I hope that over the following few weeks I can endeavour to attempt the other Pranayama exercises and hope that they also provide the same comfort as the others.

During my time at Drama School, we spent a lot of time before our dance and voice classes warming up. Much of this focussed on the way we breathed. We explored several techniques, drawing inspiration from Pilates, the Alexander Technique and general vocal warm ups. One exercise that I remembered was a technique that involved a partner. As you inhaled, you were to imagine your diaphragm and ribs expanding. You are to focus on only this part of your body moving. You must try to control your chest and prevent it from rising. If it does, you are not doing the exercise correctly. As you inhale, your partner needs to put their hands onto your sides, holding your ribcage. As they feel you breathe in, they must push against your ribs. You need to try to push against their resistance. At first it will be tough. Your ribs may not be used to moving like this but over time, you will start to see them expand more easily. As you exhale, your partner’s hands will maintain the pressure whilst continuing to support your ribs.

Try it. It might work for you. If anything, it’s a good exercise for your waist too!

Other tips include:

  • Counting and breathing – counting is a tried and tested way of calming people down in moments of anger – especially children. It works for a reason. It keeps you focussed on your breathing and distracts you from the feeling of panic or stress.
  • Keeping your head slightly tilted forward- it is tempting, in discomfort, to want to lean back or tip your head backwards. If you do this, you restrict your airways and the flow of oxygen to your lungs decreases. The same applies for the recovery position. You must tilt the head down to prevent choking on the patient’s tongue or vomit.
  • Relaxing – close your eyes, put on some peaceful music.
  • Buteyko Method (Nasal breathing) – making a conscious effort to breath solely from your nose is proven to be a better way of getting oxygen into your lungs. Breathing nasally will filter the air more efficiently through your sinuses unlike breathing through your mouth. It also helps to humidify the air that you inhale.
  • Good posture – keeping upright and not slouching are simple solutions. A good way of spotting an Asthma attack is if the sufferer is leaning forward. This is a natural reaction to the chest closing up and can bring some relief but keeping the chest area open will aid the patient more. Get someone to rub your back gently if needed.
  • Steam – one of my favourite remedies as it involves a hot bath. You don’t even have to get in it. If you feel tight chested, run a hot bath, shut the door and sit down in the bathroom. Lean against a wall so that you do not slouch. Take deep breaths in. You could count to keep a slow pace and inhale the rising steam. I assure you that this is an incredibly soothing remedy.
  • Keeping a control of your emotions- this can be a tough one and slightly ambiguous. This doesn’t mean become a wall of stone, just be aware of how you may be feeling. Extreme stress and upset can fuel Asthma attacks so I am going to state the obvious now – sorry – but do not PANIC! It will only make it worse. Anger won’t help either. Even side-splitting laughter can trigger an Asthma attack. I cannot be tickled as I end up wheezing like crazy. It is strangely difficult to explain that to people.

I hope these tips are useful to any fellow Asthma sufferers out there.

Keep well and look after yourselves.

xxx

*Asthma UK – The United Kingdom’s leading Asthma Charity. Image from Google.

2013: A review January – March.

Ten more days to go until the first day of 2014. Once again, another year of my life has flown by and I am looking back on quite a year. This time however, I get to look back and share it with a new group of people: my WordPress followers, readers and fellow bloggers. What a year it has been. Lets look back together.

JANUARY

On the 6th of January, I decided to begin a blog on WordPress. It was a dangerous and risky decision. It would expose a life I had hidden from many people for over fifteen years. It would reveal truths some people would rather not know. It would portray a man (who many trusted) to be an evil, ruthless, callous and hurtful father who destroyed his daughter’s soul. It would be my story, a story that provoked people I had not seen for years. People who felt it was necessary to “warn” me and give their advice. They made it clear that I should keep my personal life “private” and that I might “hurt people”. I made it clear back that I had not set out to hurt anyone. It was much more than that. It was closure. It was freedom. It was truth. It would be a chance to speak and finally be heard. It would be the best decision I had ever made (bar leaving him of course).

FEBRUARY

On the 4th of February I celebrated five years together with David. We set our anniversary from our first kiss. It was a moment that changed my life. Gone were the men who used me and took advantage of my loyal nature. A new man had walked into my life. Little did I know that day he would make me as happy as he does now.

During this month, I received an abundance of support from old school friends and past colleagues about the blog over Facebook. I was taken aback from their kind words and blown away by their words of encouragement. It meant so much to know that there was no judgement, that people could see into my past and believe it, acknowledge it and most of all – accept it.

MARCH

I celebrated my 31st birthday on the 2nd. David took me to a South African restaurant in Central London for dinner. It was decadent and adventurous. I felt a little out of my comfort zone but enjoyed it nonetheless. Unfortunately, the food didn’t sit well within me and after a day I began to have horrific stomach pains. Within moments I was nauseous and lying over the bathroom toilet. I thought I had food poisoning but it was a severe case of gastric flu. The week after my birthday was spent at home ill. To top it off, my virus passed onto David who joined me for most of the week holed up in bed. Well Happy Birthday to me!

On WordPress I recounted the triggers that remind me of my father and his abuse. Fruit, movies, plastic knives and forks, making beds and self-help books were the entries I made in March, they continued into April with Furniture stores and Toothpicks and table manners. These triggers still happen. If I see certain objects or hear a particular piece of music, if I visit a particular place or even hear a phrase he might have said; it propels me back to a specific time where life was frightening and upsetting every day. I become emotional very quickly and find it difficult to calm down. A panic attack can be the worst reaction to one of my triggers.

March was the month where a colleague questioned my “motives” for writing this blog. She accused me of taking “revenge” on my dead father. That it was unkind and unfair to do so. It surprised me that she could not empathise with my situation nor could she understand my reasons for revealing my truths. I was annoyed by it. I did not feel I should have to justify my choices and actions to her. She did not know my father. She had not met him. She only had her morals and principles and values to go on. I have morals. I have principles and values too. That is an important part of why I decided to do this, because of my values and principles. I would not be following them if I hid away and “forgave” him for all the hurt and pain he caused.

Dead or not, the truth will always shine through.

Am I manipulative?

I would not class myself as manipulative since finding out what this kind of behaviour is. I would however, class some people I know as owning this behaviour. After discovering its meaning, I have been looking out for it this last week and have been surprised to see it in the people around me. Often, you do not know when you are doing it. I cannot admit that I am never manipulative.

Examples of manipulative behaviour are:

  • Guilt tripping – If you really cared about me then you would….
  • Using ailments as an excuse to do something – my back has been hurting all week/I just feel too tired to….
  • Use of emotional bribery – I’d be forever grateful if you could…..

Of course, in certain circumstances, it would be wrong not to have sympathy for these reasons but it is all dependant on how often they use this as an excuse. You may begin to identify that there are specific people in your life that manipulate you constantly.

Mu husband probably sees this behaviour from me. For example whilst walking past some shoes I may like, the occasional “If you want to make me happy…….” might trickle out of my mouth but usually in jest. Sarcasm can be manipulative too. What do they say, “50% of sarcasm is truth”? We trick people into believing it’s a joke, but of course there must be some truth behind it. We wouldn’t say it otherwise.

Children are the key grouping that fall into manipulative behaviour using their position as someone you love and care about to get what they want. Just because they are children doesn’t give them free reign to behave inappropriately. This is when clear boundaries should be set so they understand what is appropriate and effective behaviour.

Adults can be manipulative too.

My father was and I believe my mother has been too. The latter may not be realising when she is.

My father regularly used manipulation to get what he wanted. He played on everything possible: his age, his ethnicity, his culture, his position in society, his job, his illnesses, my lack of empathy. All these things manifested into me feeling extreme resentment towards him.

Love comes when manipulation stops; when you think more about the other person than about his or her reactions to you. When you dare to reveal yourself fully. When you dare to be vulnerable.
Joyce Brothers

Sorting through the memories.

While my Dad was in hospital, I took the opportunity to return to his house to collect a few things from my bedroom without his watchful gaze on me. Whilst sorting through my drawers and rummaging through old photos, I discovered a wad of paper. As I shuffled through it, I realised here was a bunch of memories I had forgotten about.

Not only that, but over the years I had saved moments of his abuse and anger. Cleverly and luckily, memories were being brought back to life and although there was a time where I would want to desperately forget them, avoid them, now was the time to resurrect them. I wanted to stay true to myself, I hated that sympathy was interfering.

My worry for his health and the normal reaction from a daughter, seemed to be taking over the way my father really made me feel. Being back in his house magnified those feelings and witnessing the abusive words he had written to me over the years brought it all back.

There were four main things that I found in my drawers that stood out. All were on paper.

Each are to follow.

I’ve never tried to block out the memories of the past, even though some are painful. I don’t understand people who hide from their past. Everything you live through helps to make you the person you are now.
Sophia Loren