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Bridging the Empathy Gap: Hearing Your Heart Message in Polarized Times.

Sometimes, when I take a moment and really breathe in the state of our world, it's almost too much to bear. Like many of you, I've found myself caught in a whirlwind of emotions - anger, frustration, hopelessness, fear and anxiety around how to even approach the separation

and pain that is unfolding in the world. Watching the news, reading about conflicts, and even witnessing disagreements amongst my loved ones and between myself and close friends, I sometimes Imagine that we're all standing at the edge of a widening chasm of misunderstanding. And staying at that edge without any hope for reconnection, harmony and peace, it's exhausting for the heart and body to keep standing and waiting and hoping.

The Depth of Disconnection

My heart breaks alongside you, as we watch the global events unfold - from one of many wars such as Israel and Palestine or Ukraine and Russia, Global Warming and so much more, whilst voices are arguing in every direction, looking for blame, judgment and who has the right perspective. I often feel like shouting, “Can’t we see we’re more alike than we are different?” Yet, those narratives of blame and dehumanization can often seem to drown the whispers of unity and togetherness. Yet no matter how we respond to world events or catastrophise in our own homes and relationships, for me the most profound understanding that my heart has come to realise, is that It's not about who has the right or wrong perspective or point of view; When I can hear that beneath every outburst is a heart aching to protect something precious, then I see that our hearts want the same thing, we are just lost in the pain of not knowing how to protect life, how to protect our hearts and how to be with all this pain and that not knowing makes each of search for understanding, meaning, hope, vengeance, grief in different ways, often with tragic consequences that only add to the never ending cycle of more and more violence and pain and disconnection.

The Weight of the Empathy Gap

It’s overwhelming. Really. Sometimes, I catch myself thinking, "With billions of voices, how can we possibly bridge this gap? Am I living in a fantasy land? How can it be possible to support people to listen and hear one another when there are just so many layers of separation" The enormity of the challenge can leave me feeling so small, helpless and shy to even write this blogpost, fearing that daring to approach such an enormity can trigger hearts that are breaking as we speak. But then I remember my own journey, those moments of deep empathy, and how profoundly healing it was when someone just... listened, gave me space to express and be heard for all the layers that I am holding, without trying to fix or change or agree with me or make me see or feel anything other what I am now in this moment. That level of presence is such a gift and it has the power to make change in this world. And so I think, maybe that's where we can start - with listening to just one voice, one story at a time, starting with ourselves.

The Power of One

So, here’s my invitation to you:

  • Take a moment, dig deep, and reflect on what you're holding inside. (10 minutes of journaling)

  • What's your story of pain, frustration, hurt, anger, disappointment or hope that you carry towards a certain person, a group of people or even a political party?

  • Use the feelings and needs list attached at the end of this post to support you to read through your text and underline all the feelings and needs that come up in your text.

  • Using the needs that you have uncovered, ask yourself:

What's that life-affirming message you wish the world could hear?

  • If you want to practice this with a friend - chose someone who you trust can listen without taking sides or offering opinions and ask them to listen to you for 5 minutes in silence. Every now and then you might ask them to repeat 3 words that they have heard you say (this can help you to see yourself more clearly - their words do not need to be correct, they are simply a reflection for you to respond to). At the end of your five minutes ask them to support you if finding your feelings and needs and a life affirming message.

Maybe, just like me, by making space for your own heart to be heard is a simple and powerful step towards closing that gap in your own life and relationships.

And who knows? By genuinely listening to our own stories, we might just find the strength and empathy to listen to others and even if we do not, the gift of giving ourselves that space to truly be heard will already have the effect of making our voices matter, which may just ripple out into the rest of the world.

Your Voice Matters

We might not have all the answers, and yes, the journey towards global understanding can be daunting, overwhelming and painfully difficult to move through. Yet every movement begins with a single step. Your voice, your experience, your story - it matters. Can you share it, listen, reflect, and see if its possible to see both yourself and the other with that lens of curiosity, asking:

What is the "Life affirming message" behind the horrific actions that I do not agree with? What is the Life affirming message behind every story that I hold towards them, towards myself towards a group of people? What am I standing for? what are they standing for?

Without agreeing with their choices or their actions.

Whilst speaking up against the horrors and atrocities.

Whilst making it clear that it is NOT ok to harm people and take life - never not in any way. Can we begin by seeing our own humanity?

Can we move towards caring for ALL life?

Can we stay connected to that hope by hearing our own heart message?

And maybe the song of their hearts too?

I want to finish this post with recognition of the complexity of the pain and protection that you who is reading this might be feeling now. The fact that my words may hurt or trigger you is something I have had to come to terms with whilst holding both care in my heart for you the reader and holding on dearly to my own heart message at the same time.

And so I welcome you honest reactions, please do write to me and tell me how this is for you to read? I as a human being am committed to growing and learning with you, by listening and staying open.

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