Empathy is an important aspect of our daily lives. A person cannot hope to stay individually healthy without empathy. Empathy gives us the ability to connect with others. However, the focus of our empathy that is applied toward others cannot remain constant, but it must also be applied and focused on ourselves as well.
Staying in a constant state where our empathy is only ever directed toward others is not possible if we ever hope to stay within our own sanity. To stay individually healthy, we at times must learn to disconnect from others. This disconnection allows us to form separateness. Having separateness allows us to care for our own needs as well. Separateness is the ability to recognize our own self, and, also, our individuality. It is allowing others to have their own sense of ideas, needs, wants, or desires, while we also do the same. We are not an extension of others, and others are not an extension of us. We have a distinct sense of self. When we do not have our own separateness, we cannot identify our own wants and needs. This creates problems. In a way, our identity becomes blurred with another, and danger can be formed for others and us.
We have Person A and Person B. Person A is sitting on the plane along with Person B. Person A is the mother of Person B. Person A is alerted of an emergency on the plane, and she reaches for her child’s mask first. The mask provides the oxygen needed for each person to breathe. For those who are aware of plane regulations, such regulations suggest against this particular action. Since Person A, the mother, attempted to help her child before herself, the mother became unable to function due to the lack of oxygen, which ultimately made her lose the ability to put the mask on her own child. The child was unable to breathe, and also, the mother could not breathe either. In this scenario, both are harmed. While taking care of yourself can seem selfish to some, it is not so. It is vital for one to function in a healthy and whole manner. Otherwise, the person similar to Person A will not be able to help anyone, including him or herself. In this way, each person needs to retain his or her own separateness.
Empathy is important for all of humanity, but it’s important that when using empathy that our focus will not merely be applied to others only. Empathy does not mean caring about other human beings solely, but it also means caring about ourselves. Otherwise, we are not fully utilizing empathy correctly. Sometimes just taking a break to practice self-care is what is needed to practice the complete process of empathy.
Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend. (2016, March 9). What do you mean “Boundaries”?. Cloud-Townsend Resources. https://www.cloudtownsend.com/what-do-you-mean-boundaries-by-dr-henry-cloud-and-dr-john-townsend/