I’m Never Wrong

I recently came across a mother of a child who had a concern that he was having difficulty having empathy for others. Her example was he was running across the playground at full speed and knocked a girl over, not intentionally. When he was stopped and it was pointed out about the little girl, his response was he was just running and she got in his way. I believe the expectation was he would apologize and feel some sorrow for what had happened to the little girl. So mom was concerned about his inability to have that response.

I had suggested the mom find opportunities to practice empathy with her child, such as when watching movies or TV, or looking at books, to pause and have her child try to imagine what the other person might be feeling. I now regret that advice. I want to remember that self-empathy needs to precede empathy for others.

I believe that if we have a hard time having empathy for others, perhaps even being able to regret something we have done, that’s the time for self-exploration. What are we feeling, needing and thinking. Our beliefs will drive our needs. In other words, if I believe that if I make a mistake, people won’t love/like me, I will find it very hard to “make a mistake”. However, if I can understand that: (1) everything we do is to meet a need as best we can, and (2) there are no mistakes, everything happens for a reason; I can be much more open to seeing things without having to protect myself.

mistakes

I wish I had been able to help this mother understand that her child is doing the best he can to protect himself for some reason. That the most helpful thing she could do would be to help her child explore what he is feeling, thinking and needing at that moment.

Here’s another example, my grandson was visiting and was told by his mother FIVE times not to play a certain video game. What did he do? He played it, and then of course he got in trouble and lost the ability to play any video games. What was going on for him? This isn’t the first time he has pushed his mother’s buttons, or stimulated her. He does that frequently. But pushing someone until they respond with anger is not a need. I’m guessing he wanted to be able to make his own choices about the game. Of course he couldn’t tell his mother “I don’t care what you say, I’m going to play the game” so instead he said “I forgot”.

What I would like to find out though, is why was it so important to make a choice about that? What does he believe about making choices? Is he afraid if he doesn’t make a choice about this he won’t be able to make choices in the future? Does he believe that making choices is something everyone should be able to do? Or perhaps playing this game gives him some respite from other emotions he is feeling. What does playing the game give him, and why would he choose that even knowing trouble awaits? There is so much exploration to do with my grandson to help him understand himself.

This is the real basis of empathy for others, self-empathy.

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