In accordance with the theme for this year, Relationships, I would like to talk about one of the most important ways, in my opinion, to create and maintain and strengthen interpersonal and intrapersonal relationships of any kind: empathy. Imagining others complexly, in the words of John Green.
We have no clear concept of the suffering of others, nor the joys, but attempting to think of how we would feel when presented with the same situations as them can help us gain much more understanding. It helps us to view people as just that, as people who live, breathe, think, and feel as we do. Suddenly, you might find, we take more care with others. We treat them with the love and care we would like to be treated with once we have placed our hearts in their chests. We are able to love and to feel loved, and it can often bring us closer.
|'empathy' by Ton Zijlstra via Flickr|
When I see friends tearing themselves apart over issues that can be easily resolved or forgotten and I advise them to do so, it holds a mirror up to me.
"Do I take my own advice? Are there things that I overthink and work myself up over? If they can make steps to change that, surely I can too. And if I know it's not easy for them, it won't be easy for me either."
You might even want to take it a step further: imagine some of your negative thoughts in the voice of one of your closest friends, take it as though you're listening to some of their concerns. How would you advise them? Would that same advice work for you? If so, take it and feel accomplished at problem solving. If not, consider why not? Are the reasons also negative and anxious assumptions, perhaps?
Above all, take care of yourselves and of others, even those you find difficult in some way because loving them despite that is a sign of maturity and wisdom that I would love to reach some day.
|from printable leaflet via the Mental Health Foundation|