Learning to walk in the shoes of another is to experience a journey from emphatic to instinctive empathy.
When under consistent emotional distress and pain we become conditioned to build an emotional barrier between ourselves and others.
We become unable to empathize or take on the pain of others due to the level of discontent we ourselves have experienced. As a result, we fail to express empathy for others for sake of our own survival and in an effort to preserve our mental and physical wellbeing.
Quite simply, our pain has caused us to reach our empathy threshold. We are at our limit and are unable to take on the added emotional baggage of others strictly as a matter of preserving our personal sanity.
Living under prolonged conditions of abuse and dysfunction hardwires our brains for self preservation and leaves little room for empathy for others due to the level of personal stress we have endured.
It is not that we don’t care, want to be unkind or are insensitive. We simply have nothing else to give. Our emotional tank has been tapped. It is bone dry and is in need of replenishment in its own right. We have been hurt and now our inability to recover has left us unable to empathize with others. The hurt multiples not so much as a result of what we do but as a result of what we don’t do as needs for empathy go unmet in the lives of others.
Only when we are removed from the negative environment are we in a position to consider utilizing our empathy reserves for others. Even then the thought of empathizing with others may come with reluctance for fear of needing to retain empathy for our own needs.
Once we have become stronger emotionally and no longer perceive the need for empathy ourselves are we then in a position to extend and grant empathy to others.
Until such time, our use of empathy will be emphatic and much less instinctive. With improved circumstances, greater self awareness and regular intentionality, our empathy for others will grow as we project the empathy we have had for ourselves into the lives of others.
Because we are in a better state of mind, the world will be a better place as we learn to express greater empathy for one another.
Walking in the shoes of another becomes easier as we have walked in shoes of our own.
Nonetheless, we must keep walking! We’re in this together!