This week I had a somatic realization in relation to self-empathy. My partner and I had been talking and the conversation led us to both become slightly triggered. It was a mild upset, but we both needed a little bit of space to cool off. As I sat alone reflecting, I noticed a strong desire for connection. I really wanted to be connected and loving with my partner. At the same time however, I was feeling very angry at him and hurt by some of the things he said. I held these two opposing energies at the same time, comparing the different qualities. The internal conversation went a little something like this:
Me that wants connection: I would really love to just forget this whole upset and just hug and feel connected to him.
Me that wants empathy: Not until he apologizes! He doesn’t even realize how hypocritical he’s being right now! I don’t want to connect with someone who isn’t willing to understand the problem.
Me that wants connection: He is just triggered. He’ll be willing to listen once we’re connected. I am so tired of arguing. I just want to laugh about how silly this all is and relax together.
Me that wants empathy: But he accused me of being the problem and he can’t see that there are two distinct things he’s doing that are causing the problem. I just need to show him how to avoid this in the future. I have the solution that he’s so desperate for, if he would only listen.
Me that wants connection: Telling him how he’s causing the problem won’t help. It won’t get us empathy OR connection. I really want connection right now, more than anything else. I know that empathy will come after.
When I came to this realization, that I deeply wanted to feel connected more than anything else, it didn’t erase my need for empathy. While I felt a stronger energetic pull to be close to him, I still felt the angry pull to separate myself. In that moment, I could tell that he wasn’t in a place that he could listen or give me empathy. So, to meet my goal of connection, I knew I would have to approach him with vulnerability and love. I knew that I couldn’t approach him with vulnerability until the part of me that needed empathy and understanding felt some relief. The teaching of self-empathy hit me in that moment in a way that I’ve never understood it before.
“Of course!” I thought. “This is the salve that I can self-apply on my unmet needs for empathy and understanding.” I knew that this was the solution for re-establishing the connection I was desiring. I put my hand on my heart and touched my emotional wounding.
“Yeah, there is some pain, isn’t there?” Talking to myself in a gentle voice is instantly soothing. “It makes absolute sense that you would feel this way. Anyone would feel this way in your situation.” I nod, and tears well up in my eyes as I switch back and forth between the roles of giving to myself and receiving empathy from myself.
“It’s okay to feel how you feel. I understand. I completely understand and give you full allowance and acceptance to have this pain. Everything you feel is valid.” Big sigh. That usually does it. I consistently need reassurance that my emotions and reactions are valid.
I only needed about five minutes for this process, and then I had enough courage to approach my partner with vulnerability. I approached him, sensing that he was still upset, and all I did was place my hand on his. When I can move through my anger and upset to the point that I’m able to make a loving action of waving the white flag, things usually deescalate quickly from there. Often in situations where I move through my anger quickly, it’s because I didn’t get very triggered. In this case, however, I noticed a strong desire for connection as well as a strong sense of anger. Because I was so committed to reestablishing connection, I was able to proactively engage with my anger and apply self-empathy. The relief that it provided eased the need enough that I could then move into vulnerability and approach my partner with love and openness. I am so grateful for this somatic deepening of a self-empathy practice. It is a great joy when teachings move beyond the level of thinking and come to life in more dynamic experiences.