The final step of this journey is giving back. Empathy is an inherent part of the human experience. From an evolutionary perspective it was the group of humans who learned to cooperate that had the highest likelihood of survival. The reason that many people seem so self-centered and self-serving is that they have been disconnected from themselves by anxiety and anger. It is not possible to reach out to others if you are emotionally trying to just survive.
Once you have implemented the tools that will re-connect you to your “authentic self” (Hoffman) you will have the desire, energy, and ability to reach out to others. I have universally observed this happening in my patients and it has also been my personal experience.
Compassion is the ability to see a situation through the other person’s eyes with an understanding of what it might be like to be in a similar circumstance. It is accompanied by a desire to help out. Nurturing compassion has two parts: 1) engaging in practices that engender empathy 2) removal of the interferences connecting you with your own compassion.
Patients freed of pain want to give back—and in a big way. I have a patient who is paraplegic from an unfortunate series of events surrounding her spine surgery. Using the book, Forgive for Good made a tremendous impact on her outlook, mood, and pain. After she embraced true forgiveness her overwhelming urge was to help others in wheelchairs whom were suffering from chronic pain. She is now happier in a wheelchair than she was walking, anxious, and angry.
I have a few suggestions to consider that might help you formulate your own ideas of how to give back.
- Remain committed to your own journey.
- Stay aware that next to yourself your highest priority is your immediate family.
- Make a random list of ideas that are interesting to you—write them down
- Pick the top five
- Prioritize them
- Develop a specific plan of how you are going to make it happen.
- Do it!!