I watched a short video today by by Brene Brown. It is a cartoonized portrayal of characters showing empathy. I felt inspired by this video to post my own thoughts about empathy and compassion.
.. The ideas in this video are powerful and it is well explained in the video.. In order to really listen to someone in a way that helps them, we have to find something in ourselves that helps up to relate to their situation.
It could be that someone has a problem that we have not experienced. But there is a good chance that the emotions they are feeling are things we have felt before.
I am going to give my own feelings and experiences and then I will put a link to the video that inspired me to post this.
I have never had Alzheimer’s disease yet I am able to empathize and connect with my clients in a meaningful way. If one of them is feeling scared because she does not know where she is , I can relate that feeling.
I once was very lost in Baltimore City in a downtown neighborhood, I did not belong in. I was driving all by myself and I became very disoriented and could not understand the map.
I did not feel safe stopping to ask for help. I was afraid something bad would happen to me.
I could run out of gas or become so upset that I would have to pull over. The neighborhood was full of gangs and had a high crime rate. Being lost there felt very dangerous and I was in extreme panic..
This is how it feels sometimes to someone with Alzheimer’s disease or any kind of dementia.
They come out of their room and have no idea where they are. They do not recognize the people from yesterday. Everything is strange and frightening. They do not know who is safe or who they can ask for help.They are afraid of what bad things could happen to them, because they are alone and lost in a strange place.
So, in this way, I can draw from an experience in my memory, to put myself in their place.
If you begin by feeling this vulnerability in yourself then you can connect with the person.
Once I see what they are feeling and connect with that feeling inside of myself, I can begin to say and do the things that will help them.
I will say to them ,”I know you feel scared. You don’t know where you are. This is a safe place for you to be.”
I explain to them, “The people here are nice and we are here to take care of you and make sure your needs are met. I will walk with you and show you your room and the dining room where we will eat. See, there are your things and your bed. You have a nice room here that you can sleep in tonight. You are safe. You are safe.”
It feels good when someone realizes that you really do understand. It is the best way to help someone else. You validate their emotions of fears, sadness, depression or anxiety. Let them know that you have felt that way before also.
“I have been afraid before also. If I was here and did not know where I was , I would be afraid too. But you are safe and everything will be ok tonight for you. I will be here to help you find your way.”
We all need someone to help us find our way sometimes. The compassion of one person to another is true humanity.
See the link for the video below. It is very short, only about 2 minutes.