February Series: Feelings
You’re OK, too!
Let’s end this series on feelings by talking about our feelings for others. I’m going to tell you that it’s worthwhile to cultivate positive feelings towards others, and I imagine your initial response will be that there are some people for whom you will never have positive feelings. I’ve had this conversation before!
I know that there are annoying and obnoxious people out there. Some don’t seem to have any morals or common sense. It feels like a lot of work NOT to dislike those people! I get it. I’ve been there. I am there! However, I want you to know that it is worth the effort – for you.
It’s difficult to hold the heavy lens of negativity and not have it affect your life. It’s next to impossible to hold it up some of the time and drop it other times. If we look through a negative lens at some people, we probably will use it to look at all people. We begin a cycle of negativity in which we expect to see negative behaviors, provoke them by our expectation, and then feel satisfied and right when others behave in the negative way that we predicted. It’s a messy quagmire, and it’s exhausting.
On the other hand, a spiral of positivity is an uplifting and energizing cycle to create. There are other benefits as well that include increased resiliency, increased satisfaction with life, less inflammation in your body, increased broad-mindedness (our brain actually processes information differently), increased immunity to viruses, better ability to connect with others, less depression, and better focus. Wow! That’s quite a list!
OK, so positivity is a great thing and feeling empathy and kindness towards other is going to help us achieve it. How do we go about creating it? There are some obnoxious, annoying, dishonest, selfish, callous, infuriating, tactless people out there! Ack! Take a breath and read on.
In my leadership series, I begin with a book called Leadership and Self-Deception. I highly recommend it. In a nutshell, the book promotes the idea that all personnel and personal issues are caused by one thing: we don’t see other people as people.
Here is an example from the book: Imagine that you are sitting on an airplane next to the window, and it is open seating. No one has an assigned seat. The middle seat is open. Do you put your bag in the middle seat and try to discourage people from sitting there even though the flight attendant has announced that the flight is full. Do you judge each person by how much of an inconvenience that they will be? Does one look too chatty? Another have too many bags?
In that moment, are you seeing the other passengers walking down the aisle as people like you who have a need to sit down or as annoying objects that threaten to invade your personal space? How would you feel as a person walking down the aisle?
The book explains that theory in detail, but basically, we want to see everyone around us, even the obnoxious ones, as people. Of course, that doesn’t mean that we have to put up with unethical behavior or disrespect. It means that we set boundaries and give feedback in a compassionate and kind way.
We talked about self-compassion in last week’s blog (https://kathystoddardtorrey.wordpress.com/2017/02/14/im-ok-of-course/), and this week, we are talking about practicing “other-compassion.” It’s a new term that I just made up! The key is to see everyone as having needs and dreams equal to your own. We want to treat them the way that we want to be treated. Sound familiar?
I continue to work on seeing other people as people. When I begin to slip by magnifying someone’s faults and objectifying them, I repeat to myself, “This is a person with worries and dreams equal to my own.”
There is another way to develop empathy for others that has some impressive research behind it. Loving Kindness Meditation, increases positivity with all the benefits mentioned earlier. It also increases our empathy for others and our feelings of friendliness and compassion.
There are no right or wrong ways to do it; there are just guidelines. You can search online and find all types of Loving Kindness Meditations. You can listen to on or create statements to use in the meditation that have the most power and meaning for you.
Basically, during the Loving Kindness Meditation, we say three or four phrases several times. The first time we say the phrases, we say them to ourselves. The most important part of the meditation is to create and hold onto a feeling of friendliness, compassion, joy, and expansiveness as you say the phrases. Here is an example:
- May I be filled with loving kindness.
- May I be well in body and mind.
- May I be at ease and happy.
Then we say the same phrases while thinking of someone with whom we feel close. We would think, “May you be filled with loving kindness.” It’s important to hold onto the positive feeling while thinking the phrases each time. It’s not too hard to say the phrases with feeling when it’s toward someone that we you are fond of.
Next, we move on to someone who we feel neutral about, someone we don’t really care for, and finally everyone in the world. Use the same three to four phrases each time, and focus on maintaining the feeling of compassion and acceptance.
This practice can be a game changer in your life. You can see results by meditating for 10 minutes about 5 or 6 times a week. Who wants more resiliency when facing challenges and more satisfaction with life? I do, I do! For me, resiliency is one of the biggest benefits of Loving Kindness Meditation. The world is full of challenges, and I welcome the grit that will help me to overcome them.
The goal is to incorporate Loving Kindness Meditation into your life for eight weeks. By then, you should see results that will motivate you to use the meditation for the rest of your life.
In the end, we win when we develop feelings of friendliness and compassion for others. We get to put down the heavy lens of negativity. We begin to see the positive things around us and expect more of them. We create a self-supporting cycle of positivity that improves our “other-compassion,” our own health, and our emotional well-being.
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