The English language generally uses the words sympathy and empathy interchangeably. The truth is that these words hold very different meanings from each other. The origin of the word sympathy is translated from German to “felling with” while the word Empathy originates from Greek and translates to “feeling into.”
When we are experiencing pain or discomfort, we often want to resist the negative feelings that accompany our challenges.
As a result, this resistance can present itself as judgement toward ourselves. When we judge ourselves for what we are going through and how we are handling it, we add another layer of discomfort to the pain that already exists. This makes the problem seem bigger and harder to overcome. In other words, what we resist persists.
Alternatively, when we “feel into” what we are feeling, that is, offer empathy to ourselves, we take away the judgement layer and simplify the problem. It’s natural to resist leaning into a problem for the fear that if we are not actively making efforts to change it, the longer it will stay. Find reassurance in knowing that emotions are fluid and transient. Whether you force it or not, the negative emotion you are feeling will naturally pass because our nervous system is not designed to sustain one emotional state forever. Our bodies will naturally find rest from that emotion whether we judge ourselves for it or not.
Some helpful mantras to tell yourself while moving through emotional pain and discomfort:
- I trust myself to move through this difficulty with calmness and compassion.
- I accept myself for who I am and how I’m responding.
- I feel ______ and what I am feeling is valid given what I am going through.
- This feeling will pass and I am patient with myself while I process.
- I know how to find simplicity and joy in life even if it is not currently present.
I am hopeful that these suggestions provide enlightenment and solace for those of us moving through challenging times right now. May you be kind to yourself, may you offer yourself what you wish to find in the world. Sending warmth and wellness to you.