Empathy And Understanding

When it comes to recovery, it is not just the help one receives, it is often how is it’s delivered that can make the difference.

There are components in the recovery process, when applied, make recovery easier for patients.  Doctors, nurses, therapists, etc., would have a better chance of healing their patients if they included such things as empathy, understanding, love, compassionate. Have a true understanding of their patients’ pain and their lives. The method is just as important as the actual therapy. Just because one has a university degree or diploma doesn’t mean recovery will occur.

In his classic bestseller “The Road Less Traveled,” American psychiatrist Dr. M. Scott Peck suggests when it comes to therapy a lay person like a plumber has a better success rate offering therapy if he offers it with love and empathy versus traditional therapy by a psychotherapist.

My own life is no different. I suffer from a psychiatric condition called Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. I have seen about 15 psychiatrists in my lifetime; the best help came from a minister. He spoke from the heart.

Doctors see everything as a science. For true recovery, something has to come from the heart. Many concentrate only on the symptoms of the patients’ illnesses and nothing more. Many therapists stick with the old ways because that is what they have learned. And they refuse to look at new ways. This is especially true when it comes to psychiatric medicine. Besides it has been written that the medical professionals are reluctant to employ these new methods since patients would be less dependent on medications and psychiatry is a medicine that derives much of its financial support from pharmaceutical companies.

Students entering the medical profession would be a wise to be a patient for a day to get a better understanding what patients face.

Therapists should walk in the shoes of their patients to help them have a better understanding of their patients’ emotional wounds. Something that reading from a textbook can not teach. I also think we should include judges and anyone else who deals with the impoverish and hurting. Just how many of these professionals truly know the feelings of helplessness, hopelessness and frustration.

But the lack of empathy and understanding is not confined to the medical field. There are areas in of our lives were empathy and understanding (or the lack of them) are reflected.

When I am hurting and looking for advice or wisdom from someone, I am often troubled on how the message is delivered. I hurt even more in the way the message is presented.

Many people will convey their advice/help using “sarcasm”. Their advice, though helpful, is delivered with such distain, it can hurt more than my actual emotional wounds.

And it’s no wonder sarcasm hurts. The word “sarcasm” comes from the Greek word”sarco” which means to tear flesh.

And we make better healers when we have been healed ourselves. We can empathize with fellow sufferers. That’s why 12 step anonymous groups and peer support groups are so popular. However, there can be a danger in some of these environments. A power struggle can take place.

So many of us take it one step further and want to play “rescuer” or “hero” to the hurting. We become amateur psychologists.

We try to box them into our way of thinking, our values, our philosophy. Because it has worked for us, it must work for others. We see this with the fundamental religious and life coaches. We are not aware that one’s man’s medicine is another man’s poison.

We are probably doing more harm giving advice.

What is called for, many times, is just being a good listener. A person with a sensitive ear, a caring heart, a non-judgment mind can soothe more heartaches, more emotional wounds by being that listener. Those listeners are a rare breed.

The qualities of empathy and understanding are skills that we all need to hone – be it by medical professions or by lay people. They have to be taught just like learning any discipline. I do not believe it comes natural.

Besides, people can not give something they don’t have.