All relationships are different. The players are different. The dynamics are different. Each has a different context. Each has a different history. Each has its own importance and priority in one's life. Some are of no consequence some are life altering. Some are short. Some last a long, long time. But, all of them require some level of effort and all of them, I believe, could greatly benefit from being simplified through a bit more communication and a little bit of heartfelt honesty…and where possible empathy. Here is my two cents worth about the relationship between empathy-communication and cancerous thoughts…maybe they'll help you resolve something that has been nagging away at you for a while. P.S. My new motto in life is: Get thee to a psychologist before you end up in the arms of an oncologist.
The Science of Happiness website writes:
The term “empathy” is used to describe a wide range of experiences. Emotion researchers generally define empathy as the ability to sense other people’s emotions, coupled with the ability to imagine what someone else might be thinking or feeling. Contemporary researchers often differentiate between two types of empathy: “Affective empathy” refers to the sensations and feelings we get in response to others’ emotions; this can include mirroring what that person is feeling, or just feeling stressed when we detect another’s fear or anxiety. “Cognitive empathy,” sometimes called “perspective taking,” refers to our ability to identify and understand other peoples’ emotions.
It may not always be easy, or even possible, to empathise with others but through good communication skills and some imagination we can work towards more empathetic feelings. Research has suggested that individuals who can empathise enjoy better relationships with others and greater well-being through life.
Empathy helps us to communicate our ideas in a way that makes sense to others, and it helps us understand others when they communicate with us. It is one of the foundational building blocks of great social interaction and, quite obviously, powerful stuff.
- Empathy reduces prejudice and racism: In one study, white participants made to empathize with an African American man demonstrated less racial bias afterward.
- Empathy is good for your marriage: Research suggests being able to understand your partner’s emotions deepens intimacy and boosts relationship satisfaction; it’s also fundamental to resolving conflicts.
- Empathy reduces bullying: Studies of Mary Gordon’s innovative Roots of Empathy program have found that it decreases bullying and aggression among kids, and makes them kinder and more inclusive toward their peers. An unrelated study found that bullies lack “affective empathy” but not cognitive empathy, suggesting that they know how their victims feel but lack the kind of empathy that would deter them from hurting others.
- Empathy promotes heroic acts: A seminal study by Samuel and Pearl Oliner found that people who rescued Jews during the Holocaust had been encouraged at a young age to take the perspectives of others.
- Empathy fights inequality. As Robert Reich and Arlie Hochschild have argued, empathy encourages us to reach out and want to help people who are not in our social group, even those who belong to stigmatized groups, like the poor. Conversely, research suggests that inequality can reduce empathy: People show less empathy when they attain higher socioeconomic status.
- Empathy is good for the office: Managers who demonstrate empathy have employees who are sick less often and report greater happiness.
- Empathy is good for health care: A large-scale study found that doctors high in empathy have patients who enjoy better health; other research suggests training doctors to be more empathic improves patient satisfaction and the doctors’ own emotional well-being.
Unfortunately, only a few people have excellent natural empathy. Our empathic wiring exists on a continuum. Some people have fantastic natural empathy, and can pick up how someone else is feeling just by looking at them. Some people have only a tiny amount of natural empathy, and won’t notice that you are angry until you start yelling. Most people lie somewhere in the middle, and understand how someone else is feeling only part of the time.
Fortunately, empathy is part talent and part training. Depending on your starting level of ability, getting better at empathy might require more or less work than someone else—but no matter what your starting point, you can teach yourself to be better at empathy.
That is super cool! So we can learn to be more empathetic…which will improve how we communicate and relate with others…which in turn will (hopefully) improve how they communicate and relate with us….
Regardless of whether you empathize because you are naturally good at it or have become good at it because life has thrown a lot of lemons at you with which you have lemonade (which you have enjoyed with vodka and olives), empathy at the end of the day, is the ONLY thing that will simplify and smooth out your relationship with another human being.
When I get bad news about someone else, like they just got diagnosed with cancer, lost in love, lost their house, lost their job, lost a baby, lost a friend, lost their money, lost their faith…I feel for them and try to put myself in their shoes…but,I try not to the point of making myself sick. I ask myself if there is anything I can do to make them feel better or their situation better. Often there is nothing I can do directly. But sometimes just listening helps. Drowning myself in sorrow because they are drowning in sorrow is usually not very helpful. Always put your own oxygen mask on before you put on your child's.
When I am not with them, I concentrate on me. If, however, I feel that I could write, say, do something that might be helpful to them (beyond just listening), I do it. If there is nothing I can do, I don't sit and fret about their life...this would be counterproductive. I periodically check and recheck them to see if there is something they need.
If I feel like I am needing empathy, I ask for it. Specifically. I communicate stuff. I don't like things hanging in the air. I don't like elephants in the room. I don't like things lingering. Nothing comes of nothing. If you don't say anything, nothing will change. If you say something, again nothing might change…but something might. That possibility is better than the alternative for me: complicated relationships.
I don't like what you did. I didn't feel good when such and such happened. I feel bad because… These are all better alternatives for me than nervous twitches, silence, anger and cancerous thoughts.
Choose your words carefully and say what is on your mind. Don't spaz out. Don't be put off if the other person is not happy when you say what it is you need to say. But, know your own faults, try to understand the situation fully and how the other person might be feeling from where they stand. That is all you can do. Nothing more, nothing less. Gossiping about them while you let your bad feelings eat away you is a bad alternative.
There is a good time and a good way to say ANYTHING to ANYONE. Find it.
I'm right. Yoıu are wrong…will get you nowhere. Honest communication will eventually simplify everything. If however you are dealing with someone who just doesn't get it…then move on. But before you move on, try one last time to say what you are feeling.
Of course, moving on is not always possible with family or friends or partners that are/were once really really important to you. So, when in doubt, YOU make another attempt at being empathetic and clearing the air. And if this doesn't work, then try again, later. Don't let it linger forever…it will eat away at you and make you sick…
If someone you tried to communicate with at one point didn't get it, then try again later if it is an important relationship. And remember that any unresolved relationship is toxic. Just say it, hope that the other person gets it and move on. And if they don't get it, try again later. Then, just for the sake of your peace of mind, try again one more time. And a few months later try again just for the sake of trying again. If it is hopeless after all of these months, years, then really let it go…really let it go…(not Elsa and Anna style)…just let it go and make peace with it. If you can't make peace with it, try again…and if it doesn't work again…then REALLY, REALLY LET IT GO.
Even if the cold never bothered you anyway, relationship baggage hanging in the air will…and it will eventually make you cold…and sad…and sick…Not everybody has to like or get along with everybody but if a relationship is important it either requires serious effort or mutual understanding that it is over. Pretending nothing is wrong when things don't make you feel good or the other person looks unhappy is not a good place to be. Sometimes time will heal things, sometimes you will have to heal things all for yourself…but believe you me, thoughts are toxic and if you don't deal with them then even chemotherapy won't be able to help...