As an individual, I have for a very long time tredded the rocky path of avoiding confrontation. Whether it’s the fear of being hurt or hurting someone else; I have been weighed down on so many occasions. Weighed down by the words of others, weighed down by the fear of letting people down and being weighed down by the future.
Reflecting upon this, I build up a landscape of various stages in my life where this fear of confrontation may be rooted. It is actually hard to say specifically as it is not directly rooted by a physical experience. However, the more I become aware of empathy and what this means within my life, I see strength and weakness. As a child, I was deeply effected by the pain of others. I recall one day in high school, my history teacher who in fact was quite an angry person (or seemed that way) came into class swiftly, in tears, abruptly putting a video tape on and then soon after leaving the class still in tears. To the entertainment of many in the class, this whole experience was quite amusing. Although it’s easy to laugh at the jokes being made, my curiosity bothered me and left me concerned for this teacher. Obviously there was nothing I could do, but the pain she felt, I recognised, I wanted to know that she was okay.
It is definitely hard to explain being an empath, without sounding like a goody two shoes or someone who lacks sense of humour. The truth is though, empathy goes beyond sensing the pain of others, it senses the elation of a fellow, proud parent who has just been told that they’re child has had a good day today (on the back of many bad ones). If we begin to explore aspects of empathy that are non traditional, we begin to understand more about our own values.
Drawing back to confrontation, it could be said that confrontation is the opposite of having empathy. However, we must broaden our understanding that empathy is dynamic and should not be confused for sympathy.
Today, my empathy was drawn in many directions. During a post school run visit to the park with the three children and the puppy, I was faced with an unexpected confrontation. As I attempted to round up the gang, I headed towards the park gate to signal that Mummy means what she says “it is time to go”. With this, my excited four year old boy began one last run across the park, following another group of kids his age. Unfortunately he bumped, tripped or something along those lines into one of the girls. The parent of this child immediately scooped her up and followed my son across the park… to wait for it… to make him apologise for bumping into his daughter. With the parents friend onlooking, my son ran to me with his head hanging in fear, fear that he was in trouble and fear that he had hurt someone.
My hopes for a cup of coffee at this point were nil. I therefore approached the parent who was cradling their child to be welcomed with “it’s okay he apologised”. In the hope that everyone was okay and we would exchange an amusing conversation about kids being kids, I apologised for any upset, to which I received judgemental stares as we exited the park. At this point, I really could have walked away being the passive person I am, but truthfully my heart went out to my son. He was embarrassed and sad. With no signs of blood or any sort of injury, my empathy was not with the child as bad as that may sound. The whole situation had been deranged into an ugly judgement on my children and I. Indeed, I stopped and with a polite yet defensive “Excuse me, I’m sorry she’s upset but…my son is not malicious, he has sisters and would never go out of his way to hurt another person. Also, if you need an apology you come directly to me, the Mother, not him, the child.” I did not speak up to cause pain to this family and I fully weighed up an understanding that I did not know what they were going through as individuals, however neither did they know that my son is one who struggles socially and has taken a long time to come out of his shell. In this moment, the confrontation towards my son and the atmosphere created left me on fire, this was a situation I had to confront for the sake of my children’s understanding that some times you have to stand up and express yourself, despite what is up against you.
To conclude, empathy is dynamic, confrontation is not negative, the two can work together… even if you are left with a need to cry out the emotions that experience brought (#empath)
Quote to sign off: “Well that was embarrassing” – my beautiful seven year old who tells jokes always at the right time!