Psychologist Heinz Kohut, speaks of “’empathic immersion’ . . . the dedicated presence of the therapist with the client, or the friend with the friend, unhampered by judgment, plans to fix or change him or her, or personal projections. Mindful presence means that one person enters the interior garden of the other and walks through it without trampling any of the flowers, without blaming anyone for the presence of weeds, with great appreciation for all the time, pain, and growth it took to be the way it is. How can this be accomplished in our relationships? It takes an engaged focus that happens best in contemplation, the mindfully bare attention of an alert and caring witness. A contemplative presence involves listening, seeing, and attending without the diversionary mind-sets of fear, desire, control, judgment, or projection. . . . We automatically let the light through, since our ego is no longer in the way. . . . To stay with ourself [sic] or our friend or partner in this way requires that we be free of the need to clear things up or assume control. One person simply accepts the other’s truth no matter how unclear, broken, desperate, or fragmented it may be. In mindful and compassionate presence, it becomes quite acceptable for us or others to be adrift rather than on course, to miss the target, to feel longing without fulfillment. Every variety of human experience is granted hospitality . . . . Empathic presence means listening to someone’s pain with what I call the five A’s: attention, acceptance, appreciation, affection, and allowing. We pay attention without being distracted. We accept what is said without editing, adding, or blanking. We feel a genuine caring about what happened and what might happen to this person. We allow whatever feelings or silences or head trips the other employs in this moment without attempting to blame him, stop him, or criticize him.” David Richo
Moving From Head to Heart
- Can you listen without trying to “fix”?. . . without judging or projecting your own fear or desire?
- Do you have a friend who simply listens no matter how unclear, broken, desperate, or fragmented” you or your story may be?
- Has anyone ever listened to you “with great appreciation for all the time, pain, and growth it took” for you to be the way you are? How did that feel?
Abba, help me reject everything but empathy when I listen.
For More: The Five Things We Cannot Change . . . . by David Richo