By Lisa Cypers Kamen.
The human body is full of hidden glands hard at work communicating and controlling our body’s responses to what’s going on around us.
When our temperature spikes out of control, the hypothalamus saves the day, returning us to homeostasis. The thymus is our go-to gland for better immune health when we’re feeling sick. And if our blood sugar is out of whack, the pituitary gland regulates it.
The body is an intricate system with a biological response to pretty much any hazard our environment throws at us. But what if those hazards have to do with emotions, not body functions?
We all find ourselves in uncomfortable situations. There are the situations when we just can’t agree with someone or have a hard time understanding what someone else is feeling. Without a mechanism kicking in to help us, these situations can quickly escalate into something more troublesome than a simple “agree to disagree.” Now imagine this: What if, just as your pituitary gland regulates your blood sugar levels, an empathy gland kicks in whenever you engage with someone?
The empathy gland would help us recognize, and maybe even share, feelings with that person we’re spending time with. With empathy to guide us, we would be able to connect more deeply with that person, and even if we still agreed to disagree, respect his or her feelings enough to end the exchange on a positive note.
There is no empathy gland. There is no biological mechanism to singlehandedly help us understand others. But by training ourselves to be in tune with the feelings of others and to recognize how people act when they are feeling certain ways, we can begin to identify the emotions they are experiencing. If you can get the awareness part down, you’ll be on your way to treating people with empathy.
Like any other change, learning to live this way takes time and practice. But once you fully implement your empathy gland, you’ll be surprised at all the fruits of your labor. Your relationships will improve, you’ll bring happiness to those around you and, most importantly, you’ll be able to apply that positive momentum to other aspects in your life that may need some improvement.
Happiness is an inside job. ®
A major part of learning to show empathy is being able to recognize it in others. To get your empathetic juices flowing, put on a song or two that you think lyrically embody the meaning of empathy. Listen to the songs, paying close attention to their words, and think about what lines in particular make empathy come to your mind.
This exercise should help you get a clearer picture of what empathy means to you. Once you find your personal empathy anthem, use it to your advantage. When you’re put in a situation that makes feeling and expressing empathy difficult, use the song to guide you back to your empathy gland.