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The Soulful Leader: How Empathy, Compassion and Ethical Values Improve Well-Being and Creative Productivity

The Soulful Leader: Learning How Empathy, Compassion and Ethical Values Improve Well-Being and Creative Productivity. 

 

Arthur P. Ciaramicoli, Ed.D.,Ph.D.

Introduction

Resume virtue vs. eulogy virtues

Our society emphasizes achievement, appearance and possessions to the exclusion of developing character, integrity, and service to others. Research studies indicate that one out of every five leaders is toxic; some studies indicate it is closer to three out of every ten. The Workplace Bullying Institute indicates that 65.6 million U.S. workers were affected by bullying. Of those affected 61% left their jobs. 75% of American workers have been affected by bullying either as bystanders or directly.                                                                  Partly due to this environment many corporate leaders we have treated and consulted with have come to believe they need to make a choice between health, ethics and success. It is a myth that wealth and success must exclude fine character and exceptional interpersonal skills. Love and achievement are not opposites. When we know how to love, how to express compassion and kindness we establish the most powerful foundation for achievement. We go into the work world with a neurochemical balance that makes us more resilient, more creative and more able to negotiate our way through conflict to resolution. A simple human interaction can change our brain chemistry for the better. When we know how to produce calming neurochemicals we automatically reduce stress in our lives while increasing happiness. Happy people, filled with the positive neurochemicals positive relating releases, perform better and more creatively. Our goal is to teach personnel and clients to produce these positive brain changes naturally.

The Harvard Business school studies have indicated that EQ is three times more valuable than IQ for success in the business world. Other studies conducted at UC Berkeley found that compassion and empathy decrease as feelings of entitlement and self-absorption increase. Households that earned $50,000 to $75,000 gave 7.6% of their income; those who made $100,000 or more gave 4.2% to charity, in zip codes where more than 40% of people made $200,000 or more a year, the average rate of giving was a paltry 2.8%. (6 studies on how money affects the mind, 12/20/13, TEDBlog). Brain scans have shown that the wealthy consistently display less empathy; poor people are more attuned to the nuances of relationships out of necessity.

So if empathic leaders are most effective in the corporate world empathy should be correlated with wealth and more importantly empathy has also been proven to be correlated with good health. When we receive and give empathy we produce the near miracle neurochemical oxytocin, which reduces anxiety and the stress hormone cortisol. It also helps us live longer, aids in recovery from illness and injury, promotes a sense of calm and well-being, increases generosity and empathy, protects against heart disease, modulates inflammation, reduces cravings for addictive substances, creates bonding and an increase in trust of others (critical to establishing confidence with clients), decreases fear and creates a feeling of security and makes people open to give and receive love. The wealthy apparently are unaware of the physiological benefits of empathy or they just don’t value empathy or know how to develop and express this innate capacity.

 

Eulogy Virtues

 

Years ago empathy, compassion, and high-level interpersonal skills were viewed as soft skills not necessary for personal and professional success. If wealth alone made people happy clinical psychologists would be out of business as we encounter wealthy, unhappy, unhealthy individuals daily. In our consultations with corporations we consistently encounter depleted personnel who are excelling financially but have little idea as to what is interfering with experiencing happiness and their ability to sustain intimacy in their marriages, with their children and with friends. We often ask individuals to contemplate what people will say at their funeral and how those comments relate to what is stated in their resumes. Many accomplished, wealthy individuals can describe what they have done in their lives but when it comes describing who they are, and what they have meant to other people the responses typically become more vague. Regardless of our societal emphasis on status and image in the end if we are not comfortable in our own skin, if we have not learned how to gain the respect of others, not just for what we provide but for who we are. we have failed in life. If we fail at love of self and others we fail at life.

 

Changing the Culture to Integrative Success

Effective organizational change requires an inside out process. For instance if the financial advisors in a wealth management company are increasing their interpersonal skills along with executives they will feel happier and more confident to establish relationships with a diverse group of clients. Clients will sense this change; our nervous systems talk to each other, we intuitively sense authenticity, which results in trust and faith in an ongoing relationship with a firm when present. FA’s will find it easier to create trusting relationships, and with our services they will be able to offer clients and their family’s unique opportunities to learn interpersonal skills that will enhance their lives in very significant ways. Clients will be more willing to participate when their advisors believe in the process, inward-outward change.

A study published this year examining the long-term stock performance of companies that had won the Corporate Health Achievement Award, an annual prize that the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine has bestowed since 1996. In each case portfolios of winning companies substantially outperformed the returns of the S&P from 2001 to 2014—often by 200 percentage points or more.

Companies with very healthful cultures accumulated many quantifiable benefits as well. A significant amount of evidence gathered by professor John Quelch of the Harvard Business School suggests that they may have lower healthcare costs overall, less absenteeism, better employee retention, fewer workplace injuries, stronger growth, improved corporate reputations, and greater stock performance.

Lady Geek, a consultant company based in London rates companies across the globe for the degree of empathy present in their corporate culture. There is a clear correlation between empathy and financial success.

Interestingly U.S. banks are capitalizing on the benefits of empathy with their clients, scoring 50% higher than banks in the UK.

Research by the London group indicates that businesses are more productive and profitable when leaders act ethically and interact with staff and clients in considerate ways. The top 10 companies in the most recent Lady Geek Global Empathy Index 2015 increased their value more than twice as those companies rated in the bottom 10. They also generated 50% more earnings. The top 10 companies increased 6% this year, while the bottom 10 companies dropped 9%.

Harvard Review, 11/27/15, Belinda Parmar

 

The Soulful Leader

  What makes up the soul? Soul, is that intangible, invisible part of every human being that yearns for attachment to something deeper and broader than ourselves. A person who is soulful lives with purpose and a desire to be of service. He or she is not primarily motivated by status or image but has a natural interest in teasing out the potential of a family, community, corporation, community and nation. Soulful people lead with great passion, they are intimately aware of the structure of their organization. They are interested in motivating from the bottom up, not from the top down. They know who cleans their office, who mowes the lawn, who fixes their computers, who serves the food, who are the secretaries and the receptionists. They speak to everyone, no one person is seen as less valuable in the larger sphere than anyone else. Soulful people tend to lead balanced lives, they work with intensity, they play with intensity, but they know how to turn the dial down and enjoy life. They have an inherent love of young people, they love to educate, to witness the blossoming of young talent, whether it be their own children or the beginners in their businesses. They are the voice of reason in the face of conflict; they are not quick reactors but thoughtful contributors. They know how to listen as they are genuinely interested in understanding not only those like them but also those who on the surface seem different, they are known for finding the common ground.

They take in information from diverse sources. They expect to continue to gain information about themselves, their world and the human condition throughout life. They expect to revise theories and change perspectives as as new learning takes place. They are not wedded to one way of thinking, one way of being or one way of leading. They realize and willingly accept that in order to live a healthy, high-achieving life they must adapt to change, as they will be constantly faced with new situations that require that they adjust and change.

They live their lives with an open heart and an open mind.

 

Authenticity, Wealth and Performance

As we mentioned earlier many in the corporate world have come to believe that they have to sacrifice ethics and integrity for wealth and status. However credible research has proven that when we live authentically we create an inner calm that is sensed by others, allowing us to actualize our potential by freeing up energy from the stress of pretending. Leaders who are authentic are attractive to others, they relax those who work for their and their clients as the need to be on guard lessens, freeing people up to make mistakes and participate without the worry of being graded punitively. Authentic leaders cause positive brain changes in themselves and others, creating a high spirited atmosphere that leads to higher production, more creative performance and revenues rise accordingly.

Authenticity relaxes clients as it breeds’ trust and lessens the idea that FA’s have ulterior motives and simply want to make money at their expense.  Rather than anticipating a sales process they experience a competent individual who is also humble and willing to listen to the needs and concerns of the clients before him or her.

 

The Inspired Actions of a Soulful Leader

  A leader who thinks, acts and behaves in a soulful manner inspires others to do the same. Our nervous systems talk to each other, a simple human interaction changes brain chemistry, and several empathic interactions change the brain chemistry of an organization. We all remember how the negative of one parent could dominate the feelings of everyone in our homes. A leader has the attention of everyone; he or she is watched closely. As people sense arrogance, dismissal, poor interpersonal skills, lack of compassion, and most importantly lack of integrity the spirit of an organization suffers dramatically. Soulful act from the inside out, they touch a special within that exudes a purity of intention and genuine concern for the mission statement of the business they run.

When we have consulted to corporations we notice as leaders adopt this perspective, not only through understanding but through actions employees follow in suit. Why? Because all human feel better when we relate in compassionate, mindful ways. We change our brains, which makes us happier and more creative. Creativity as a part of successful strategizing increases as behavior becomes more authentic and growth promoting.  We become change agents, teasing out the potential of an entire group or organization.

 

Sustaining Soulful Leadership 

   What is highlighting in this paper is not a short-term proposition. I propose that it will only become an integral part of an organization if there are qualified clinical psychologists in-house to provide on-going coaching of the highest caliber to engage corporate members in the process outlined. The goal is to develop an organization of soulful leaders. This could never be attained by periodic workshops or lectures. The change of the soul is an in-depth change, lasting positive re-organization of the heart that will translate to increased contentment and financial success of the companies ,communities and countries that employ these well-researched methods.

 

 

 

What is Empathic Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)?

 

The new combination of CBT, the power of empathy and the addition of how to change brain chemistry naturally is an integrative therapeutic method I have developed over the last 35 years. This unique psychology perspective will provide you with the most comprehensive approach to balance your mental and physical health while reducing stress significantly.  CBT corrects distorted thinking and empathy calms the emotional brain so we can use this capacity to perceive others and ourselves accurately and thoughtfully. How we perceive is directly related to how much stress we accumulate. In addition this approach teaches you how to produce your own natural brain chemicals that create calm, focused energy to do and be the best you can be. These three components produce a synergy that enhances our lives and releases our potential.         Studies indicate that Americans have fewer friends; trust has decreased as well as the degree of empathy shown to others, while prejudice has increased and race relations have deteriorated.  Half of Americans lie awake at night due to job stress and three quarters indicate they suffer from emotional or physical stress symptoms daily.

We have become a society that places a great emphasis on achievement, status and appearance and far less on character and relationships. Many people have learned how to achieve, but they do not know how to love and make lasting deep friendships, and this lack of love and relational connections is the missing ingredient that plagues their lives. Our political climate, with presidential candidates emphasis on aggression, insults, lying and lack of integrity is symbolic of the lack of empathy, low trust and high stress in our current society.

 

The Three Components of Empathic CBT

Empathy

Empathy is the capacity to understand and respond to the unique experiences of another. Empathy is not an emotion or a feeling but a capacity that is innately present.

We are born with this capacity, and if not developed, it will atrophy like an unused muscle. In recent years, research on empathy has exploded. We now know we have empathy neurons, called mirror neurons. Mirror neurons send messages to our limbic system, the emotional center of the brain. The empathic connection then releases the neurotransmitters dopamine (creating a sense of desire), endorphins (pleasure and relaxation), and oxytocin (compassion and connection).

We also know that stress, both acute and chronic, impairs empathic accuracy, as worry about stressors draws a person’s intellect away from deciphering behavioral cues in everyday interactions.

Because empathy is truth oriented and gives us the opportunity to perceive clearly and objectively, it is the ideal complement to Cognitive Behavior Therapy.

The deep emotional learning that holds onto past hurts—the brain’s negative feedback loop—can only be released and understood permanently with empathy. When we are hurt we are emotional and stressed, cortisol is released, which records our experience in a deep part of the brain. We then perceive similar situations to the ones that hurt us through our old emotions, not through our thoughtful, more accurate empathic lens, thus making for distorted perceptions. We put old faces on new faces.                                                               We can correct distorted thinking with CBT techniques, but the emotional part of the brain will return to negativity over time if the situations that hurt us deeply are not understood and resolved on both the emotional and cognitive level. Several outcome studies have indicated that CBT is effective in the short run, but traditional talk therapies are more effective in the long term. Combining the use of empathy with CBT assures the best outcome with the least amount of time.

Brain Changes

Do you remember every time you were hurt deeply in your life? I am guessing your answer is yes. Do you remember each time you have been given a compliment in your life? Probably not. Your hurts are stored in the emotional center of the brain, buried deeply so you will be protected in the future. Problem is they lead to theories about human nature. A negative view of life is formed as a result of hurts experienced in childhood or adolescence and this negative view is re-activated when you are stressed in adult life.  A negative view creates cognitive bias, and you live your life believing the distorted fictional story you wrote about yourself at a time when you could not possibly see yourself and you’re potential accurately.

This negative perspective creates stress and the stress hormone cortisol is prevalent in your system. High levels of cortisol kills neurons in the memory center of the brain, the unfortunate result is your ability to think clearly or creatively is compromised. Cortisol also binds negative memories, making for a stubborn entrenched view of yourself that is not very flattering.

Empathic CBT will teach you how to change neurochemistry naturally, producing the hormones that provide a calm, focused state of mind rather than those that cause distress and discomfort.

CBT

CBT has been documented as being effective with depression, anxiety, eating disorders, low back pain, substance abuse, fibromyalgia and some personality disorders .There has been less evidence-based research on stress and CBT.

One of the criticisms of CBT, despite its overall success, is that the changes created may not endure due to the lack of focus on emotionally conditioned learning, which we know is quite difficult to extinguish. Empathic CBT addresses this issue comprehensively so that the emotional, conditioned negative learning can be understood in depth and changed in lasting fashion.                                          De-Stressing Your Life

Empathic CBT will take you on a journey that has the potential to affect both your thinking and emotional brain. First, empathic CBT will provide exercises that will allow you to uncover the origin of your learned reaction to stress, especially focusing on how you typically perceive that leads to stress. Secondly, empathy exercises will help you see yourself and others accurately. Lastly CBT will then help you reverse false beliefs and as you perceive yourself and others more clearly you will become calmer and more relaxed as you learn to produce feel good chemicals rather than stress hormones. You will now be in a position to perceive accurately rather than projecting worry forward based on old conditioned ways of responding.  Empathic CBT will free your mind of old views that have produced stress and compromised your life. In the process you will uncover positive aspects of your personality that have remained hidden under the clouds of stress and old conditioned ways of relating.          Arthur P. Ciaramicoli, Ed.D, Ph.D.

               Author of The Stress Solution: Using Empathy and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy to Reduce Anxiety and Develop Resilience. www.balanceyoursuccess.com

 

 

 

 

 

The Stress of Prejudice

The Stress of Prejudice

Whenever we encounter someone who we have an inherent prejudice against, whether conscious or unconscious, we begin to experience a degree of stress. When we are stressed we release the stress hormone cortisol, which limits our capacity for empathy while also causing repetitive negative thinking. If you have prejudices against several types of people it is likely that your cortisol levels will be consistently high. In addition to causing negative thinking excess cortisol also causes weight gain, inflammation, hair loss, breaks down muscle tissue, causes flabbiness, depression, anxiety and memory loss.

                           The Origin of Prejudice

Once you realize that we all have probably learned inaccurate views of others early in life we have the opportunity to change our perceptions from fear based to truth based. We live in a time where people are highly stressed, have low trust levels, fewer friends and prejudice in our society has reached significant heights.

When our perceptions are distorted stress becomes prevalent. One of the greatest achievements our minds can accomplish is to be able to perceive others and ourselves accurately.  Children idealize their parents and other authority figures early in life, if one of your parents, uncles, aunts, and older siblings repeatedly talks disparagingly about a particular race, culture or religion the likelihood that you will be influenced by these incorrect preconceptions is quite probable.

Not long ago, at the pleading of his mother, I interviewed her son who had become a white supremacist. As I entered my waiting room I was greeted with  “So you’re the WAP doctor my mother wants me to see”. He was obviously trying to provoke a reaction, and when he didn’t get the response he expected he began a rampage about how the blacks, Hispanics and Jews have ruined our country and if I had a brain in my head I would understand the truth about what is happening rather than being one of the liberals defending them.

It wasn’t difficult to observe that Chris is a quick reactor, and quick reactors are ruled by their emotions not by their thoughts. The key to understanding prejudice is using empathy to uncover the root of bias and the negative physical effects it causes.

                        Empathy-The Salve for Prejudice

Empathy is the capacity to understand and respond to the unique experiences of another. It is not an emotion or a feeling but a capacity that is innately present. Empathy is part of our genetic endowment; it is essentially our ability to read others accurately, to see beyond the surface into the soul of another human being. Empathy is often confused with sympathy. Sympathy, as opposed to empathy, occurs when we identify with another persons’ experience even if we do not know if our experiences are similar. You hear a neighbor is being transferred to Texas and you immediately respond and say how sorry you are that her family has to move. She responds by telling you that she is going to work for her sister’s clothing chain as a buyer and it’s the job of a lifetime, plus she and her husband will be near family and close to her old university and college friends. You realize, with embarrassment, that your quick reaction was not factual but emotional, projecting how you would feel rather than slowing down and gathering the facts.

The Story behind the Story

As I tolerated Chris’s aggression, and aggression is almost always a sign of insecurity and fear of vulnerability, he was able to tolerate my asking a few questions. As I asked a few historical questions he revealed that he grew up outside of Boston in a poor neighborhood. His alcoholic father left the family when he and his brother were in grade school, his mother worked two jobs and the boys were often left alone to fend for themselves. I mentioned that I sensed his hatred of Blacks seemed to run very deep. He told me that he and his brother were the only white kids riding the bus to school and they were taunted and bullied all through grade school. As we returned to the origin of old hurts, his anger and distorted view of African Americans became clear. His childhood pain-loss of his father, overwhelmed mother, being taunted on the bus and in school-led to the cognitive distortions of overgeneralizing, black and white thinking and emotional reasoning (being ruled by emotions rather than objective thinking).

Empathic Listening

My meeting with Chris proved revealing for several reasons. When Chris was in his aggressive mode, his intensity caused the release of the stress hormone cortisol, cortisol blocks our ability to be empathic and as I mentioned earlier causes repetitive negative thinking. When I was able to slow down the conversation, ask open-ended questions and get to the root of his prejudice we were relating in a much calmer, more open fashion. Empathy releases the hormone oxytocin, also called the love hormone, or the connecting hormone. While cortisol makes us fearful, oxytocin makes us feel comfortable, secure and in a position to give and receive empathy. Oxytocin reduces anxiety, reduces the release of cortisol, reduces addictive craving, and most importantly reduces aggression, fear and bias.

Empathic listening is slow listening, it is thoughtful and fact based. As Chris talked of his earlier traumatic experiences he was initially angry but when I pointed out how he seemed to be using anger to hold back tears he softened and began to talk more rationally. I complimented his intelligence and commented that I doubted that he truly believed Barack Obama was an unintelligent man, as he had stated earlier. I didn’t ask him to agree with our president’s views, but rather asked him to tell me what he experienced when he heard President Obama speak. After some back and forth he said, “ Ok I admit he’s not dumb but he is wrong about how to run this country”.  We agreed to limit the political discussion and we also agreed that one prejudice Chris had maintained most of his life was not true. And lastly we agreed that if one prejudice turned out to be based on old hurts, not facts, the possibility of other prejudices being in the same category were worth exploring.

My brief encounter with Chris was similar to many I have had with people who are plagued by prejudices. As indicated earlier prejudice increases stress, stress releases the hormone cortisol, and cortisol limits the ability to be empathic and also causes narrow, biased repetitive thinking. Empathic interactions release the compassionate hormone oxytocin, which in turn limits the release of cortisol, and creates a sense of safety and security, allowing for old hurts to be uncovered and resolved. Empathic CBT provides a formula for un-learning prejudicial thinking and restoring the ability to perceive accurately.

 

Arthur P. Ciaramioli, Ed.D. Ph.D.

   Author of The Stress Solution: Using Empathy and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy to Reduce Anxiety and Develop Resilience.         http://www.balanceyoursuccess.com

 

 

The Heart Of Forgiveness

When we think about forgiveness we often think of something we confer on others- I forgive you. In truth we cannot forgive others without understanding our difficulties in forgiving ourselves. Forgiving oneself for addictive behavior is immensely difficult; alcohol, heroin or your drug of choice pulled you away from the world of the living. When you enter into a full time relationship with drugs your human relationships fade in importance. Addictions do this to people, regardless of who you are or where you came from. Do not allow your world to become narrow, for your shame and grief for the pain you have caused can make you avoid the very people you need the most.  It is quite possible, if you are open to a process that involves acceptance of human frailty and imperfections, to forgive yourself. I have seen people return from the abyss of shame and guilt to a position of understanding and forgiveness thousands of time.

When we deepen our understanding of human nature our view of the world and ourselves widens. From this perspective we discover forgiveness for ourselves and others. Forgiveness is an unfolding process rather than an act that is completed and set aside. Forgiveness comes slowly, as we continue to learn from the tragedies and traumas of the past in a continual effort to transcend them and return to a positive view of ourselves. With time, determination and effort we move forward, understanding the past rather than endlessly repeating it.

                                Perception

Our perceptions are limited by our experiences and our interpretations of our experiences. Most people who cannot forgive themselves have developed a critical self-voice that holds them to unrealistic expectations. If you have been criticized, ignored or shown little compassion in your life you have likely learned to blame yourself excessively for mistakes and errors in judgment. In addition if those around you do not understand the complexities of addiction you have probably been subjected to miss-understandings that have fueled a critical self-voice.

On the other hand, people who have been fortunate enough to be supported by those who do understand the complications of addiction, whether it is family members, friends or addiction counselors have received the necessary empathy and understanding that encourages forgiveness, without the burden of guilt that exacerbates addictive transgressions.

 Criticizing vs. Understanding

Every time we demean another person for their imperfections we re-visit the times the same behavior was done to us. By repeating this behavior we unfairly punish others for the lack of understanding we received, and in this process we cement our inability to free ourselves and treat others kindly.

In order to forgive yourself you have to turn inwardly and begin to understand how you came to be so hard on yourself. Instead of blaming yourself for irrational behavior while under the influence or simply for human errors it is necessary to realize that no child is born with a critical self-voice. The environment you were exposed to created your demeaning voice, complicated by your using days. Now it is time to seek a more accurate view of yourself. Forgiveness arises through the hard work of empathy. Seeking to understand, opening our minds and our hearts to what was once hidden from view, we see a view of our self we could not see before, and in that widened perspective, we see others with the same empathy and open mindedness as we now see our self. You no longer torment yourself with thoughts of what you should have done or should have said but rather see the truth of who you are today and that is finally enough.

                         Transformation

The change from a critical self-voice to an understanding self-voice is a transformation of the highest proportions. Kindness toward others is much easier than kindness toward oneself. When your internal voice is reasonable and fair your heart opens up to the world, we move outward from self toward others. This new understanding allows us to feel closer to those we previously judged, a defense used in order to create protective distance. We no longer need to be harsh toward others to shield ourselves. We no longer need to punish ourselves for actions under the influence, we take responsibility but we do not adhere to relentless name calling for what we now understand and will likely not repeat. We are committed to learning from the tragedies and traumas of the past in an ongoing effort to transcend them. With this formula we are able to move forward, building on the past rather than endlessly repeating it.

Forgiveness is the ultimate act of connectedness. In forgiving yourself you forgive others and are far less critical internally and externally. The world then becomes a kinder, warmer place.  Forgiveness now signifies freedom-releasing resentment, bitterness and pride-allowing us to live with ease within, and to love others with uncritical affection.

 

Arthur P. Ciaramicoli, Ed.d,Ph.D.

Author of The Stress Solution: Using Empathy and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy to Reduce Anxiety and Develop Resilience.

 

What The World Needs Now……………..

I am a clinical psychologist in private practice and I see a diverse group of clients every week. Most of my clients are not mentally ill but are highly stressed by how they respond to the world we all currently live in.  It is inevitable that people raise the question of politics in my individual, family, marital and group therapy sessions.

Politicians tell us that we have a binary choice to make, many feel it is between a candidate who lies versus one with an apparent personality disorder. Our future they say is the hands of one of these individuals.

I vehemently disagree. Our societal troubles are far deeper than these two individuals.  We know that Americans have fewer friends, trust less, while empathy for others has decreased. Let’s bring this political dilemma down to an individual dilemma.

Do you lie? Do you blame others when you make a mistake? Do you become overly defensive when questioned if someone is being critical? Do you slander your colleagues, friends, spouses, relatives and most importantly your children if they disagree with you? Do you value achievement more than integrity? Do you value appearance more than character?  These are all the questions this election has brought to the forefront. It is not just about electing a leader. It is about YOU being a leader. A leader in ever interaction you have.  It is about communicating with tact, honestly and most importantly with empathy.

Empathy is a capacity we are born with. It is the ability to understand and respond to the unique experiences of another. It is different than sympathy. Sympathy rushes in to console, it is immediate, reactive, based on our previous experiences. Empathy, in contrast, takes time to gather the facts, no sound bites, only the gathering of truthful facts. No assumptions like “he’s Muslim, she’s Christian, he’s Jewish, she’s an atheist” therefore we know all about them.  Empathy is part of our genetic endowment, but if it is not practiced it atrophies like an unused muscle. Our world, with terrorism, bigotry, hatred, and mounting attempts to segregate one kind of individual or one country from another is in critical need of an expansion of empathy.  When we open our eyes and expand our view we not only become a change agent, we produce chemicals that make us live longer and happier. Stress produces the opposite; the stress hormone cortisol reduces empathy and creates biased, black and white thinking.

We cannot afford, in these crucial times, to continue with pessimism and helplessness. YOU can make a difference, right now, this moment. Don’t wait for politicians to be the leaders of the change, you are the CHANGE, we are the CHANGE.

Bottom line-all human beings want two things-to be loved and respected. Take either away or deprive a person of both and conflict results. When we slow down, calm ourselves and truly try to understand each other we find that beyond race, religion, country and culture we all are more alike than we ever realized. Beyond the surface of every human being we find ourselves, and that is our connection to humanity.

Human beings, all human beings, possess goodness. Empathy uncovers our true self, lying and slander covers over goodness like a circle of clouds on a dreary day.  Our world is not dreary, it is filled with good people but each one of us has to work to uncover the goodness in each other to survive with hope and happiness. Develop your empathic capacity and you will feel alive, free and connected to the world with hope and renewed energy. We need an empathy movement more than a political movement.

Arthur P. Ciaramicoli, Ed.D., Ph.D.

Author of The Stress Solution: Using Empathy and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy to Reduce Anxiety and Develop Resilience.

 

Anger Makes Love Invisible

One of my patients is a divorced dad with a 17year daughter. He loves his daughter dearly and often worries about her-self care and the level of supervision his ex-wife provides. Recently his ex-wife and daughter went to Disneyland for a school vacation. He was called one evening when his daughter let him know she had passed out twice in the amusement park. She assumed she was dehydrated. His daughter became impatient as he quizzed her about her day, what she ate, what she drank, how much sleep she got etc, She commented, “Maybe next time Dad I won’t call”. He got angry and proceeded to lecture her about her poor eating and sleeping habits.

The following week he received a text from her saying she was going to a drive in movie with friends. He asked what time she would be home as he was concerned since she was scheduled to play in two basketball games the next day. She mentioned the movies would be over at 1:30am so she should be home by 2am or so. He immediately felt angry and sent a text to her and her mother expressing his frustration. He went to the games next day, could barely control his anger, and when the games were over he lost his temper in the parking lot. He threatened to stop child support, implying that his ex-wife was self centered as his daughter slammed the door before him as they drove away.
Later in the day he collected himself, feeling remorseful he sent his daughter a text message apologizing. His daughter responded by saying, “Dad, no one has the right to talk to another human being the way you talked to Mom”.

Needless to say my client entered our session with tremendous regret and pleaded with me to him find a way to re-establish his relationship with his daughter. I remarked that I realized how hurt and worried he was and I knew that in a calmer moment he realized that when we begin an interaction with accusatory anger it is likely to go poorly. It makes the other person defensive and seldom produces an exchange of useful information.

I commented that he might want to talk to his ex-wife in person; after all she had no history of being neglectful to their daughter. Most importantly he had no idea what was really going through her mind in Florida, his anger precluded any discussion of depth and blocked his capacity to be empathic. He realized in subsequent conversations with his daughter that she feels uncared for when he gets angry. She didn’t realize that his emotion actually comes from a position of love not easily seen behind his cloud of aggression.

My client grew up in a household where his father would frequently be impatient and dictatorial with his mother. He felt diminished each time his dad would approach him with anger rather than with understanding. It’s ironic how we often repeat the patterns we dislike the most growing up. He couldn’t see his father’s love behind his aggression; his daughter feels the same way. Fortunately my client comes to group coaching to change this pattern, I applaud him for having the courage to reveal his mistake and for his commitment to change an old story that has caused him pain for many years.

Anger is often a cover up for hurt, disappointment, loss and the lack of faith in oneself to successfully resolve conflict. We all need to increase our awareness of the anger cycle or else we alienate those we truly wish to bring closer.

The Performance Addicted Professional: How a lack of Empathy can deteriorate Work, Love and Self-Care Effectiveness

Read my latest article
“The Performance Addicted Professional: How a lack of Empathy can deteriorate Work, Love, and Self Care Effectiveness” at http://www.soundmindz.org/​expert-articles/

A Crisis of Goodness in America

No society could survive—let alone thrive—without maintaining a minimum level of goodness. Unfortunately, there is evidence of a crisis of goodness, at least in the heavily industrialized and digitized West. We live in an egotistic moment in history where we seem unable to effectively train our children in restraint; where narcissism and entitlement are rampant and concern for social approval is at a record low; and where stress and anonymity are pervasive and deeply problematic .Our current culture has been chasing the elusive pursuit of happiness to no avail. We are the most affluent culture in the world and yet according to The World Health Organization have the highest rating of mood disorders, anxiety disorders and overall stress. 43% of American adults suffer from the adverse effects of stress, with the cost of anxiety disorders to our society estimated at 42.3 Billion dollars. Our collective mood is worsening despite five decades of becoming “better off”.  According to the World Happiness Survey Bangladesh is the happiest nation in the world with the United States sadly ranked 46th. The findings of University of Michigan political scientist Ronald Inglehart, director of the World Values Survey, indicate that overall happiness is related to benevolence and expressions of gratitude, while also being factors that possibly extend life. Other sources tell us that we have one third fewer close friends than 20 years ago and Americans trust in their fellow citizens has dropped 15% in the past 15 years.

These indicators of course do not amount to an entire picture of today’s state of goodness in the U.S., but they are proof of a malaise. Quite simply, we suffer from a deficit of goodness. In our egocentric and narcissistic society feelings of entitlement thrive and the disregard for other people’s claim to comfort and contentment is endemic. A recent study at the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research found that college students today are 40% less empathic than they were in 1979, the largest decline coming in the last decade. It is all too commonplace for stress, anonymity or both to contribute to verbal and physical violence at home, on the roads, and at work. The quality of life in the schools has reached a point that news of rampant bullying finds us inured. It takes a bullied youngster taking his or her life to make us pay attention and express some dismay and consternation. Not only can on line verbal exchanges be dismally mean-spirited, the web’s low interaction standards are spilling over into the off line world. But there is hope: within this bleak landscape we perceive encouraging signs of a counter-tendency. A movement of rediscovery of goodness has begun in the United States. Today’s crisis of goodness is what prompted me to start the goodness renaissance project. http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Goodness-Renaissance-Project/104778329611615

Arthur P. Ciaramicoli, Ed.D.,Ph.D.

What’s Good about Goodness?

The irony is that individuals who may think they are
interested only in their own happiness still need to contribute to a healthy
goodness society. When we engage others in an attitude of goodness, we
produce what we are biologically and spiritually programmed to do. Fascinating
research by psychologist Philippe Ruston of the University of Western Ontario
on the genetic basis for altruism has revealed that humans possess a “goodness
gene”. Dr. Ruston based his opinion on decades of analyzing data he collected
through the University Of London Institute Of Psychiatric Adult Twin Register,
the source for many studies about twins and genetics. Another poignant finding
from the Great Good Science Center, University of California, Berkeley is in
regard to the production of the hormone oxytocin, the hormone of compassion
elicited when we bond through the relational qualities that goodness embodies.
Oxytocin is a near magical neurotransmitter responsible for the following:

  • Reduces anxiety and release of stress hormone
    (cortisol)
  • Helps you live longer
  • Aids in faster recovery from illness, improves wound
    healing
  • Promotes a sense of calm and well-being, increases
    generosity and empathy
  • Protects against heart disease, modulates
    inflammation
  • Reduces cravings for addictive substances
  • Creates bonding and an increase in trust of others
  • Decreases fear and creates a feeling of security

Producing more oxytocin is just one of many benefits
conferred on those who practice goodness. Knowing how to express goodness makes
us more energetic and more resilient. We have more skills to manage daily
living. We are not limited in our pursuits of knowledge, and we are not
limited in the array of people we can befriend. Real wisdom consists not in
pursuing happiness directly, but rather in building a good life upon a
foundation of goodness. Happiness comes as a byproduct of that
process. If there is a shortcut to happiness, goodness is it.

                                                 Arthur P. Ciaramicoli, Ed.D.,Ph.D.

                                                           http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Goodness-Renaissance-Project/104778329611615

We are Good by Nature

As humans weare genetically programmed to thrive by being empathic and altruistic. Neuroscientists
and psychologists have recently provided empirical evidence for Darwin’s
assertion that sympathy is our strongest instinct. Goodness has now been proven
to produce brain changes that make us happier and more resilient to face the
challenges of everyday life. People who volunteer their time and energy to help
others in need experience the pleasurable feeling known as “helper’s high”. The
release of endorphins that makes helper’s high possible has a positive impact
upon the helper’s health. Studies indicate that people who help on a regular
basis are ten times more likely to be healthy than people who do not. When we
give to others reward centers of the brain are stimulated with activity. In
addition researchers at the University of Western Ontario, through identical
twin studies, have identified what they believe are goodness genes. The vast
majority of scientists do believe that genes play a significant role in our
happiness and our survival. Being good also allows us to reap the reward of
intimacy, generous people are likely to receive more respect from their peers,
selfish people elicit lack of regard and are shunned. Being good induces others
to reciprocate. Bottom line-being and doing good both feels good and is good
for us.

Arthur P. Ciaramicoli, Ed.D.,Ph.D.

http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Goodness-Renaissance-Project/104778329611615

 

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