Mental Wellness Challenge – 2020, January 30

Mental Wellness Challenge – 2020, January 30

I did OK with my challenge last week.  Not stellar for sure.  I have “things” gnawing at me – and I am distracted by that – and I have a desire to “get through those “things” or get them through me – so that I can move forward…

My challenge for you last week was to:

  1. Spend a little time –  and write down what you think/know hope to be.  Identify a couple of places in your life where hope gave you the strength to get through – and be grateful for it.
    I think hope plays a role in everyone’s life to one extent or another.  While I don’t employ hope as a strategy in my life – I do have hopes, dreams and wishes for better things and I have an ownership/a responsibility to my hopes to act in ways that move my life in ways that I realize some of my hopes.

Since I have found “HOPE – HOLD ON PAIN ENDS” – I am seeing where I use that in my life too.

  1. Play a boardgame with a friend, colour something, make a craft.
    I did lots of craft kinds of things this past week.  I have been preparing for one of my presentations and I have been “arts and crafting” copies of my wellness model to share with folks during my presentations… so lots of snipping and gluing… I enjoy doing those sorts of things – They give me/my mind a space to just do – without thinking really.

I also took some time to play with my grand-kids a bit.

  1. Get some exercise. Go for a walk, have a snowball fight, go for a swim, shovel some snow… just move your body – 20 – 30 minutes.
    I’ll be honest – this was a piece of my challenge that I wasn’t very successful with.  Does it count that I spent 3 or 4 hours shoveling snow at one go?  Can I spread that out over the 7 days… Uhhh NOPE… not the same… NOW – I WAS sore… (insert grimace here) but its not the same as regular exercise and I know it…

That’s how I got along with my challenge – how did you do?

A couple of weeks ago, part of my challenge was to do a little research on the differences between empathy and sympathy.  I was CERTAIN that I knew the differences between the two and how each were being applied in my life.  Well, this week – I’d like to share a little about my NEW understanding of the two and their differences.  You see – while I was pretty sure that I knew what the two terms meant – I didn’t…  not really.  Now – after having done a little bit more research and contemplation – I’d like to share a little about how empathy and sympathy show up for me.

Merriam-Webster Definitions:

Definition of sympathy

1a: an affinity, association, or relationship between persons or things wherein whatever affects one similarly affects the other

b: mutual or parallel susceptibility or a condition brought about by it

c: unity or harmony in action or effect “every part is in complete ’sympathy’ with the scheme as a whole”— Edwin Benson

2a: inclination to think or feel alike: emotional or intellectual accord (in sympathy with their goals)

b: feeling of loyalty: tendency to favor or support (republican sympathies)

3a: the act or capacity of entering into or sharing the feelings or interests of another

b: the feeling or mental state brought about by such sensitivity (have ‘sympathy’ for the poor)

4: the correlation existing between bodies capable of communicating their vibrational energy to one another through some medium

Definition of empathy

1: the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner

also: the capacity for this

2:the imaginative projection of a subjective state into an object so that the object appears to be infused with it

Further – Merriam-Webster provides:

Sympathy vs. Empathy

Sympathy and empathy are closely related words, bound by shared origins and the similar circumstances in which each is applicable, yet they are not synonymous. For one thing, sympathy is considerably older than empathy, having existed in our language for several hundred years before its cousin was introduced, and its greater age is reflected in a wider breadth of meaning. Sympathy may refer to “feelings of loyalty” or “unity or harmony in action or effect,” meanings not shared by empathy. In the contexts where the two words do overlap, sympathy implies sharing (or having the capacity to share) the feelings of another, while empathy tends to be used to mean imagining, or having the capacity to imagine, feelings that one does not actually have.

OK – so these definitions and research left me more confused about the meanings of the two words – let alone how they were showing up in my life.  So I decided to look at the origins of the two words – maybe that would help…

Etymology of sympathy (from

1570s, “affinity between certain things,” from Middle French sympathie (16c.) and directly from Late Latin sympathi “community of feeling, sympathy,” from Greek sympatheia “fellow-feeling, community of feeling,” from sympathies “having a fellow feeling, affected by like feelings,” from assimilated form of syn- “together” (see syn-) + pathos “feeling” (from PIE root *kwent(h)- “to suffer”).

Etymology of empathy (from

1908, modeled on German Einfühlung (from ein “in” + Fühlung “feeling”), which was coined 1858 by German philosopher Rudolf Lotze (1817-1881) as a translation of Greek empatheia” passion, state of emotion,” from assimilated form of en “in” + pathos “feeling” (from PIE root *kwent(h)- “to suffer”). A term from a theory of art appreciation that maintains appreciation depends on the viewer’s ability to project his personality into the viewed object.

After thinking and reflecting… I came to settle on the following…

Sympathy according to Kevin:

I feel what you feel because I agree with your experience or position.  If I agree with your position – we feel the same together.  OK so that makes sense to me.  “Everyone around the table at the memorial for Tom was sad and together, we shared a profound feeling of loss.”  This is an example of a time in my experience where I shared sympathy with others.  And maybe that’s the big piece for sympathy… Sympathy is a shared thing – TOGETHER.

But… what if you are hurting and I don’t agree with your position?  Where does that put me?  That puts me now in a position of judgement. Where does that put us.  That puts “us” in a position where we drift apart…

I learned somewhere along the way that sympathy is a place of agreement.  If I concur with the “reasons that you are hurt or sad” – I will be sad or hurt together with you… I will be sympathetic to you… or even your cause.  If I don’t agree or accept the “reasons that you are hurt or sad” I might (likely) be in a position of judgement.  That judgement may – and likely will – cause me to pull back – away from your pain or hurt – to pull back away from you.

I’m not suggesting that sympathy is always a bad thing – not for an instant.  What I am saying is that I HAVE THE RESPONSIBILITY TO MYSELF AND TO OTHERS to be mindful of how I am acting.  Sometimes sympathy is 100% appropriate.  Sometimes – its not.

So – if sympathy isn’t always appropriate – and I want to interact with others – there has to be something else.

What happens in those instances where I haven’t experienced the loss, pain, excitement, or any other of a thousand emotions and I have someone that I want to connect with and support.  Perhaps I can’t even imagine the pain or the loss.  Maybe I have no experience to connect with that other person – so it’s not appropriate that I would go to a position of judgment or agreement…  For me – judgement takes me to a place of shame.

Empathy according to Kevin:

Empathy to me is finding some understanding IN ME of the hurt (or other emotion) that another is experiencing.  It is a place of acceptance and support, not a position of agreement or judgement.

I have emotions and I can identify within myself feelings of loss, sadness or pain.  I may not totally understand what the other person is going through, I may not even agree with their specific position – but I can feel IN me – a sense of loss, or indignation, or whatever emotion that I can identify with.  When I am being empathetic – I might say something like “I don’t even know what to say.  I don’t have words.  I understand that you are hurting even though I may not understand the depth of your sorrow.  I’m here for you.”

Empathy for me helps me to be compassionate towards others.

Empathy also helps me to connect to another and support that person.

Sympathy – Feeling together, Empathy – Feeling within.
Sympathy – same experience – agreement, Empathy – understanding – compassion.
Sympathy – can lead to judgement if not same experience, Empathy – leads to connection.

So – that’s a real quickie on my understandings of two concepts.  Both have their place and I will continue to be mindful of which tool I am using where.

I am definitely clearer in my personal understanding on two concepts… and while the foundation of my understanding hasn’t changed a bunch – the exercise of looking at differences between the two concepts has cleared the water for me a bunch.

On to the challenge for the week.
  1. This week I challenge you to 3 random acts of kindness. 100% – totally random.  Big, small – it doesn’t matter.  But do 3.
  2. This week I challenge you to drink 3 large glasses of water every day. LARGE GLASSES.  Hydrate your system.  (I know I don’t do this well enough….)
  3. This week I challenge you to share something you have learned along the way – relating to mental health – with three different friends.
So – that’s it.  I challenge you.