There is a common phrase related to empathy referring to being able to 'walk in someone else's shoes' and in a recent interview I did with Barbara Bray she shared an insight from an interviewee on her own podcast saying - we have to take our own shoes off so that we can fully put on the shoes of someone else.
I love this imagery as it provokes us to think about taking off our own shoes to truly be able to empathise and understand what the person is putting in front of us without our own experiences clouding our vision.
Through spending the past 7 years inquiring into Empathy, I believe some of the obstacles we face when trying to empathise with others is because we may struggle to recognise the shoes we are wearing in the first place. And this may be because we don't know enough about ourselves, our reactions, our beliefs, our values, our thoughts etc to be able to know how and when to take the shoes off or keep them on.
So this week we are going to take our first look at what the 'Self with Self Empathy' phase could look like.
Every week throughout the different phases we are going to have a book focus to be able to refer to research and weave that into our practical activities to help us better understand the different areas.
This week we have been exploring takeaways from 'The Chimp Paradox' to help us explore the Self with Self Empathy phase. You can check out the takeaways from our #Empathetic_Educators Twitter chat last Sunday here.
In order to be able to understand those around us I believe it is foundational for us to understand ourselves, especially our inner voice.
"How many times have you talked to yourself, reassured yourself
or had battles within your own head?"
Professor Steve Peters
In the Chimp Paradox, Professor Steve Peters explores the different voices we have in our heads and gives them names. The main two characters he discusses are -
1. "The Human", this is our Frontal Cortex or our logical brain where we can make responsible decisions that are based in facts. Normally when the human is in charge we can be calm and steady.
2. 'The Chimp", our limbic system or our emotional brain where we see the world through a more emotional lens. Sometimes when the chimp has control we may feel heightened emotions.
Both characters are needed and can be very helpful for different times in our lives. However the Chimp, i.e. our emotions, can get us in trouble if it is not managed correctly.
Professor Steve Peters, very early on in the book states this is a very simplified outlook on our brains but I think it is a great reference to act as a starting point for conversations with adults and children.
So, throughout the four phases we will be building upon this imagery in our models each week, learning how to master our mind and in turn master our connections with ourselves and others.
First up we have the 'Self with Self Empathy' model.
As you can see we have our 'Human' (logical brain) on one side and our 'Chimp' (emotional brain) on the other. And weaving both of these together is the 'Orbit of Opportunity.'
As I mentioned before this inquiry is called Weaving Empathy - an active inquiry into understanding, connection and engagement. So we will be using the Orbit of Opportunity (OOO) to weave different elements together.
The (OOO) in this image weaves together our logical responses with our emotional responses and through having a better understanding our brains it gives us the opportunity to master our mind and empowers ourselves and our learners to make helpful decisions in life.
So, let's look at our question 'How can learning about the brain help us master our mind?'
I read this book in my first year of teaching, when my mind was in a very different places to what it is today. I was actually told about this book on a night I was struggling.
I had told a friend I was looking in the mirror and I didn't recognise the person staring back. The voices in my head didn't match my external behaviour. Internally I was scared, nervous and spinning out of control but on the outside I was putting on a smile pretending everything was okay.
I look back now as that night being one of the pivotal nights in my life.
Here are 6 takeaways that have helped me in my life so far to better understand myself and in turn create more empathy for myself.
I hope they might help you and your community build some Self Empathy too:
1. Growth Mindset
‘Many people start from where they want to be and what they want to have and then look to see how far off they are and become demoralised.’ Pg 205
Hight expectations are a great way to move ourselves and those in our community forward. However, the other side of the expectations coin is acceptance - Accepting where we currently are and starting from that point instead of where we want to be to move forward together.
2. Internal relationships
2. ‘Why do I sometimes become so irrational in my thinking? Pg 16
Self with Self empathy begins with understanding our own body systems to help give insights into our reactions. ‘Behaviour is communication’ sometimes we respond in a way because of something that is going on for us on the surface or deeper in our subconscious.
3. Confidence is a skill we can practice
3. ‘The key to communicating well is to prepare yourself.’ Pg 159.
Human connection is based on our ability to communicate effectively with one another. This may look differently for different people and contexts so it is important to understand your audience as well as understanding our own strengths and weaknesses. Confidence is a skill we can foster and grow.
4. Challenges can grow our Mental Strength
4. 'So you will inevitably have to learn to deal with disappointment and sometimes that means dealing with failure.' Pg
When faced with problem our bodies can react in different ways. How we choose to deal with our problems can have a huge impact on our relationships and our environments. It’s normal to make mistakes sometimes when emotions get the better of us. Self with Self Empathy helps us understand our own boundaries by practicing taking risks and reflecting on how our bodies respond.
5. Listening to your body
5. ‘Realising that your lifestyle is not matching your..needs and dong something about it is one of keys to being at peace within yourself.’ Pg. 190
Getting to know your boundaries and what makes you comfortable is a great way to understand ways to take risks, exploring when to keep pushing forward vs when to pause and take a breath. If we keep moving forward at the detriment of our own health that is when feelings can become overwhelming.
6. Looking at things through a different lens
6. ‘Imagine you have climbed into a helicopter that has taken off and is now hovering above the situation.'
The way we see the world is largely based on our experiences and the way we see the world can make or break our own mindset. Reflecting on what we see in front of us and thinking critically about what we choose to take in will play a big part in our own happiness. Being able to take a step back or hover above certain situations can help us look at things through a different lens which may help us especially when facing difficult situations.
Well that’s all for our first introduction week all about Self with Self Empathy, I hope you have enjoyed it.
As I said for the next three weeks we will be building upon the ideas in this post, exploring the different phases of Weaving Empathy - Empathy with Another, Empathy with a Team, and finally Empathy between teams.
At the end of the four weeks we will be taking a deep dive into each phase, looking at all our N.E.R.D.Y topics to better understand ourselves and those around us.
(Neurosicence. Empathy. Relationships. Design Thinking. psYchology)
As you can see in the visual above, I am collaborating with EduSpark (Craig Kemp & Andrew Mowat) as part of this active inquiry. If this post has peaked your interest into the N.E.R.D.Y Neuro Networking project or if you enjoy learning about the N.E.R.D.Y topics I mentioned then we would love to have you as part this active inquiry.
I will be sharing more information about the Weaving Empathy Project kicking off 24th October.
For now, you can add your name to the sign up form here (bit.ly/EENERDY) if you are interested or if you have any initial questions.
I hope you enjoyed exploring our brains a bit further and I look forward to continuing the journey with you.
For now remember;
Our choices have an impact - what impact are you going to have?