Radical Empathy …
Defined in simplistic terms as:
Radical – adjective
(especially of change or action) relating to or affecting the fundamental nature of something; far-reaching or thorough.
Empathy – noun
the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.
This is difficult to talk about … because of religious beliefs and boundaries, because of the idea of right and wrong, black and white, because of the ideas of self-preservation and righteousness … the list goes on … but here I’m going to talk about it in a fantastical way … A science fiction type way … a therapeutic and challenging your ideals kind of way … I’m going to talk about it in a ‘what if’ kind of way.
Radical Empathy … this is a concept that’s front and center in The Storyteller’s Throne. It’s the idea that we can, as individuals, know one another’s pain, passion, love, happiness, hurt, sadness, shame, etc … even though we may not know the exact same circumstances with which these feelings came about.
The conscious move to actively and fully aware, delve into another’s deepest feelings by connecting our own experiences where they might intersect emotionally is radical empathy … And to do it without judgment and without expectations. (This is the hardest part, sometimes I feel like it’s only human to judge and to expect. It’s possible as long as you know your propensity to judge and the depth of your own expectations).
To put this even more simplistically … It’s to decide to be human with one another and to hold the space for each other with open hearts.
It’s the idea that if we can resonate with someone else or a group of people, we can move forward together without judgment because we can understand where they come from and why they made whatever decisions they made.
You can empathize with even the darkest of the dark … if you go far enough into their experience.
It’s easy to side with a victim … it’s when you’re asked to side with a perpetrator, an abuser, a murderer, etc … that’s when it gets complicated.
If you can resonate there … The Storyteller’s Throne theorizes that we can create changes in people, in the environment, in the communities we live in and in the world.
Listen, we all have known monsters … we all have known the darkness … we all have known what some would consider evil.
But what happens when we begin to hold space for the human-ness inside the monster, the heart inside the darkness, the flaws in our design (it’s only human to be imperfect).
Psychologically, this can be considerably jarring and somewhat shattering of the glass house:
- If you can relate to the monsters, does that make you a monster?
- And then who is to blame?
- Does there even need to be blame?
- If we can create an empathy, how does the punishment we’ve given in the past sit within us after?
- How do our ideas of rehabilitation change?
- Who do we hold responsible for the hurt and sadness?
- If you can then empathize with the darkest of dark, where does the line between right and wrong change, or does it?
This is where The Storytellers’ Throne sits and these are the questions it begs to answer especially as I delve into the second book in the series and chaos is a main character.
To make this personal …
I’ve had to speak to my own demons in this arena. I’ve had to find the empathy for those who have hurt me, for those that have caused me pain … I’ve pushed myself to make space for the childhoods of those adults who played out their own patterns across my history and it’s a hard journey, it feels impossible at times to stand without judgment, to let go of expectation, to remain open in the face of extreme hurt and loss. But it’s possible, to be honest, the empathy doesn’t always last – it ebbs and flows for me, but I believe the exercise of finding empathy for those around you no matter what their history is … will change you, and I believe for the better.
What if you could actually empathize with the darkest of the dark?
What does that mean?
Can you do it?
How does it make you feel?
Can you practice Radical empathy in your own way?
How might this practice change how you live in the world?