Self-Empathy Matters

How One Life Changed When He Considered His Own Needs

As a father and the managing partner of a mid-sized architectural firm for close to forty years, I was in the power-over position a great deal of my life. I believe that in most situations with family, co-workers and clients I worked from a compassionate place of inclusiveness and listened often empathically to many of those around me. I also was often quite confused in discerning the difference between sympathy and empathy and how my feelings, when I acknowledged them, related to my thoughts. Recently many people, especially in my long-term hometown Columbus, Ohio, have acknowledged how often I listened to them and what a difference that made in their lives. As I process those acknowledgements I wonder what was missing so often for me. Recently I have begun understanding my own need to be heard by my compassionate heart.

I realize now that I made many decisions due to obligations that I both felt and understood from a very early age. I learned early to do what I was told and most of my schooling reinforced my knowledge of what was necessary for me to be successful, liked and appreciated. I learned very little regarding my own needs or how to translate thoughts into feelings and feelings into needs in a way that I could be truly responsive to the possibilities that I now find available. For me, personally, self-empathy has become the most valuable aspect of my new consciousness and the most important learning from my five years of NVC study. Once I understand my needs in a situation, I can truly be present to those around me and make conscious authentic choices in a way I never felt possible earlier in my life.

The author, Mark Feinknopf, is a Recognized Facilitator of GaNVC.