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empathy - Kim Petersen

Love or Fear — You Get to Choose Every Time

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When I was fifteen years old, one of my friends decided to hate me. I had known her since Kindergarten and we had been close. I’d spent so much time at her house that her family was an extension of my own. Including her pudgy Golden Retriever, Candy-girl, who shared a mutual adoration with me.

Kids can be fickle when it comes to friendship. I’d experienced my fair share of “friends with conditions”, but not within this relationship. She was special. I loved her and I had thought she loved me back. When her friendship turned into hostility, it shocked me to my foundations.

More than that, though, I was hurt beyond measure. My world suddenly blackened with an indescribable pain because not only had she turned against me; she was also in a position of power to influence all of my other friends in joining her on the “Hate Kim” bandwagon.

None of them knew why I was suddenly branded an outcast — there was no reason behind her animosity. Yet, they all fell into place like puppets on a string. One former friend was even commissioned by their “leader” to physically attack me. I was never one of those tough girls that went around looking for a fight.

Neither was my opponent.

She went ahead and did it anyway. She hit me and I hit her back. It wasn’t long before we were surrounded by a horde of hollering teenagers as we attempted to … god knows what because neither of us could actually fight.

When a teacher came along to break it up, I remember one of the “tough” girls sniggering the obvious as we were carted off to the Principal’s office.

“You guys can’t fight for shit.”

Yeah. No shit, Sherlock.

Cue Michael Jackson: I think I told you, I’m a lover not a fighter.

Kylie and I were stuffed into the same waiting room outside the Principal’s office and promptly left alone. We looked at each other. I took in her busted lip and noted the aches reverberating around my own body. I was shaken and upset, and knew that I ought to be feeling angry and outraged for the disgusting treatment handed to me by my peers.

Yet, I couldn’t. All I saw was the expression in her eyes as they teared up and she said sorry.

Sorry.

There is power in that word. When expressed sincerely, a simple apology is all it takes to begin the path toward healing. Yet, an apology is easily negated if left unreceived.

The act of forgiveness is where true power lies.

I nodded.

“Okay.”

It wasn’t even a choice. I had forgiven her the moment she had caused me pain because I knew she acted out of fear and not malicious intent. A weight had lifted. We hugged before proceeding into the Principal’s lair to receive our punishment.

Neville Goddard:

“The drama of life is a psychological one in which all the conditions, circumstances and events of your life are brought to pass by your assumptions.”

In other words, your life path is determined by the feelings you assume. Focus on negative feelings like jealousy, hate and resentment, then you will discover your reality tainted by situations that evoke more of those feelings.

Steer your thoughts and focus toward the positive aspects of life and these feelings and experiences will become the dominant theme in your world.

Skeptical?

Pay close attention to those folks that fill in endless hours switching between the latest news channels. I’m willing to bet that they are among the biggest complainers in your life.

Each time you choose to watch a show, a movie or listen to a broadcast, you are making the choice to allow the essence of that broadcast into your personal energy field — you’re effectively inviting the substance of that transmission into your life; which in turn evokes a deep reaction.

A feeling is assumed.

Keep watching or listening to something or someone who brings you down, that’s where you’ll find yourself. In a bottomless pit of self-repugnance and unrealized dreams.

The same holds true of people and the way we choose to treat one another.

I could have easily chosen to hold a grudge against Kylie for attacking me. In fact, most girls that age would have done just that. But gathering grudges and lashing out does nothing but wither your soul and hinder self-growth.

Deep down, you know this; each time you mistreat, disrespect or devalue another human being, there exists a tiny ping in the pit your gut that you might try to ignore — guilt. You cannot escape it. No matter how deep you bury it.

Don’t make amends, it’ll eventually catch up to you one way or another. It always does. Life is designed this way — what you dish out is what you get back. In this life or the next…

As my mother likes to say: It ain’t over till the fat lady sings.

It’s never really over by the way. Nor is that my mother’s quote, but I think you knew that.

People are always going to “broadcast” their message to influence your life or decisions in some way. Unfortunately, a lot of the time those people have their own interests and agendas at heart. Even when we think they are a friend.

Empathy is a resource that most of us are unwilling to invest for too many people. Sure, we’re good at shooting off at the mouth about it. Putting it into practice is another matter altogether. It takes time and effort to understand how and why others feel the way they do. Even when motivated, doing so isn’t always easy.

Without empathy, our relationships cease to exist. At least on any level worth experiencing. Yet, in those quiet moments when you’re alone and the truth is staring you in the face, no amount of empathy or understanding from others can fill the void in your heart left by the choices you make.

The fact is, we were not born into this life to acquiesce to others. We came here to create our most fulfilling life; to make authentic connections, learn how to express love and value those that imprint upon our lives and souls along the way.

We came here to find freedom, joy and light in a condition of human struggle. We came to sift through it all to arrive at the place where we realize who we really are.

So, who are you?

It all begins by mastering our assumptions, how we treat others and how we choose to move through our ever-changing world. The way you see the world is how you will experience the world.

Love or fear?

That’s the basic principle governing everything we encounter. It is love or fear that we choose to allow into our inner-worlds and will influence our life-energy, desires and outcomes.

Every time.

No one can choose for you. Nobody knows what or who is best for you except you.

Friends, acquaintances and family — they all have their own unique paths and they don’t own your soul. Neither do our responsibilities for that matter. We can honor these people and afflictions where necessary without becoming shackled to them.

Freedom is our birthright — it’s a state of mind.

Your thoughts and assumptions make the world as you know it to be true. Choose them wisely, or others will choose for you.

That is when you lose — when you sacrifice your happiness for others and end up without the dream.

As a fifteen-year-old, I had spent months attending school in a private hell. It doesn’t sound a like a big crisis, but it looked very different back then. School and friends are a teenager’s life. I was stripped of friendship, loyalty and bonding. I had cried myself to sleep each and every night.

The evening following the fight with Kylie my phone rang. It was her — the one who had turned my life black. I answered to hear her sobbing uncontrollably.

“What’s wrong?”

“I’m calling to say sorry — I’m so sorry, Kim.”

Long pause, then:

“It’s okay.”

It takes strength and character to say sorry. It takes a whole lot of heart and empathy to forgive. I may not be a fighter in the physical sense, but when the love is real and reciprocated authentically, I’ll fight for love every time.

To this day, that friend remains one of the only two school friends I have kept in touch with, and she was worth the pain.


Originally published by P.S. I Love You on Medium

Dancing with the Devil: Emotional and Psychological Manipulators

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It sounds rather dramatic, doesn’t it — to dance with the devil?

The thought instantly conjures grotesque visions and disturbing swirls in the pit of your stomach. Well, it should. I mean, the devil is a personification of everything evil and sinister. Portrayed as a dark enigmatic beast, he is seen as the manifestation of wicked — an objectification of a hostile and destructive force.

The concept of the devil is entwined throughout our history, mythology, art and literature. He is known by many names like Satan, Beelzebub, Mephistopheles and Lucifer. He has been known to possess souls and seduce humans, and has become a fascinating and popular supernatural character on our screens.

But is he real?

Pope Francis says: “The Devil is more intelligent than mere mortals and should never be argued with — he is evil, he’s not like mist. He’s not a diffuse thing, he is a person.”

Total disclosure — I am not a religious person. This post isn’t about religion nor do I wish argue the complexities surrounding faith and denomination. I wasn’t raised to adhere to any religious deity, but that doesn’t make me any less aware of the deplorable acts capable by mankind.

Where there is light, so there is darkness.

Sometimes, that dark force can be found in people. It is unfortunate, but true. We have seen the effects of darkness occur throughout our history and continue to witness it today with large scale conflict and wars, inequality and corruption.

Yet, it is the vicious acts playing out between us at an intimate level that have the ability to really cut deep. Some people are extremely skilled at psychological manipulation. Moreover, they seem to gain some kind of twisted satisfaction from doing so.

Whether we refer to these people as the “devil-in-action” or sociopaths makes little difference in the scheme of things, because once you have become their target, you’d better pick up your game quick smart or you risk losing your mind.

These people have no sense of empathy or compassion; and as you will discover as we get further into this post, neither do they take responsibility for the harm they cause — enter the emotional or psychological manipulator.

“He’s more intelligent than us, and he’ll turn you upside down; he’ll make your head spin”

– Pope Francis — on the devil.

Have you ever found yourself caught in a twisted mind-game you never saw coming until it was too late?

I have. Pope Francis is right, it does leave your head spinning.

Emotional or psychological manipulators often use mind games to seize power in a relationship. The ultimate goal is to use that power to control the other person.

These people will use an array of weapons to accomplish their goal. These techniques can include sneaky, deceptive or underhanded tactics to change the thinking, behavior, or perceptions of their victim.

It is no secret that a healthy relationship is based on trust, understanding, and mutual respect. This is true of personal relationships as well as professional ones. Sometimes, people seek to exploit these elements of a relationship in order to benefit themselves in some way.

Sometimes, we find ourselves waltzing with the devil.

The signs of emotional and psychological manipulation can be subtle. They are often hard to identify, especially when it is happening to you and particularly when you are emotionally invested in someone.

We all know how it feels to be in love, but what happens when that special someone deliberately sets out to exploit your feelings?

It can feel as if you are fighting to tread water while the sea slowly sucks your soul and your heart withers.

Hollow hope — that is one sure-fire sign you’ve got an emotional or psychological manipulator on your hands. They are masters at stringing you along by the threads of your heart while offering smidgens of false hope in an underhanded manner.

In fact, they are masters at quite a few psychological tricks. In order to identify whether you have encountered or are in the process of “dancing with the devil”, it is important to familiarize yourself with the tactics these people use so you can avoid falling victim to their games.

Let’s flush out some of the tell-tale signs.

According to psychology author George K. Simon, some of the signs and techniques used by an emotional or psychological manipulator are:

Concealing aggressive intentions and behaviors while appearing affable.

Knowing the psychological vulnerabilities of the victim to determine which tactics are likely to be the most effective.

Having a sufficient level of ruthlessness to have no qualms about causing harm to the victim if necessary.

Lying by omission: This is a subtle form of lying by withholding a significant amount of the truth. This technique is also used in propaganda.

Denial: The manipulator refuses to admit that they have done something wrong or have taken part in causing the situation to evolve.

Rationalization: An excuse made by the manipulator for inappropriate behavior.

Minimization: This is a type of denial coupled with rationalization. The manipulator asserts that their behavior is not as harmful or irresponsible as someone else is suggesting.

Shaming: The manipulator uses sarcasm and put-downs to increase fear and self-doubt in the victim. Manipulators use this tactic to make others feel unworthy and therefore defer to them. They can make one feel ashamed for even daring to challenge them. It is an effective way to foster a sense of inadequacy in the victim.

Playing the victim role: A manipulator portrays themselves as a victim of circumstance or of someone else’s behavior in order to gain pity, sympathy or evoke compassion from another.

Projecting the blame: Manipulators will claim that the victim is the one who is at fault for believing lies that they were conned into believing, as if the victim forced the manipulator to be deceitful. It is frequently used as a means of psychological and emotional manipulation and control.

These are just some of the tactics used by emotional and psychological manipulators. The effect of their behavior can have detrimental and devastating consequences to their victims — if we allow them to hold that power.

“Never be bullied into silence. Never allow yourself to be made a victim. Accept no one’s definition of your life, but define yourself.”

– Harvey Fierstein

Experiencing the manipulating behavior of someone who uses your emotions as their punching bag is like walking between night and day. Sometimes, it feels as if you are in heaven; as if the sun is shining just for you.

Other times, it feels as if you are dodging a suspended sword waiting to strike for the kill. And then it does; and the devil reveals himself and you feel as if are the most foolish person to wander the murky path existing between night and day.

Sometimes, people set out to hurt others with malicious intent.

It may take time to realize when someone is emotionally manipulating you. The signs are so subtle and underhanded in nature, and they often evolve over time. If you think you are being treated in this way, it is important to trust your instincts and believe in yourself.

You are not powerless; you can do something about it.

You can take back your personal power and know your worth. Respect, love and dignity — you are worth all of these and more. You are worth more than what your emotional manipulator will have you believe.

Apologize for your part and move on.

Often, there is a complexity of emotional entanglement existing between an emotional manipulator and their victim. Each action causes a reaction; we are fooling ourselves if we believe we don’t have an effect on people. High-level situations induce high-level reactions that may find you behaving in ways that baffle you.

Don’t try to beat them.

Two people should not play this game — the stakes are high when it comes to the heart. Instead, learn to recognize the strategies so you can properly prepare your responses.

Set boundaries.

When an emotional or psychological manipulator realizes they are losing control, their tactics may grow more desperate. They may lash out and falsely accuse you of wrongful behavior to induce a sense of shame and/or delusion, or make outrageous threats based on fabrications.

This is the time for you to make some difficult decisions.

You do not have to have this person in your life. You have a choice. You can choose to comply to the person in control or you can be proactive — you can cut them from your life.

This may be a great time to recruit support in the form of trusted friends or a therapist. Gaining insight from an individual outside of the situation can help you find clarity.

Learn your lessons.

You can heal and grow from this. Keep positive. No one deserves to have another individual treat them in this manner. Emotional and psychological manipulation may not leave physical scars, but it can have a long-lasting effect — especially when you have opened your heart to someone who abused it.

Even when somebody you love turns out to be the “devil”, it is vital to remember that love is never lost or wasted in this world. If you loved, then you didn’t lose. Sometimes, we have to dance with the devil in order to see the light shine brighter.


Originally published by The Ascent at Medium on January 2nd, 2020.


Living from the heart – are you an under or over-roller?

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There are two types of people in the world: those who hang their toilet paper rolls in an over position, and those who hang it in the under position. You can tell a lot about a person about the way they hang their ass-napkins. According to Dr Gilda Carle, “People who roll over are more dominant than those who roll under.”

Carle went so far as to suggest that you could use this information to see if you’re compatible with new partners. There’s an idea. Perhaps those looking for love should add this information to their online dating profiles or use it as an opening line when someone in a crowded bar catches their eye.

“Hey baby, do you take it under or over?”

Gasp.

“How dare you!”

“Nah, you got it all wrong, sugar. I mean your shit sheets? Do you like the roll under or over?” 

“Err … I’m an under-roller.”

Brows raise. Hands wave furiously while backing up. 

“Oh … you’re one of those psychopathic weirdos who like to make it hard on yourself. Sorry … I’m only looking for over-rolling ladies.”

Have you ever switched the hang of a toilet roll when using the bathroom at someone else’s house? I have. I’m guessing by now you may have worked out that I’m an over-roller. Yep, I take my toilet tissue over and my eggs over-easy please (not necessarily in that order). It just makes sense. Why make it harder on yourself?

Speaking of harder, I’m wondering if those submissive under-rollers are among the touchier beings in our society. Think about it, hanging a toilet roll in the under position is awkward if not miserable. Clearly it takes an under-person sadist to enjoy unrolling the paper in the wrong direction.

Some people are broadminded. Others are not. Maybe there is a correlation between “under-rollers” and intolerance, or “under-rollers” and bizarre social hang-ups. Rolling the toilet paper under may indicate core issues about uptight behaviors and attitudes.

Of course, this is just harmless speculation and I’m (partly) joking (under-rollers, lower your pitchforks and lighten up). But while we’re on the subject of rigidness, why not explore the difference between broad-mindedness and narrow-mindedness a little?

Societal structure and cultural conditioning help to define our values, beliefs and ethical systems, ultimately shaping the way we perceive ourselves in the world. Yet, if we take a group of people from the same community with similar upbringings and look closer, we soon realize the vast differences between them, including their outlook on life.

Personality plays a significant role. We’re all unique in that sense. Friedman and Rosenman conceptualized a set of behavioral responses collectively known as Type A Behavior Pattern. Their research showed that people with the Type A personality behaviors were more competitive, ambitious, impatient and aggressive than those exhibiting Type B behaviors who are said to be relaxed, non-competitive individuals. And just in case you’re wondering, apparently Type A’s favor the over-roll.

The Myer-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is an extensive, research-based adaptation of Carl Jung’s psychological types theory encompassing 16 personality types. And while they act as useful reference points to understand your unique personality, it’s worth keeping in mind the human experience is complex and cannot fully be defined within such narrow perimeters.

For instance, I fall into the INPT personality type on the MBTI. Much of the traits attributed to this type are relatable to my personality, and yet I cannot completely rest my identity as an INPT. In other words, I won’t allow a set of personality-based indicators define who I am as a person. I am much more than a list of indicative words in a study. I have deep layers, intricate fabric and human experiences that have accumulated to make up who I am.

The above-mentioned factors definitely play a part in forming a person’s mindset tendencies, but in the end the difference between a fixed mindset and an open mindset comes down to personal choice. In each moment we choose how we want to see the world and our reactions toward it. We choose our perspectives and therefore, the empathy we demonstrate toward others in any given moment.

Small fragments of time exist between our responses. Each time we are confronted by a situation is another opportunity to choose our behavior. Poor reactions are indicative of the emotions we have toward ourselves. In other words, when someone treats you like garbage, it says more about them than it does you. Those poor responses are usually symbolic of a fixed mindset and the emotions driving it.

As we mature, so too do our hearts. Forms of love exist to teach and cultivate the rich stuff like empathy, compassion, connection and courage. We begin to learn patterns of love early on through family relationships. We thrive and grow through our love of life, forming friendships that teach us about respect, compromise and integrity. Then, we are confronted with the ultimate heart-lessons through romantic love and connection.

“These experiences of love and expressions of love drive this center to transform our whole being to greater states of awareness as the heart closes to heal, transform and reopen to yet another love. This is how your heart transforms you, moves you to fulfill your passion and challenges your courage to go deeper and quest longer. This is transformation through cycles of rebirth of your spirit.” – Rose Carey

It is through the wonderful journey of our hearts and love-lessons that we learn tolerance, kindness and the ability to open our minds as we open our hearts to others. It is our hearts that provide the gateway to an open mind and not our personalities or cultural backgrounds. Our hearts are powerful enough to embrace new ways of thinking and being, and smash away invisible rigid boundaries that imprison us. It is through our hearts that our worldview is shaped.

Choosing to live from the heart center means we choose benevolence over self-centeredness, love over fear, tolerance over narrow-mindedness. Through our heart center we realize that we are much more than the “physical” self as we become aware of our divinity. And whether you are an under-roller or over-roller in the shit sheet department, that my friends is what makes the difference between a fixed mindset or an open mindset.

How open is your heart?