Empathy & Shame

Throughout my life, I’ve had my narcissism interrupted by tides of empathy. I would suddenly see things as they really were for those around me and I would see how I was doing things that were unnecessarily hurting others and myself, I would see how in some ways I had been heading down a wrong path for days or weeks or months or years. I would get these lightning flashes of clarity. They were a combination of feelings and thoughts and they left me quite ashamed.

When I would feel things as others felt them when they experienced my behavior and my words, I’d feel horrible. I’d feel ashamed. I’d determine to change my ways and sometimes I did change and did the hard work to make myself a better person. But I hated those bouts of shame. I hated them so much that I held myself away from empathizing too much and just told myself to keep my eye on the prize of accomplishment and to hunker down and to keep pushing myself forward.

Empathy and shame. They’ve run together for me much of my life.

It’s not easy when the road is your driver
Honey that’s a heavy load that we bear
But you know I won’t be traveling a lifetime

I’m not so locked and loaded now in my body and my thinking and my feelings. I’m not hunkering down as much. Thanks to Alexander Technique and therapy, I’m trying to come back to poise and to length and to width. When I soften my neck, I inevitably soften my face as well. I don’t have as many postures in my features anymore. I’m more true to the moment. I’m softer and more tranquil when compared to this (a good video of how I was before Alexander Technique).

I used to tell myself, I’ve got to accomplish the following task no matter the cost to myself or to others. That’s called end-gaining. Pursuing ends at no matter the cost of achieving them. I had bosses who said I was prone to tunnel-vision.

I hope I’m more flexible today.

If I had never gotten sick with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome in 1988, I’d have a much more conventionally successful life. I’d be an economics professor now. But my soul would still have this gigantic hole in it that I’d try to fill through career accomplishments. Because I’ve flamed out so often over the past 22 years (the CFS, the shul expulsions, the romantic losses, the financial struggles, the loss of friends and community), I’ve had to keep facing that what I am doing is not working and I have to change. I have to explore trying things that are not comfortable to me, such as a new rabbi, a new shul, psycho-therapy, yoga, Alexander Technique, acupuncture, a new acting teacher, a new writing teacher, a new girlfriend, etc. Some of the new things I’ve tried are working for me.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see Amazon.com). My work has been followed by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (Alexander90210.com).
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