Brene Brown – The Power of Empathy

Sorry for the small hiatus, not a lot has been happening, but I was in much need of some down time and as little brain stimulation and usage as possible… But alas I am returning to full steam ahead, with my brain ticking in all directions and fingers ready to tip tap away on my beautiful computer keyboard, which is slowly warming under my touch.

2014 baby, let the year begin!

Today, my mother, sent me this awesome and beautifully crafted RSA Animate by Brene Brown, who is probably one of my favourite speaker, researcher and all round awesome societal guru of all time. I am so inspired by her, that after 12 years of umm-ing and argh-ing about academia, I am actually considering things like Masters and PhDs, just so I have an excuse to read, research and explore the nitty gritty of empathy.

Any way, the RSA Animate… its on, yep you guessed it, EMPATHY!! It is so short and sweet and looks at the difference between sympathy and empathy… WATCH IT!!

Much love and RSA addiction,

Jessie

I was interviewed by the Babyfacedassassin!!!

When I speak about my passions around positively changing individual and social trajectories, I use the term trajectories to speak of people’s paths, the road they travel along in the journey of life. Encompassing all that moves, ebbs and flows. Lifestyle, career, motivations, relationships, desires, families. Those webs and cycling wheels that keep us together and moving. With my background in social services and psychology my strongest passions lay in the trajectories of individual, community and society’s mental health and wellbeing.

Recently I was interviewed by the whole heartedly beautiful woman, mental health activist, author and life model, TheBabyFacedAssassin. She is a breath of fresh air and one of those people that appear in your life and that “ahhh yeah” moment appears and you realise you’re going in the right direction, you find mutual support and understanding and you get each other. I love Charlotte’s blog, I get sucked right into all the gritty material, all the wordcraft and wonderment. She is a woman of my heart, and a massive inspiration to me and my journey.

We spoke about why I have left Facebook, uncomfortable emotions, the importance of experience and the use of poetry and spoken word performance for self and others. To check out the interview, click here.

It’s the first time I have been interviewed deeply around my writing. And it was an amazing and inspiring process. We interviewed over Skype, so I had not a lot of time to deliberate and ‘prepare’ my responses, some thing as a writer I spend a lot of time doing. But this allowed me to just flow. Reading over what I had spoken was amazing. I cried. I was moved, and I can’t really pin point what moved me. Was it seeing words that had left my mouth crafted across a page? Was it The Babyfacedassassin’s way of structuring and the kind words she spoke about me? Was it, as I talk in the interview, the process of taking what is inside, outside, and processing it objectively?

What ever it was, was inspiring. And provided me with the opportunity to really look at why I write, why I am inspired by people, why I am passionate about narrative and creating poetry, why I love those around me, and myself, with unconditional positive regard.

As individuals, communities and society, our mental health and wellbeing is at the crux of our existence and I will always aim to nurture positivity in experience and depth of feeling.

Thank you Charlotte Claire, you inspire!!

2 weeks without Facebook

I have had my heart filled with beautiful feedback from people who have read my “Why I left Facebook” post. It is inspiring, to see how the use of words can fill me up so adequately with connection. One of the many reasons Facebook has been useful for me in the past.

I have also received feedback from people, about why they feel Facebook is beneficial to them, which I understand and concur. Those reasons of staying in contact, being connected across oceans, maintaining a social life when the bombardment of work, children, societies busyness allow no time to get out there in person.

I understand all these reasons… and have used Facebook for the past 5 or 6 years for these reasons.

I suppose I am writing this now to clarify that the reasons I choose to share my thoughts around Facebook and my association with it, have not been to discourage others, or bag it out. But to share, for me, why I am no longer using it.

Today marks 2 weeks with a deactivated account. And it has been a beautiful experience. I felt a weight lift from my shoulders the morning I awoke and remembered that I didn’t need to check and see how many notifications I had, I didn’t need to stalk my current crush. I had a moment of “oh, but what happens when I feel lonely?”, and reminded myself that loneliness is ok. That it would be temporary and that I could, rather than reach out for a ‘like’ on Facebook, I could walk down to the corner store and buy myself some chocolate and have a conversation with the old man behind the counter, or countless other interactions where I could look into some ones eyes and see them.

Facebook serves so many purposes, for so many people. Its a great tool. But I, personally became so caught up in it’s psychological web, that I forgot my psyche. I became lost in it’s ability to allow my desire for ‘likes’ to overcome my desire for self-acceptance and self-love.

Rather than read a book, or have a conversation, or write my uni assignment, I would automatically open Facebook, and find myself yearning engagement.

A friend, mentioned that the Machine Stops could really make us reflect upon all social media and electronic forms of communication. And I agree. And it has. I have thought about how maybe I am being a little hypocritical, I am still sending SMS, I use email frequently, I share photos on Instagram, have a twitter account, and share my thoughts on WordPress… but for me personally it has been Facebook that has sucked me into it’s vortex that goes beyond communication and connection and into a world of needing to be ‘liked’, the desire of acceptance from all 900+ ‘friends’, a constant stream of people engaging with ME. Me, me, me.

Have I had more face to face moments of human connectedness since leaving Facebook? Maybe no more than before my account was deactivated, but I have appreciated those moments more. I have allowed my senses to soak up all the stimuli. I have looked into eyes, caressed hair, listened to words lull me, hypnotic. And I have come back to me. Come back to understanding the importance of me, in my physical form, and how I respond and watch others respond to our human connection.

And that is a beautiful thing.

Why I left Facebook…

So I have decided to deactivate my Facebook account. It is slightly depressing, because I have a huge Facebook addiction, one of the reasons I must expel it from my life, and I will miss it deeply, but alas, the time has come.

There are a number of reasons I want to do this and I think my exploration into empathetic narratives has fuelled my aspiration to be Facebook free.

Recently a friend of mine (check out his blog on dumpster diving here) suggested I read a short story called The Machine Stops (it is online in full) by E.M. Forster (1909), and I did, and it moved me beyond words, both in the way it was written and in it’s subject matter.

The Machine Stops explores a world where humans no longer live on the surface of the earth, they have gone underground, isolated in individual ‘rooms’, serviced by the ‘Machine’. Every thing is artificial, every thing is detached from humanity and human connection. Interactions are fast flowing through the ‘Machine’, individuals communicate with 1000’s of ‘friends’ through technology, but “the Machine did not transmit nuances of expression… the imponderable bloom, declared by a discredited philosophy to be the actual essence of intercourse was ignored by the Machine, just as the imponderable bloom of the grape was ignored by the manufacturers of the artificial fruit… something “good enough” had long since been accepted by our race” (Forster, 1909).

This is what triggered my initial pulse of “I don’t want to lose connection with humanity”, that blood pumping connection with what I love, what holds me to people, that “imponderable bloom”, that rosy flare of heart strings pulled by mechanisms all things unexplainably beautiful and human! I don’t want to be accepting superficial “good enough” connectivity.

E.M Forster shares the story of an interaction between a mother, Vashti, and her son, Kuno. They are in their separate ‘bubbles’, one in the Northern Hemisphere and the other in the Southern Hemisphere. The story begins with Kuno wanting his mother to visit him. But Vashti feels no need to leave her ‘bubble’, she feels it is a waste of time and that they can connect “good enough” through the ‘Machine”. Eventually she does visit him, and finds he has visited the surface of the world… I don’t want to say too much more, because I feel you should all read it. An hour is all you need, for it is only 25 pages. 25 pages of words woven beautifully.

An internal discourse has lead me to feel I am frustrated by the lack of meaningful ‘feeling’ connections. I long for dialogue that excites my neuronal firing, that triggers memories, interaction that is evocative and emotive. Maybe I feel a disconnection from a love life, maybe I have been too caught up in study and poetry and performance, but I feel it is that I am too caught up in a world where external stimulation guides us too quickly through life’s course. I feel I am being sucked into the void of Facebook and while I used it to try to connect and reach out, share my passions and yearned for a ‘like’, that connection and ‘like’ buttons clicked, hasn’t been enough. I shared on Facebook things that excite me, things I am passionate about, things that trigger in me human responses and I wanted to trigger those things in other people. And maybe I did. But what was lacking was the mutual dialogue, debate, discussion. The face to face, watching some one blush with excitement, or frown with discontent, or nostril flare with anger. I want to see the tears that swell in peoples eyes, I want to hear peoples joy in the heightened pitch of their utterance. I want to touch, enjoy the warmth of flesh and that delight in the tactility of my finger tips.

This is why I have left Facebook. This is why I want to return to my humanity.

I want to leave you, with some of the quotes from The Machine Stops that truly moved me.

“Man is the measure. That was my first lesson. Man’s feet are the measure for distance, his hands are the measure for ownership, his body is the measure for all that is loveable and desirable and strong.”

“But I had got back the sense of space and a man cannot rest then.”

“I felt, for the first time, that a protest had been lodged against corruption, and that even as the dead were comforting me, so I was comforting the unborn. I felt that humanity existed, and that it existed without clothes. How can I possibly explain this? It was naked, humanity seemed naked, and all these tubes and buttons and machineries neither came into the world with us, nor will they follow us out, nor do they matter supremely while we are here.”

“Cannot you see, cannot all you lecturers see, that it is we that are dying, and that down here the only thing that really lives is the Machine? We created the Machine, to do our will, but we cannot make it do our will now. It has robbed us of the sense of space and of the sense of touch, it has blurred every human relation and narrowed down love to a carnal act, it has paralysed our bodies and our wills, and now it compels us to worship it. The Machine develops – but not on our lines. The machine proceeds – but not to our goal. We only exist as the blood corpuscles that course through its arteries, and if it could work without us, it would let us die.”

Much love humanity, I will see you in person.

Jessie Giles

echotango lead me to capturing gratitude

You know those moments when you connect with some one who is travelling along a parallel path, going a similar direction, but just a bit further along, and
you go “ahhh yeah!! every thing is going the way it should be”. Moments when you realise the intersection of all your varied skills can work together and
you can look at all the possibilities of applying them in your life. These moments seem to be flying at me recently. Some times a little too quickly, where
I am needing to drop other things to grab them, or chase after some that are hurtling along too fast for me to seize.

One of these moment brought me in contact with Alex Kelly, an artist, producer, film maker, activist, and general all round awesome person, with a passion
that is contagious. Kelly has this great blog echotango, which explores social change, arts, impact producing, activism,
social change film, social justice, story based strategies, and much much much more really exciting and informative musings…

Alex is the National Producer of Big hART.

Any way, she introduced me (through her awesome blog) to Lauren Tober, a clinical psychologist (yay!), mindfulness yoga teacher and photographer. Lauren has this project called capturing gratitude, a global happiness project, exploring gratitude through photography. During the month of February people will be posting daily photos of gratitude, encouraging and facilitating their own gratitude practice. Get involved via her website!

There is some thing so beautiful about how an image and the stories that hold it, envelop it and are activated through its consideration. How an image can hold you captivated and allow gentle (or confronting) questioning. The internal and external narration that travels with an image.

 

Yes, stories, I love you.

Museum of the Long Weekend

As you already know, if you read my first blog post about Big hART, I am a big fan of this arts and social change organisation. Last night, during my midnight cognitive dialogue, I read some really beautiful blog posts from the Museum of the Long Weekend (MOTLW).

MOTLW is a Big hART project, as part of the Centenary of Canberra’s celebratory weekend SPIN, looking at the psychology of leisure, Australia’s recreational history, through an ephemeral museum on wheels. 40+ Vintage Caravans will be converging on the shores of Lake Burley Griffin, Canberra, next weekend the 18th-20th October.

It’s exciting, I get to go up as part of my internship. And I have been following the vans (travelling along three convoy routes) as they journey across the continent, with much yearning and desire to buy myself a beautiful vintage caravan, or a bus, or just a general car, and pack up all my belongs, hit the road and share stories and narratives with people in caravan parks, road stops and beautiful sandy white beaches (preferably north of the cold Australian weather).

These blog updates, especially the ones shared by Elspeth, are beautifully crafted short stories of time on the road, those moments we go through, of introspection, outrospection, processing, connecting, building, gaining, losing, learning.

Last night as I read these, I thought of how beautiful it is to see people share so openly and vulnerably (courageously) and how much taking in these stories stirs so many feelings and emotions, so many sensations.

Thats what I am passionate about.

Check out the blog here. And please share with me what you think. Lets engage in a mutual narrative of sharing.

ACT

I am suppose to be studying for my exams in a couple of weeks, or getting to bed early so I am fresh to brave the RMIT Uni striking staff picket lines tomorrow morning, to get my final, last, psychology lab report into the submission box on time… but instead I am thinking of all the things in my life that are causing my internal dialogue to fire and chatter away quickly.

So rather than try to push it all away and ‘get on with what needs doing’, I thought I would just share it all with you.

ACT!

I am reading an article at the moment on ‘Acceptance and Commitment Therapy‘ (ACT), which is a ‘third wave’ behavioural therapy that, unlike any other psychotherapy, does not have the goal of getting rid of ‘symptoms’, but to “create a rich and meaningful life, while accepting the pain that inevitably goes with it” (Harris, 2006). This may confuse people a little, in that ‘why would I want to accept pain and discomfort?’ sort of way. But it makes so much sense to me, and the theory/therapy fits in nicely with my ’empathy cultivating, creative narrative, uncomfortable dialogues’ theme… The article talks about the root of psychological suffering stemming from human language its self. It looks at the idea of a public and private language. How our private language (the language that we use to talk to ourselves, plan, visualise, analyse, etc) is our cognition and that this internal dialogue or narrative (see!!) is a double edged sword. On the nice side of the sword, it provides us with all this really awesome stuff, like learning, and creating, and planning, and making models of the world. While on the dark and dangerous side, it has us lie, manipulate, be ignorant, we use it to scare ourselves… and even worse… we use it to destroy ourselves.

So sure, its all pretty heavy duty, but not really. Basically what ACT does is look at how we can develop skills to either problem solve our ‘issues’ or the dark side of the sword, or develop acceptance that this shit happens and that some times it is out of our control. And then it helps us to commit and ACT toward living a valued life…

Maybe I have lost you… and maybe I am too tired and should just get my beauty sleep… BUT I want to say this… maybe if we can begin to feel safely uncomfortable of our own ‘symptoms’, then we will be more readily able to feel safely uncomfortable by other peoples ‘symptoms’ and gain strength and resilience and understanding and empathetically grow!!

Just a thought, at 12:44AM.

(There are more things chiming in my brain that I wish to share… but maybe I will post it all separately, so if you have become bored of this post, you won’t miss out on the other exciting stuff – trust me, it is exciting!!)

Blame… where does it lie

Radiolab is one of my favourite podcasts (along with a few others that I will post soon)… Not only do they provide awesome science made easy to understand, but explore the narratives of human nature, human existence, the underlying basis of humanity…

This episode, Blame, addresses, in 3 beautifully crafted and moving stories, the idea of blame, the idea of framing blame, how we can look at blame, moving through blame and the idea of unconditional positive regard, looking at behaviours from an empathetic understanding.

The first story Fault Line, looks at neuroscience, deviant behaviour and the criminal justice system, free will, choice, and accountability.

Forget about Blame? looks at the area of NeuroLaw, and the increased use of neuroscience to argue individuals are not always to blame for criminal behaviour, but rather neurological dysfunction…

My favourite story, Dear Hector, is an amazing story of unconditional positive regard, empathy, acceptance, and forgiveness that is almost impossible to comprehend. Empathy at its finest. The narrative is crafted beautifully. (I must warn that it is a confronting story, that will move you, but thats what empathy is all about right?!)

The Power of Outrospection

This amazing RSA Animation of Roman Krznaric’s talk on ‘Outrospection’… empathy as an art of living, social change, revolution…

Krznaric not only provide beautiful definitions of empathy, but also explains how we can nurture our curiosity and look at empathetic adventuring. How we can step into the shoes of another and experience their world view, their beliefs, their understanding… and from their make informed changes in our assumptions, allow ourselves to open up and become vulnerable and courages.

Check out more of Roman Krznaric at his empathy blog:

http://www.romankrznaric.com/empathy