Unboxing and Empathy Actual
A student asks Shambhavi about boxing people in with labels. Then Shambhavi poses the question: Do you really want to care about others? A podcast from Satsang with Shambhavi
Podcast First Words
When we box people in or solidify a view of them, that there’s no room in our mind or heart for them to change at some point. I think even more there’s no wish for them to change. In those moments where we lock somebody up with our usually negative assessment, we aren’t actually wishing them well anymore. We’re not sending out any kind of prayer or longing for things to get better for them. That’s really the way that we box ourselves in.
In a sense, we do that to protect ourselves from feeling pain. We just sort of write people off. We feel like we have some definition of them, and so we don’t feel our own pain. We don’t feel compassion for them anymore. We don’t have a basic simple kindness toward them. Like just wishing them well, wishing they’ll find a solution to whatever it is, or wishing they’ll recover from whatever it is that’s troubling them.
We think people are doing us great harm. So then given the punishment culture we live in, we punish them by not wishing them well anymore. We punish them by not seeing their pain. We punish them by writing them off in some way or trying to get back at them, trying to get revenge.
And then sometimes there’s a situation where, for whatever reason, relations can’t continue with somebody. Some behaviors are in the way of having a normal relationship with somebody. So we have to go away from that person, but then for various selfish reasons, we don’t continue to wish them well. We sort of write them off again.
So all of those kinds of maneuvers are really just self-protective. Any time we don’t allow ourselves to feel real compassion, to empathize with what someone’s going through—regardless of whether they’re someone we’re going to have in our life or not—that’s very self-protective.