“Is it normal to feel other people’s feelings?”

“Is it normal to feel other people’s feelings?”
February 17, 2016 Ann Weiser Cornell

Focusing Tip #497

“When I do Focusing, my grandson’s feeling becomes my feeling.”

A Reader writes:
When I do Focusing I have senses and images of my grandson’s feeling and it becomes my feeling. If I stay with these feelings, I notice I want to decrease the pain in my grandson’s body and mind. When he was a baby, if he was upset I felt it in my own body. Is that normal?

Dear Reader:
To be empathically attuned to other people, especially children we love, is not only normal, it’s a powerful force for the survival of the species and the well-being of the children.

But it’s not so good to get mixed up between what is the child’s feeling and what is our own feeling in response.

Your body is highly sensitive to your grandson’s feelings. You can feel how he feels in your own body. Yes, I believe you do.

AND you have your own feelings – like wanting to decrease his pain. That part is yours.

If you get the two mixed up, that can be confusing, to you and to him.

When you feel a child’s feeling, I’d recommend that you let him or her know, somehow, that you sense and understand, how she or he feels. “Sweetie, seems like you are upset.” Empathy with kindness is a powerful practice to help children feel safe and regulate their emotions. Even tiny babies respond to this.

But the wish to change your child’s feeling belongs to you, not to him or her. If you say to your child, “Don’t be upset,” you are not being empathic, you are teaching him or her to deny and exile feelings. Not so good, right?

There may be actions you can take to change the upsetting situation your child is in… great! Part of the ability that grows with practice in Focusing is the ability to tell the difference between other people’s feelings and our own.


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