“Empathy is about finding echoes of another person in yourself ” ~ Mohsin Hamid
I’m partnered with J for skills work and we’ve been filming ourselves listening and trying to create Rogers Core Conditions. I was anxious about working with J simply because I thought the only thing we had in common was that we were both enrolled on this course.
The act of listening is work and so much more when I cannot find a link with the other person. I find myself drifting, or analysing, or asking questions and simply not being ‘there’ with the person and their concerns. I feel myself retreating into my own head and tramping around in there. With J I knew I had to make a conscious effort to shut my head up and try and immerse myself in J’s experience.
In the last session, by listening, I was allowed to “…enter the private perceptual world of the other…” (Rogers, 1980:142) and whilst I wasn’t yet completely at home there, I realised that her experience of and feelings around her family were very like some of my experiences. When I brought myself back from thinking ‘This is what I would have done’, I was able to allow myself to feel what J was feeling, albeit briefly, and named the feeling. For a moment, there was an echo and a link with J that might just teach me that I can deal with the uncertainty of creating space for the relationship.
I can’t know how therapy will be with everyone I work with and I really don’t need to know if I can trust the just being.