The Benefit of Empathy
By Shannon Stoby
I think apathy is one of the greatest threats to our society and to our planet. We see large-scale examples of it at election time in voter turn-outs, smaller examples in our day-to-day life: litter on the sidewalk, neglect of the homeless person on the corner.
In general, I think we have become a society that feels too little. We value thoughts over feelings. We pride ourselves on being able to ‘keep it together’. We can get so caught up in the busy-ness that is expected of us that we become apathetic about our own lives. Even the medical model reflects an expected lack of feeling, as much of health care is based on numbing out. Take a pill for that. Get on with things. Feeling is inconvenient; it gets in the way of all the things we have to do. But, often as we tune out of our bodies, we also tune out of who we really are and our connection to one another.
Being one who feels a lot is not always an easy road. It can make life confusing, overwhelming, and downright frightening on any given day. This world can be a scary place in which to feel. There is a lot of chaos going on. There are so many places for the empathy to go that the thought of caring for everyone seems nearly impossible.
But it is when we feel that we are most united. In the face of disaster or tragedy, we come together. As we feel that empathy for one another, it brings out the best in us. As we are all moved, we each do our part, and are able to make a huge collective difference. The response to the fires in Fort McMurray is a recent example. As people from across the country and around the world express their love and offer what help they can, we see the best of humanity. As people escape the flames with their lives and their loved ones, expressing in the face of loss that they have all they need, we gain perspective.
I think we underestimate the power we have to affect change. In as much as it takes a large-scale problem to spur us into action, we seem to think that unless we have a large-scale solution it isn’t worth doing. Smile at the person on the corner asking for change; give if you can. Plant a tree. Recycle. Do what you are passionate about and bring that gift to the world, whatever it may be. Heal yourself.
I think we are slowly learning that, counter-intuitive though it may be, self-love is the key to caring for one another. Without the love of self, you can run that well dry and burn yourself out trying to care for others. The things we learn to feel for ourselves, we can then extend more easily to others: compassion, respect, love. If everyone saved themselves, we might just save the world.
By: Shannon Stoby, PT, MScPT
Shannon is a Physical Therapist with an interest in helping her patients achieve holistic healing from whatever ails them and achieve optimum functioning in pursuing their passions.
Shannon graduated from the University of Alberta with a Bachelor of Physical Education with distinction, and followed with a Master of Science in Physical Therapy. She is licensed with the College of Physical Therapists of Ontario and is a member of the Canadian Physiotherapy Association.
Shannon has trained extensively in John F. Barnes Myofascial Release (MFR), and this is the focus of her practice. She has worked with patients with mental illness, has trained in women’s health treatment, and is a sports enthusiast; MFR allows her a means to assist with all of these issues in a meaningful way. She has also worked across the lifespan, with experience addressing the health concerns of older adults. Through her experience in work and in life, she has come to understand that there is more to healing than just the body. While physical health is paramount, the roles of the mind and the soul in health and healing are of equal importance.
Shannon is excited for the opportunity to work with the talented team at IHI, and looks forward to working with you, in wherever the journey may lead.
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