Tuesday, December 15, 2015

The Discipline of Empathy and Its Dividends

My last two posts have focused on empathy. I've described it as taking a little version of someone else into your heart and then continuing to flesh it out so that over time it more and more closely matches the real person. 

In order to do this we need to do what M. Scott Peck calls "bracketing". We must hold aside our own experience, our "reality", for a time--bracket it off--so that we can more fully enter into another's. We can only see other people for who they are to the degree we stop projecting onto them our own "take" on reality. 

Reptiles don't bracket. Empathy enhances everything human about us, and it's one of the most elevated and dignified things we can do as human beings. 

One reason empathy brings out the best in us is that, when we are holding a fleshed out version of a loved one inside our heart, we naturally feel more loving. As we feel more loving, we are spontaneously motivated to act in loving ways. 

This reminds me of a review of our book, Love You, Hate the Porn, left by an Amazon reader. It may be the shortest review there, but it's one of my favorites: "Helping me think twice before I whack it to internet porn. I now think of my wife's feelings." Empathy changes us, and that change naturally shows up in our behavior. 

If it is true that "to know me is to love me," then the more we know someone the more we will love them. And few things are more rewarding that expanding the love we have in our life. I will address this further in a forthcoming blog post.

What I want to focus on today is another payoff of empathy: a better sex life. 

There's nothing for a woman quite like feeling that her man has truly let her in, that he is trying to receive her emotions and "get" her--what makes her tick and how she feels about what's going on in her life. There's so much talk about the G-spot, but when a man does this he is hitting her E-spot, bringing her the ultimate emotional comfort and fulfillment: a deep emotional connection with the one person who matters most to her: you, her man.

That feeling is what I call an emogasm, and women absolutely love experiencing them. I came up with that name after one of my clients, who absolutely loved connecting with her husband as he got better at empathizing, called their emotionally intimate conversations "brain sex". Believe it or not men, several of the women I've queried prefer emogasms to orgasms. But for most, they'll take all the enjoyment and connection they can get, so they prefer a toe-curling orgasm right on the heels of a heart-filling emogasm.

In his book, Mars and Venus in the Bedroom, John Gray notes describes the importance of this emogasm-orgasm sequence when he encourages couples to take getaways: 

"A man needs to remember that sometimes before a woman can feel romantic, she needs to talk. If it is a long drive to the vacation spot, she can talk the whole way. Women particularly need to talk to let go of stress and leave it behind. 

"After this kind of long drive in which she can unwind, she's likely to arrive at your vacation spot and your new bedroom in a great mood. Suddenly, a whole new feeling emerges that could not have come up at home. She might want sex right away, or she might want to go out for a walk or enjoy eating out. But once she starts feeling taken care of, she can stop feeling as if she has to take care of others. In this way, her inner passions are awakened."

I would add: It's not just the talking that helps women relax, it's emotional engagement with you. On that drive to your getaway spot or during any other conversation, you don't have to try to focus super intently. Just relax and see what pops out at you from her side of the conversation. See if you notice anything about what's important to her and who she is, deep down. Be on the lookout for her to reveal any clues about what makes her laugh and what weighs her down. You're developing a more and more detailed "profile" of her in your heart. Make room for the little seeds of ideas and feelings that she is sending your way. Because you love her, they will sprout and grow over time in your heart and surely bear fruit. Some of the fruit you'll taste the very night of your getaway as she's receptive to your romantic overtures. Some of the fruit will ripen later as you treat her differently in little ways because of what you learned that night. 

Please don't hesitate to let us know how this process of Kicking Porn with Love is going for you. It will encourage us along in our own efforts!

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