Michael 59

Meet Michael…

Empathy was a hard concept for me to receive initially, since I had become a selfish shallow type of man. I recognize that validations and affirmation of my value and worth have to be recognized from within. All alone I am enough.

Incarcerated: 22 years

It’s taken quite a while for me to learn that the sweetest, most valuable things in life are not quickly attained nor ascertained but come from labor. Things like compassion, self-care, boundaries, true respect, love and empathy.

These things were not modeled accurately for me in my formative years, so as a result they are not natural for me to express, exhibit or understand. I became emotionally dependent and emotionally illiterate.

My experiences as a youth were not that unique, yet these experiences sent me on a path that left me broken in so many ways that an ugly aftermath was inevitable. Yet, I have survived, the journey continues and life has become an easier road to travel.

Empathy was a hard concept for me to receive initially, since I had become a selfish shallow type of man. I recognize that validations and affirmation of my value and worth have to be recognized from within. All alone I am enough.

And from there I can sow these seeds into my community, to aid in the nourishment of the garden like souls of others with no responsibility to make them sprout, grow or blossom.

I don’t think that empathy needs to be taught, but awakened. I believe that we from childhood are caring, loving and empathetic.

When a naturally empathetic nature is met with ridicule, rejection and judgment, the vulnerability that allows empathy to be a true connection becomes almost impenetrable. We learn to be extremely measured in our expression of empathy, if we continue to express at all. It’s not an act of not caring, but an active self protection from the effects of having been rejected, a warped sense of self-care because of the trauma. Over time our sensitivities to other’s pain dulls and sometimes even dies.

Memories of the rejection I had experienced, I internalized, and told myself a story about my worth in light of the experience. A false narrative kept me from feeling safe enough to continue to be empathetic.

To quote Franklin D. Roosevelt, “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.” Every person is a Soul Garden, therefore, sow the seed, embrace the process and await the harvest. From a garden perhaps unfamiliar, yet so very sustaining beautiful. I did.

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