June 23, 2014

Pathological Empathy

If you've never heard the phrase "Pathological Empathy," don't berate yourself. I invented it. I came up with it to describe what happens when empathy goes wrong. It may seem odd to think that something as great as empathy could go wrong, but I can assure you - from personal experience - that it not only can, but does.

Empathy is a wonderful trait. It's what allows us to walk this journey together and find common ground. It lets up put ourselves (mentally) into another's situation and understand them a bit better. It's what lets us find a space for compromise - to give and take instead of acting out our selfish tendencies. In other words, it makes us more human.

Pathological Empathy on the other hand is not healthy. It leads to such negative outcomes as enabling and allowing ourselves to be needlessly taken advantage of. We find ourselves "attempting" to manage another persons suffering. If I seem to be an expert - it's only because I am.

Let me give you some examples of what Pathological Empathy looks and acts like. It's moving someone into your house, filing an order of protection for them, finding them a job, babysitting while they work at the job you found for them only to find out that they lied to you about being abused. (To avoid doing anything even remotely this crazy yourself see:)


It's knowing someone you love is hurting and jumping it to "manage" things for them instead of being supportive and giving suggestions. It's finding yourself time and time again, in the middle of drama that you not only have no ownership of, but no business handling. It's feeling brokenhearted when your "good intentions" are misinterpreted.

If you see yourself in any of these tendencies, you'll also see yourself in these outcomes. The people you try to "rescue" don't appreciate your help, (mostly because they didn't need it.) You end up looking and feeling like an idiot. You say things to yourself like "I never learn" and "never again" only to realize you haven't learned and you've done it again!

It's taken me a lot of time (and personal restraint) to allow others the right to their own pain and suffering. Yes, pain and suffering is the God given right of every person who is born into this life. It's not a pleasant teacher, but it's a good one. Most of the knowledge and experience I hold most valuable was a direct result of having passed through the refiners fire and coming out (a little smokey) on the other side.

There is a fine line between empathy and pathological empathy. It's not always easy to see, but a good question to ask yourself to make sure you stay on the right side of that line is this: "Can this person handle this situation on their own." If the answer is yes, even if doing so won't be easy or pleasant, stay out of it. It's OK to offer suggestions or support, but we must (for our sake and theirs) allow people to grow through handling their own challenges. When we do, it shows them that we have faith in their ability to do so. Jumping in and taking over show's just the opposite.

I'm working hard at recovering from Pathological Empathy, but just like anyone else who's ever tried to recover from an addiction, I still slip back from time to time and it's most often when my heart is very invested. 

My name is Anita, and I'm a Pathological Empathetic.


June 19, 2014

What Must YOU Do?

I read the most amazing blog post today titled: 

The Crossroads of Should and Must 
by Elle Luna

It's as beautiful as it is inspirational. It explores the age old question "What am I called to do?"

There's so much I could say about it. I could try to elaborate - tell you how it caused me to ponder. I could give you the finer points and highlights in some watered down Cliff Note version, but that would be a disservice to the elegant presentation that Elle worked so hard to offer. Instead, I think I'll just share a link to her post with you and let you breathe it in with the same wonder I did.

You can read Elle's post at http://tinyurl.com/puybkah

I encourage you to consider for yourself, what it is you MUST do, because I believe if we're all honest, and we get still enough, we can all hear our MUST calling us.

June 10, 2014

The Last Good Bye

 I'M NOT AFRAID OF DEATH. I JUST DON'T WANT TO BE AROUND WHEN IT HAPPENS. - WOODY ALLEN

EVERYBODY WANTS TO GO TO HEAVEN, BUT NOBODY WANTS TO DIE TO GET THERE. -UNKNOWN

I've been called "grim" more than once by my husband over the course of our marriage. Mainly, it's because I talk openly about death, and particularly because I'm comfortable talking about my own. I'm not quite sure how coming to terms with death as an eventuality instead of a possibility makes me grim, but if it does, then I'm definitely grim

I wasn't always so comfortable with this topic and there was a time when just the thought of death nearly scared me to it! 

I believe that at the root of the fear of death is that it can't be known by any way other than doing it. Very few of us get to stick our toe in and try it out first and we can't peek behind the curtain and know for absolute certain what comes next. We need to come to terms with our beliefs before that time and either live by faith that life continues past death or come to accept the alternative - when it's over, it's over. I've chosen to live in faith that it continues and by so doing, have put that argument to rest for myself. (If I'm wrong, at least I'll never have to admit it and there will be no one waiting on the other side with an "I told you so.")

Since I have no control over the how or when I leave this world, I want to make sure that I at least have some say in my memorial service -  so I decided to plan it myself. I've decided on the songs, and have even ordered the sheet music. I've written out my last wishes and even what I would like read to those who attend. 

As I see it, it's less about being a control freak - well beyond the bitter end and more about not wanting to leave people wondering about how I felt about them and what I would have wanted.

I attended a funeral service recently, at which one of the relatives was so consumed by guilt that he spent the entire farewell berating himself for what he "should" have and didn't do. I know for a fact that his loved one would never have wanted him to feel like that. Is it "grim" to want to make sure the people I care about hear those words directly from me instead of a well meaning friend they won't believe anyway? I don't believe so.

Whatever your beliefs are about what happens after this life or about having a voice at your farewell, I hope you'll still choose to find a way to let those you love know that you love them. Tell them what they have meant to you and how they have influenced your life. Don't add wondering to their suffering. 

I believe there is much we can do ahead of time to comfort those we will eventually leave behind. You don't need to leave parting words as I've chosen to do. Find a way that's meaningful to you - just do it while you still can.


June 1, 2014

SPARKS: Moments Of Creation Volume 2



HOLD FAST TO DREAMS, FOR WHEN DREAMS DIE, LIFE IS A BROKEN WINGED BIRD THAT CANNOT FLY.

-Langston Hughes


WHERE COULD YOU GO TO BUY FLIP FLOPS BIG ENOUGH TO CRUSH 2 CARS?




Our Second SPARK'S Guest interviewee could tell you-because he made them!

Being fascinated with where people get the SPARKS of inspiration that sends them off to chase their dream, I'm dedicating the first post of the month to this topic. To see where it all started visit: 

http://blog.lifeisntbroken.com/2014/04/sparks-moments-of-creation-vol-1.html 

This Month, I caught up with Mike Dunbar to get an inside look at his thoughts, processes and experience.  I hope his answers will give you the confidence you need to pull your own dreams off the shelf, dust them off, and set off on a fulfilling adventure of your own.

MIKE DUNBAR

 Mike Dunbar is the owner and CEO of Illumivation Studios, LLC out of Chicago, IL. His company designs and builds custom sculptures, props, sets, museum exhibits, and retail displays. His team's work has been used by major retail brands and on world-renowned touring theater performances. Beginning as an actor and Second City conservatory graduate, Mike found a passion in design and began the company almost four years ago.

WHERE DID THE IDEA TO START ILLUMIVATION STUDIOS COME FROM? WALK US THROUGH THAT PROCESS.

 I started my business in my apartment with my then girlfriend, now wife, as a way to pursue live theater/performance technical design gigs (lighting, sound, set, & props design) around Chicago. We were getting a fair quantity of quick, short-run gigs but the money was inconsistent (and frankly not that good). One night we began brainstorming what other small things the company could do to supplement income in the down times and came upon the idea of starting a retail theater prop website with the hopes of making a couple of hundred dollars extra each month. With my limited/non-existent knowledge of how to begin an online retail business, we started with an ambitious plan to list over 100 common theater props at Low! Low! Stupidly, Non-Profit Making-ly Low Prices! Luckily for us, nobody ever bought a single one of them; not one. What did catch on though was the little button we added to let customers request custom props and within a couple months we had both quit our day jobs. 

WHAT AN INTERESTING TWIST! 


I think we are in an exciting time for business. In the past century, convenience has clearly been a priority for consumers leading to the rise of department stores and eventually mega-stores where you can get everything done quickly in one place. This unfortunately, also led to a decline in uniqueness, individuality, personalization, and customer service, because when you only have one option, screw you (i.e. Comcast). However with the Internet, that trend is reversing in a broad range of markets and individual consumers are now able to find online locations designed specifically for people just like them, no matter how small that pool of people may be. This is niche marketing 2.0. I currently own just under 20 domain names for businesses either launched or in the process of being launched for specific niche clientele that deserve to have the buying experience they want. I try not to get so specific that only two people are ever going to visit the site, sticking to a 'community' level where your customers can feel at home with others like themselves is the sweet-spot where they feel comfortable enough to make a purchase.


HOW DOES IT FEEL TO BE DOING SOMETHING YOU'RE PASSIONATE ABOUT?

 Our core business is making large-scale custom props, displays, and exhibits. To date, we have not made the same project twice and that leads to a pretty interesting work-life where everyone is constantly learning, experimenting, and taking risks. I'm fairly certain that there is no other job on earth where artists in one room are painting an 8' tall panda sculpture, carpenters are building a film set, and sculptors are finishing a two-story tall foam tree. It's fun and it feels great, but what really brings out my passions for business is having the honor to lead a team of extremely talented individuals. It's like flying a fighter jet; you are in charge but the power comes from the machine. You sit in front of a control panel with all the data you need to keep all the parts of the machine working smoothly. However, like a fighter jet, if you make a mistake you and the machine… boom. Scary, exhilarating, and extremely satisfying.



WHAT CHALLENGES HAVE YOU FACED?

Challenges are a part of daily life in business and increasing my ability to deal with these challenges is an ongoing process. Although I now laugh at how hard I struggled and how panicked I made myself with small projects when I was first beginning, suddenly a project will expand way beyond my experience and those feelings return. I have faced financial challenges, leadership challenges, and creative challenges through work and sometimes at extreme levels. Without the support of my family and co-workers I, likely, would not have been able to overcome much of what I've gone through and am thankful to have such a strong base. One of the hardest challenges no amount of education or research could prepare me for is letting a member of my team go, for whatever reason they are being dismissed. When you lead a team, those people do not work for you, they work with you and your function in the team is to keep the team alive and growing. When that means making a life-altering decision for someone else on that team, it hurts them, it hurts you, and it's your job then to not let it hurt the team. 

WHERE WOULD YOU LIKE THINGS TO GO IN THE FUTURE?

The final "s" in Illumivation Studio"s" is currently explained to people as meaning the multiple studio departments we have (sculpture, wood-shop, paint, design), but truly it tells a lot more about our future plans than we lead on. I think diversification is important and I hope to do a lot of it. 

 WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO SOMEONE WITH A DREAM FOR MAKING IT A REALITY?

Dreams aren't free, they take a toll on your mind and your body and are only achieved with commitment, support, and luck. If all three do not line up perfectly, things may not happen the way you had pictured. I try to go with the flow, and if my dream does fail I'll get back up. As Virgin founder Richard Branson has said, "Business opportunities are like buses, there's always another one coming." 

GREAT ADVICE! THANKS FOR SHARING YOUR JOURNEY WITH US MIKE!

You can visit the Illumivation Studios website and see their work at www.illumivationshop.com

Contact Mike about a project you have in mind at:

Mike Dunbar
312-261-5561 
Illumivation Studios