Tactic: Empathy Bath

When you are chilled, a hot bath brings your temperature to normal. When you have a fever, a cold bath can bring it down. When you are tense, self-doubtful, jittery, or otherwise triggered, an “Empathy Bath” can bring your emotional state back to neutral.

“Empathy Bath” Tactic Overview

What: An “empathy bath” is a systematic process for introspecting the broad range of potentially conflicting emotions you are feeling, in order to regulate your emotional state.

When: Use it when you are tense, jittery, or otherwise emotionally triggered, and need a quick way to get emotionally centered.

How: For each family of emotions, speculate on why you might be feeling those feelings (both positive and negative). Give your reason in a full sentence.

Why: The 8 families of emotions cover all of the basic value-judgments that might be in play. By asking why you “might” be feeling each emotion, you can reveal not just acknowledged feelings, but also suppressed or slightly repressed feelings. By looking for both positive and negative versions of each family, you naturally balance disproportionate emotional responses.

Step-by-Step Instructions

1) Briefly describe the situation that has you emotionally upset.

2) For each of the following basic emotions, speculate on why you might be feeling this feeling in the current situation and why.

Anger: Who did what that they shouldn’t have?
Gratitude: Who did something nice for me?

Fear: What bad thing is going to happen?
Relief: What bad thing is no longer going to happen?

Despair: What good thing is never going to happen?
Hope: What good thing will happen eventually?

Guilt: What do I wish I had done differently? What regrets do I have?
Pride: What am I glad I did the way I did?

Frustration: What is giving me a lot of trouble?
Confidence: What am I doing with ease?

Desire: What am I longing for?
Aversion: What am I trying to get away from?

Joy: What have I succeeded in getting?
Grief: What have I lost?

Love: What person or thing or idea stands out as a true positive here?
Indifference: What don’t I care about at all here?

3) After you have finished naming all of the feelings, you may be grounded. If so, sum up your situation in a sentence.

If you are still feeling somewhat overloaded, I recommend you clarify the deep rational values at stake. To do this, first you may need to challenge first thoughts if any of your statements are false or exaggerated. In addition, go through each statement and identify any deep rational values at stake. These are listed in the OFNR Quick Reference Sheet.

Tips

  • Write out each reason in a full sentence, so that you can judge whether it’s true or false.
  • For best results, check for the feelings in the order offered, which goes from easiest to hardest, most negative to most positive.
  • Don’t skip any feeling. Imagine why you might feel it, even if you don’t think you do.

Example

Situation: Someone just cut me off making a turn.

Anger: He should look where he’s going.
Gratitude: I’m glad the guy behind me saw me brake.

Fear: I almost had an accident.
Relief: Thank goodness I was able to react in time.

Despair: These lousy drivers should be taken off the road.
Hope: Maybe defensive driving courses can help.

Guilt: I was a little bit distracted.
Pride: I’m glad I don’t text while driving!

Frustration: My heart is still pounding and I can’t seem to calm down.
Confidence: I’m glad that I have good reflexes.

Desire: I really need a little peace and quiet.
Aversion: I don’t want to discuss this with anyone.

Joy: I guess I feel good to be alive.
Grief: This reminds me of my friend who died in a car accident.

Love: I loved my friend.
Indifference: I don’t care what the other drivers think.

Summing Up: I need a little time to catch my breath and just appreciate that I’m okay.

Additional Comments

I developed this process for people who were inexperienced in introspection. It is not the fastest process–it takes 15-20 minutes to go through. If you are in a hurry, the AND List is the fastest way to calm down.

After using it, I discovered that it had the added benefit of revealing value-judgments that I would not have identified if I just introspected feelings I was already feeling. As a result, it is a great first aid process when you are emotionally overwhelmed.

References for Members of the Thinking Lab

  • For steps to challenge first thoughts, see the Three Pass Review
  • For steps to clarify your motivation, see the Goal-Clarification process
  • You can give someone else an empathy bath, but then I recommend that you identify not just their feelings and the idea that seems to be behind it, but the deep rational value at stake. (See this discussion of deep rational values aka universal values.) Otherwise you risk reinforcing their old baggage.
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Next Class

Topic: Reconceiving Social Values Distorted by Secondhandedness
Thursday, September 26, 2019 
3:00 – 4:00 p.m. Eastern plus 15 minute Q&A
(noon Pacific, 1:00 p.m. Mountain, 2:00 p.m. Central)

Healthy social relationships are firsthanded. They are based on your clarity about your values, including the value of other people to you. The three deep social values are communication, cooperation, and connection.

Communication is the sharing of knowledge. You can learn from others, or teach others , or clarify your own thoughts in discussion with others. This makes growing your knowledge much easier.

Cooperation is joint action to achieve a goal. Two or more people work together and/or trade to achieve shared goals that could not be achieved by one person alone. The great advances of civilization require the division of labor and the explosive growth of knowledge made possible by communication and cooperation.

Connection is the awareness that another person shares your values, and is therefore an ally in this area of your life. A special type of connection is visibility. You gain visibility when the other person sees values in you–the same things that you see as important to you. This gives you a deep sense of connection, plus an objectivity about your own mind.

In all of these cases, the social values have their root in your own judgment of the facts of reality and what matters to you living your life. They are values you act to gain and keep by your own effort. This is what makes them firsthand.

However, social values can be distorted by secondhanded thinking. In secondhanded thinking, you substitute other people’s judgments for your own, or you substitute other people’s actions for your own. This is a very common mistake, which can become automatized in certain areas of your life. This undercuts relationships and leads to misery.

In this class, we will discuss how you unearth secondhanded premises and how you reconceive them in terms of rational social values.

Thinking Lab members receive call-in information for these classes.  Click here to join the Thinking Lab.

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