Piège de l’empathie [fr]

Je l’ai fait de nouveau. Je voulais poster quelque chose ici, et pour faire bien, vous savez, écrire un peu sérieusement, j’ai commencé à réfléchir, je me suis perdue dans un terrier de lapin, et je n’ai pas écrit l’article, parce que mes idées ne me satisfaisaient pas.

A ma décharge, j’ai envoyé une newsletter de liens, ce que je n’avais pas fait depuis longtemps.

C’est ceci dont je voulais vous parler:

Ça parle d’empathie, de compassion, et c’est l que je me suis perdue, car ces mots sont utilisés pour dire tout et son contraire (si si quasi) par plein de personnes différentes. La compassion de l’un est l’empathie de l’autre, et vice-versa. Bref.

Vous savez, il y a quelque temps, je parlais des gens aimant les animaux qui se permettaient d’être détestable et hyper jugeants avec les humains. Et en écoutant le début de cette conférence, je crois que j’ai trouvé la clé pour comprendre ce qui se passe.

L’empathie, au sens de “sentir/souffrir AVEC”, ne nous rend pas meilleurs. Quand on souffre, parce qu’on s’identifie à la souffrance de l’autre (ce qui correspond assez bien à ce profil “d’ami des animaux” vindicatif qui me dépasse), on réagit en être qui souffre. On attaque, on juge, on blesse, on veut faire mal.

La compassion, au contraire, implique une certaine distance. Comprendre, être à l’écoute, mais sans voir s’effondrer la frontière entre soi-même et l’autre.

L’excès d’empathie (dans ce sens, hein), nous associe à ceux qui nous ressemblent au détriment de ceux qui nous sont plus distants. C’est comme ça qu’on se retrouve à tuer des médecins pratiquant les avortements aux Etats-Unis, à justifier la haine de l’autre par le fait qu’il y a “d’abord une victime”. La perspective et la vision grand angle sont absentes. Une politique basée sur l’empathie “à vif” est catastrophique.

Même s’il s’agit “juste” de prendre soin des animaux, il faut réussir à trouver cette posture qui reconnaît la souffrance mais ne se laisse pas envahir par elle au point de ne plus voir que la victime, et de faire sienne sa détresse.

Un autre exemple très pertinent que donne le chercheur est celui du thérapeute. Si je vais chez mon thérapeute et que je suis angoissée, déprimée, en souffrance, je ne veux surtout pas que celui-ci, par empathie, sente en lui mon angoisse, ma dépression, ma souffrance. Il serait bien en peine de faire ainsi son travail. Au contraire, j’ai besoin de sa part d’écoute, de compassion, de compréhension, et de sérénité pour qu’il puisse m’accompagner.

Bref, je vous invite à écouter cette vidéo, au moins les dix premières minutes, si l’anglais n’est pas votre zone de confort.

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Eat, Pray, Love: Damn You, Elizabeth Gilbert [en]

[fr] J'ai aimé Eat, Pray, Love plus que ce à quoi je m'attendais. Le trip "spiritualité indienne sauce occidentale", je m'en passerais, mais il y a plein de bonnes choses -- outre l'écriture, que j'aime beaucoup. Pour plus de détails... lire l'article complet en anglais!

Damn you, Liz Gilbert. I didn’t want to like your book, but I did. I even like you (well, the narrator you). Yeah, of course I can relate: 30-something heartbroken woman finds peace and love. Which single woman in her mid-thirties wouldn’t?

It annoys me, though, that you found them through faith, because I can’t do that.

I don’t doubt that you had a life-changing experience. I’m not either against religious or spiritual paths journeys per se, as long as they actually serve to grow us as human beings. But like the friends you mention near the end of your India book, I *cannot* believe anymore — believing there is a God or some other power, personal or not, is too incompatible with my worldview. A part of me would *like* to believe, so that I could find the peace you found. But I’d be faking it, right? Because another part of me is *certain* that there is nothing up there — or in there, aside from ourselves.

Bangalore 016 Gandhi Bazaar.jpgTo your credit, you do not proselytize, nor try to tell us that your way is The Only Way, and that we should all be doing it too. You bear witness of your own personal path, which involved a spiritual adventure in an ashram in India. I can appreciate that. But I have trouble relating to that aspect of your journey. (There is the Siddha Yoga issue too, which bothers me, but that I won’t delve into here.)

Also, whether you want it or not, your spiritual journey is coloured by a very specific — and modern — Indian school of thought (and by that, I don’t just mean Siddha Yoga). You acknowledge that, but in some respects you are blind to it, for example when you serve us truths about Indian spirituality or religions in general — you are talking from the inside of a specific religious tradition, not giving us access some kind of general truth. It’s a mistake many make, and I guess I can forgive you for it.

I personally believe that our conversations with God are conversations with ourselves. I believe we are much bigger than we think, and probably much bigger than we can ever know. And I say this not in a “mystical” or “magical” or “supernatural” sense, but in a psychological one. So for me, any religious or spiritual path is no more than a path within and with ourselves, using an exterior force or entity (“God”, “energy”) as a metaphorical proxy for parts or aspects of ourselves which are not readily available to our consciousness. Yes, it’s sometimes a bit complicated to follow for me too.

So what I can relate to, clearly, are your conversations with yourself in your notebook. I know I am a good friend. I’m loyal. I can love to bits. If I open the floodgates, I can love more than is possibly imaginable — just like you say of yourself. But I do not let myself be the beneficiary of so much love and care. “To love oneself,” not in a narcissistic way, but as a good friend or a good parent would. I know this is something I need to work on, I knew it before reading Eat, Pray, Love, but your journey serves as a reminder to me. It’s also reminding me that meditation (even when it’s not a search for God or done as religious practice) has benefits — and that I could use them.

So, thank you, Liz Gilbert. We may differ in our spiritual and life aspirations, but your journey has touched me, and inspired me. I didn’t expect it to. Thank you for the nice surprise. And damn you, because now I can’t look down quite so smugly anymore on those who rave about your book.

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6 Changes For 2010 — and My Objectives [en]

[fr] 6 Changes est un site qui vous encorage à mettre en place 6 nouvelles habitudes (ou à éliminer des anciennes) pour 2010, plutôt que de vous acharner sur de "bonnes résolutions" qui font long feu. L'auteur du site propose une méthode très progressive pour effectuer ces changements, et qui est complètement en ligne avec ce que je prêche à droite et à gauche: commencer très petit et modeste plutôt que de viser les grandes révolutions.

Nathalie just pointed me to the website 6 Changes, which I’ve quickly read through, and which is very very good. It’s an antidote to the failure of New Year Resolutions. It’s very FlyLady-ish in spirit (read my post “The Wisdom of Small Changes“) and is completely in line with many conversations I’ve had lately about changing things in one’s life.

From the site’s Quick Start Guide (the author is Leo Babauta of Zen Habits):

Here’s a quick overview of this site and how it will help you.

  1. About this site. What is 6Changes.com? Choose 6 habits for 2010, and I’ll help you form them.
  2. The 6 Changes Method. Here’s the method that you’ll use to form each of the 6 habits.
  3. Suggest habits. Which six will you choose? Some recommendations.
  4. The Importance of Public Accountability. Why it’s one of the foundations of the method, and how to do it.
  5. What’s a Trigger & Why Is It So Important? Another key to the method.
  6. Why You Should Do Only One Habit at a Time. Answers one of the most common questions people have about the method.
  7. How to Be Patient as Your Habit Develops. It’s not easy to do it this slowly, but here’s how it works and how to do it.
  8. The Problem With New Year’s Resolutions. Actually, a number of problems. And how this method will solve them.
  9. The Art of the Start of a Habit. Why starting is so hard and how this method overcomes it.
  10. How to Kick a Bad Habit. Suggested method that has worked for me in the past.
  11. How to Form the Exercise Habit. One of a series of planned posts about how to apply the method.

I’ve never been a New Year Resolutions person, because I understood early on that they didn’t work. Over the last years (and especially the last) I’ve really learnt that dramatic change rarely works, and how important habits are. I have to say FlyLady really helped with that.

I had a few objectives for 2009, though:

  • get my finances back on track (being up-to-date with bills, earning enough to live on, starting to pay off debt)
  • get my flat back under control (it’s now “visitor-ready” at all times even though it’s far from perfect, and I’m housecleaning almost every week)
  • have a healthier lifestyle (I’m not sure this was a conscious decision at the beginning of the year, but I’ve reclaimed my evenings, week-ends, and lunch breaks, continued to pay attention to what I eat, and started exercising almost daily)

So, what do I want to achieve by the end of 2010?

  • decorate my flat (I’ve been living in it for nearly 10 years!)
  • improve the “packaging” of my professional services (that’s the “selling myself” department)
  • save up enough money and time to go on a “big trip” somewhere (India, most probably)
  • move beyond weekly planning.

Now, can I translate those into 6 changes? I’m going to think about it seriously.

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Sans regrets [fr]

[en] Regrets are there to help you find the energy to dare or do things differently. Beyond that, they are just a ball and chain which shackle us to our past hurts.

Les regrets servent à puiser l’énergie pour oser, ou agir autrement. Passé cela, ils ne sont qu’un boulet qui nous enchaîne à nos douleurs passées.

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Blogging Like Cleaning the Flat [en]

[fr] Bloguer, c'est comme ranger l'appart avant de commencer à préparer ses examens ou se lancer dans un gros projet. C'est une chose "non-prioritaire" que je fais pour moi, qui me remet en mode "faire", et qui me déstresse (une chose de moins à faire qui me culpabiliserait).

Many years ago, I understood that a first step to getting “back on track” when I was feeling overwhelmed by a huge deadline or lots to do (exams when I was a student, for example) was to clean my flat. Then I could get to work.

That is still true for me nowadays. And there is something else: blogging.

If you look back to this month’s archives, you’ll see that the only posts I’ve written (aside from the few last ones) are short stories (that’s good, I’m working on my fiction writing skills) and a few updates about my broken site (less good, it’s still broken).

Nothing else, because I’m swamped with urgent things to do, and blogging is a “when I have time” thing. (I know, in my line of work, it shouldn’t.)

Both blogging and flat-cleaning are things that I should do but don’t get around to doing because there are many other things higher on my priority list. In a strange way, it makes it easier to do them: there is less pressure. Plus, they are just for me, not for somebody else. You don’t care if my flat is a mess or not. And as for writing, well, I’ve said time and time again that the main reason I blog is for myself.

So, cleaning the flat or writing a few posts like I’ve done today could seem like “not doing what’s important”, but it does chip away at the stuff nagging at the back of my brain, and gets me in “doing” mode. That means that all of a sudden, I find it much easier to do the umpteen things I’ve been stuck not doing, and I feel better. 🙂

Related: I’ve found that at times, making lists of what I’m not going to do (today, before a trip) helps a lot — rather than a long list of stuff I need to do. Specially when it’s impossible to do it all. “Won’t-do” lists FTW!

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Qwitted Qwitter After Less Than 24 Hours [en]

[fr] Qwitter, un service qui vous dit quand on cesse de vous suivre sur Twitter. Très peu pour moi -- je viens de le désactiver après moins de 24 heures de service. Non pas que je ne "supporte" pas l'idée qu'on puisse cesser de me suivre (bon dieu non, c'est plutôt que je ne saisis pas ce que 1500 personnes y trouvent à recevoir quotidiennement mes mises à jour) -- mais simplement parce que j'évite d'ajouter à ma vie déjà suffisamment angoissée des sources de "négativité", comme la consommation d'indices de marchés boursiers ou de nouvelles télévisées ou non. (Il y a les gens qui ont des "problèmes d'angoisse", comme on dit, et il y a les autres. Ces derniers ont bien de la chance, et qu'ils s'abstiennent de commentaires simplistes, de grâce.)

I thought I’d try out Qwitter. Not that I’m that obsessed with who stops following me, but I thought it could be interesting to see when my Twitter behaviour made followers drop me.

Well, less than 24 hours later (and after only 2 people qwitting on me), I have decided to turn it off.

Of course, I know people unfollow me. But getting this kind of news in my inbox generates just about the same kind of “downs” as checking the stock market every 10 minutes (instead of once in a blue moon or even once a day) and watching the news on TV (instead of avoiding unnecessary focus on all the wrongs in this world).

So, no thank you, Qwitter. There are enough sources of anxiety in my life without me adding them just for fun.

“Anxiety” is a big word here of course — I mean, who cares about people unfollowing them on Twitter — but still, who has never felt the tiniest pang at losing something they had (or thought they had)? It’s quite clear from research out there (check out Predictably Irrational for example) that being given $1 and then having to hand it back leaves one slightly more unhappy than if one never had that dollar in hand in first place.

Of course, I could filter all the Qwitter e-mails into a folder and check on them only when I want to know when such-and-such stopped following me. But is it really worth the trouble?

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Other People's Problems [en]

[fr] Je pense qu'une des raisons pour lesquelles il est plus facile de trouver des solutions aux problèmes des autres est que nous avons moins d'informations à disposition pour essayer de choisir "la meilleure solution".

A few days ago I had a sudden insight. And yes, amongst other things, I blame Fooled by Randomness.

We all know that it’s easier to solve other people’s problems than one’s own.

And we also know that being away from home with no computer access makes it easier to relax and do other things. Or working in the office instead of at home means you are not “tempted” by home stuff while you should be working. That basically, being in a context where you physically have less options reduces stress.

I just realised that it’s similar for with problems. One of the things Taleb insists on in Fooled by Randomness is that more information does not mean you make a better decision. More information is bound to get you fooled by randomness.

So, two things here:

  • less choice means less stress
  • less information can mean better decisions

I think that both come into play in a way when dealing with other people’s problems. You have less data about the issue than the person who is stuck in the problem. That makes it easier for you to take a decision about it (or give advice), because you aren’t burdened by tons of possibly useless data that you still try to process.

Makes sense?

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About Missing Videos (Open Stage, Friday) and Expectations [en]

[fr] Certaines vidéos de LIFT, dont celles des open stage, n'ont pas pu être montées en live. C'est un peu compliqué pour finir tout ça et les mettre en ligne, et on ne saura pas quand ce sera le cas.

**Update:** the (http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-8270350768335569204) is online now, thanks Laurent!

I posted this note [on the LIFT community blog](http://www.liftconference.com/about-missing-videos-open-stage-friday-and-expectations) at Laurent’s request (he sounds a bit swamped right now) to give some info about the missing videos. I’m cross-posting it here, mainly for the few personal thoughts at the end of the post.

A few of us Open Stage speakers have been wondering why our videos weren’t online. Let me state first that it is *not* a conspiracy of some kind or an indication that community-chosen presentations might be less regarded than “invited speakers”. If you look at the [videos on nouvo.ch](http://www.nouvo.ch/liftvideo), you’ll see that Kevin Marks is the last recorded speakers — all those after him are missing too.

I’ve asked Laurent about this (believe me, he’s heard about it enough) and what has happened is that some talks were not edited live — so it seems it’s a bit of a struggle to get it done / retrieve them / put them online. We unfortunately don’t know when they’ll be available. I trust, however, that the recordings are safe and will not be lost.

This kind of situation is really annoying. As a speaker, who was relying upon this video, I feel extremely frustrated — and also a bit mad at myself, because knowing how important this recording was for me, I should have planned for a fail-safe and got somebody to do some dirty shooting “just in case”.

As a conference organiser, I dread that I’ll find myself in this situation at some point — it’s almost inevitable. When you announce something, even if it’s something that you’re giving graciously, people come to expect it and rely on it. And when things go wrong and it doesn’t happen the way they hoped, they react badly (me included) — when they probably wouldn’t have said anything in the first place if they hadn’t been expecting it.

I know Laurent feels bad about this, and they’re doing what they can to find a solution — amongst the myriad of other post-LIFT things they need to deal with.

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On Being Wiped Out [en]

[fr] Epuisée mais contente. Si je ne vous reconnais pas, si je vous demande trois fois votre nom, si j'essaie de vous donner des cartes de visite trois fois... soyez indulgents. Je suis hyper contente de la réception de mon discours sur l'histoire de Going Solo.

My poor brain can’t follow anymore. I’m loosing track of who I speak to, who I’ve met, who I’ve given [Going Solo](http://going-solo.net) moo cards too (even to my friends). I’m delighted with the reception of my [speech about Going Solo](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2008/02/07/lift08-my-going-solo-open-stage-speech/) — swept off my feet, even.

Many people have come to tell me they liked my speech, that it was inspiring, that they are going to come to Going Solo, that they want to interview me (I’ve lost track of the number of interviews I’ve given today, honestly), or talk about partnerships or possible synergies.

I’m feeling bad, because I was [invited as one of the electronic media crowd](http://www.liftconference.com/electronic-media-crowd) to live-blog the event, and I think I’ve done a really crappy job of it. I hope to earn my pass tomorrow.

I’m not feeling [overwhelmed as I was at FoWA](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2007/10/06/too-many-people/), because I’m happy rather than frustrated and anxious. But I can’t keep up. Don’t get me wrong, I want to speak to you, and I’m going to. I also know that this is important for my event 🙂 — but if I look a little exhausted, if I ask you your name three times, try to give you Moo cards twice, or forget what you just told me… please be indulgent!

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Cours de psychologie féline — euh, humaine [fr]

[en] Most efficient way for dealing with humans who complain that your cat is excerting revenge on them by peeing on doors: don't try to explain that cats don't have human feelings or attitudes. Instead, tell your cat sternly off in presence of the complaining person (just talk normally but firmly, of course, no being nasty), and say something like "Now, Puss, have you heard that? You can't go on peeing on doors like that. I want you to behave, understood?" And tell the person that you're going to have a serious discussion with the guilty feline about the situation.

Un truc infaillible pour régler le sort des personnes bien intentionnées qui se plaignent de problèmes avec votre chat en l’anthropomorphisant à outrance (concierge, voisine du dessus, etc.) Exemple: votre chat se venge des gens qu’il n’aime pas en allant marquer sur les portes des appartements quand il les voit. Tenter d’expliquer que ce genre de comportement ne correspond pas à la psychologie féline se solde en général par un échec cuisant et du temps perdu (conversation tournant désespérément en rond).

**Remède**

Ramasser le chat, qui durant la conversation est venu voir de quoi il s’agissait. Regarder ensuite sévèrement le coupable qui ronronne dans vos bras et lui dire: “Bon, Bagha, tu entends ce qu’elle dit, hein? Ça ne va pas du tout. Faut vraiment que tu apprennes à te comporter correctement, c’est compris? A partir de maintenant, plus de marquage sur les portes que la concierge vient de nettoyer, d’accord? Sinon, je vais me fâcher!”

Et préciser à la personne qui se plaint que vous allez avoir une discussion sérieuse avec votre chat et que vous comptez bien lui faire entendre raison.

A problèmes humains, solutions humaines.

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