Empathy is a Gift
Empathy by definition means
- The capacity to understand or feel what another person is experiencing whether physically or emotionally
- The capacity to place oneself in another’s position
- The ability to understand and share the feelings of another.
Empathy is a gift for all human beings and animals as it is the ability to feel and sense what the other being is feeling. The degree of empathy might vary depending on the sensitivity of an individual to other people’s energies. Empathy is what enables us to build that connection with one another. After all, what we all need is to feel heard and understood.
As dental professionals we are very fortunate to be able to utilize our skills and knowledge to help others heal and achieve optimal health. Being in healthcare field means that you are constantly caring for others. In order for you to care for them, you first listen. You listen to the problems your patients present with; these problems can come from many levels; physical, mental and/or emotional level. While listening, you empathize by putting yourself in their position to feel what it would be like to experience that problem. Once you empathize you then come up with a solution to alleviate their pain or to guide them in the right direction for their oral health. This is a beautiful process that we go through with each individual patient whether we are aware of it or not.
Empathic Distress Among Dentists
Empathic distress is a term to describe the great mental and/or emotional suffering such as extreme anxiety, sadness or pain due to feeling another person’s mental, emotional or physical experience.
We are all energy. Everything about this reality that we live in is energy in the most basic subatomic level according to quantum physics, chemistry and biology. Albert Einstein once said that “Everything is energy, and that is all there is to it.”
Our thoughts, our emotions and our physical body are all made of energy. Take a moment here, without this energy or electricity running through our body and our being, the neurons will not fire, the circulatory system, the digestive system, the endocrine system, all that we are will cease to exist. Scientists and researchers have succeeded in proving this energy that is emanated from our body by measuring electromagnetic waves and biophoton emissions. This field of energy that each and every one of us has is called the human energy field, human bio-field or commonly known as the aura. Imagine that your physical body is actually inside of this invisible bubble around you. Throughout the day when you interact with your patients and your staff, this field of energy between you and other individuals are constantly contacting and merging. This merging of energy field is what makes empathy possible. To put it simple, you are feeling their energy within your energy field.
Emotions in Dentistry
Dentistry or a dentist is commonly related to pain. As a dentist how many patients do you see a day that say the following phrases: “I’m afraid of needles,” “I am scared of coming to the dentist,” “I get anxious when I come here,” or “It’s nothing against you, but I hate coming to the dentist.”
The emotions these patients feel are: fear, anxiety, shame, worry and/or anger. As emotions are also energy, this is the energy that many of your patients carry within their energy field, and each time your energy fields merge, inevitably you would feel these emotions as your own, hence, empathy.
When we are feeling so much of other people’s heavy emotions on a consistent basis like we do in dentistry, we can often experience empathic distress. The following is the physiology behind empathic distress.
Due to the significantly decreased level of dopamine, some common symptoms of empathic distress include:
This chronic empathic distress can often lead to occupational burn out. After many years of practicing dentistry, you might feel so emotionally drained that you cannot seem to be your joyful and vibrant self that you used to be. High suicide rate and mental illnesses are often discussed within our profession, but not openly enough in my opinion.
Everything starts from awareness. Becoming aware that we are in fact bio-electro-magnetic beings and that we are influenced by these electromagnetic fields on a daily basis.
Daily rituals and routine to ground and protect your energy physically, mentally and emotionally, and to clear your energetic field are important to maintain your health and well-being. See table below for summary of holistic approach to help regain your vitality.
Remember that we cannot pour from an empty cup; we must clean our cup, fill our cup and pour from a full cup.
Ground & Protect your energy, and shine your true authenticity!