No one person can effectively live in isolation. We all affect the water around us and the way of the current. So, how much of our swimming with or against the current is learned and how much of that inclination is nature?
They did a study with men and women wherein they were looking to see the correlation between the participants’ exposure to testosterone in the womb and their later ability to empathize (i.e. connect with others). (I’ve just scoured the internet seeing if I could find the clip, but alas, I cannot!) It was fascinating! They started by gathering men and women with varying levels of exposure to testosterone in the womb. An easy at-home trick to see your own level of exposure is to compare the length of your ring finger to that of your index finger on the same hand (see: photo). Keeping your wrist straight, if your ring finger is longer than your index finger, as shown here, you were exposed to more testosterone in the womb. Conversely, if your index finger is longer than your ring finger, you were exposed to more estrogen.
Checking the ratio of testosterone (red line) to estrogen (yellow line) exposure
Researchers then gathered these men and women with all varying levels of testosterone, and put them each with a crying baby. The individuals with more estrogen (both men and women), instinctively reached out for the baby to calm and care for it. Those with more testosterone did not. Oddly, the man with the greatest testosterone level of the group, however, also picked up and held the baby. When the researchers asked the man why, he explained he never naturally connected with people; and in fact, his inability to connect was so strong, he had to learn to mimic other people’s behavior in similar situations to get on.
Learning of this man’s challenge in life, I became aware of a powerful truth: It may not be in our nature to do something, to feel something, to know something, and so on; but, we can learn to do almost anything if we put our mind to it–even without understanding why we’re doing it at the time.
As for me, I certainly started out not an empathizer (did you guess that’s my hand?). I was a New Yorker, and an introvert. I took pride in it, too. I took the Myers-Briggs when I was in my early 20s and I thought that was good justification for my inability to care for people’s feelings, “Oh, well, I’m a Thinker; and it’s obvious you’re a Feeler. So, unless you want to talk solutions, I don’t really want to hear your feelings.” Yikes! And this general disinterest verging on distaste for other people spilled over into all areas of life; I was happiest avoiding my neighbors and enjoying a singleton’s life.
Gradually things changed. I moved to San Francisco, and found a roommate that shared my values. I started practicing Buddhism and found a community not comprised of a ‘group,’ but of individuals. I started to see that each person matters and has a unique and marvelous gift for this life; that there is no ‘better’ and no ‘worse’ among us.
I believe learning Reiki was a huge part of this process for me – to learn that we are all unique faces of this greater whole. This was further fleshed out by my learning that having needs doesn’t make us “needy.” (Thank you, NVC.) Eventually, my energy work practice brought me to my current understanding and relief that we are not competitors; we are creators. Pretty awesome and intense stuff!
So, maybe it’s in part nature and in part nurture; but regardless of how we’re born, or what we choose to do with our lives, we can’t forget the ways in which others color and change our perspectives. Just as much as our actions affect others; we are constantly in the stream of the gentle push from others. We decide whether we want to be pushed to greatness, or pushed to shame. Remember: You get to choose whom you keep in your life.
Connecting at Umpqua Bank’s Holistic Health Fair
In the meantime, I’d like to thank some folks that have recently entered mine: Candace, Alex and Shalena over at Umpqua Bank in Ballard. I had met with the Store Manager, Candace, a while back and really enjoyed hearing the ways she had been expanding the Ballard bank’s community offerings (among other things, you have her to thank for their fantastic rotating art gallery in the back!). And while representing my practice at their holistic health fair last weekend, I got to witness firsthand their successful efforts to raise awareness about local resources available to folks! Thank you for all your hard work in making the health fair such a success!
Community is certainly the theme at Umpqua, what with their unique ‘word salad’ on their windows (yes, I had no idea what that was, either) describing the local community’s vibe, their paid 40-hours of volunteering for employees, a rotating spotlight on local merchants, to even their hosting group sessions for small businesses looking to learn tips from experts in different fields. (The list goes on….) If you happen to be in Ballard (or in any other of their many Seattle locations), I encourage you to stop on in and check out their interactive ‘Discover’ wall; perhaps you’ll be surprised what you find!
Thinking of your connection to those around you, what’s one way you might leave the world a better place for having lived in it?