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S2 EP198 – The Secret to Healing the World

Episode Summary

I know that there is one choice we can make that will heal the divisions and conflicts and wars that we are current experiencing – one choice that will also heal animal abuse and climate change. Are you ready to make this one choice? 


Hi everyone. Dr. Margaret Paul here with the Inner Bonding Podcast. I’ve been thinking a lot about what would turn things around on our planet – what would stop wars and the violence to each other, and to animals, and to the planet, and what I come up with over and over is empathy, which is necessary for knowing our oneness – knowing that I am you and you are me and we are One with each other, and with all living things, and with the planet.  

Yet empathy has not been fostered much in most families nor in most schools, or even in many religions. When I was growing up, empathy was not recognized or valued at all in my family or in my school. The very thing necessary to heal the world is still often ignored. But take a moment to think about this: Would people hurt others if they could feel the pain they were causing? Would people abuse animals if they could feel the pain the animals were feeling?

Empathy can be nurtured with most people, other than narcissists and sociopaths. It’s well-known that both narcissists and sociopaths lack, or are incapable of empathy, but it’s not as well-known that sociopaths also lack a conscience. According to Martha Stout, author of The Sociopath Next Door, research with MRIs show that 4% or the population, or one in 25 people, are born without the part of the brain capable of love, empathy, compassion, or conscience. In other words, the part of the brain that is responsible for us being capable of these feelings is missing in sociopaths. Sociopaths, such as Putin and Hitler, can kill millions and they actually enjoy it. Stout points out that the only thrill that sociopaths receive is in winning, and if this means hurting or killing others, well, no big deal to them. We wonder how Putin can do what he’s doing, or how Hitler did what he did, or how any of the world’s dictators do what they do, and that’s how they do it. The thrill of controlling and winning is all they live for.

Which means that we need to identify sociopaths at a very young age, which we can do. One woman I met, who’s son is currently in prison, tried to choke her when he was only two years old. Stout gives numerous examples of the cruelty of young sociopathic children.

When these children are identified early, which isn’t hard to do, they can be helped with behavior modification. Until 18 years old, a child isn’t labeled as a sociopath. Instead, they call it conduct disorder, but it is sociopathy. It’s imperative, if we are ever to have peace on our planet, to identify these children very early and begin their training to be able to function in our society without cruelty, lies, and violence. Currently, because they want control and will do anything to win, sociopaths and narcissists are wreaking havoc on our planet, and people vulnerable to their charm and who are very disconnected from themselves, follow them.

For the rest of us, we each need to focus on empathy for ourselves and each other, and foster empathy with our children.

If you are an empathic person, you might find yourself challenged regarding the difference between feeling empathy for the people you love versus taking responsibility for their feelings. For empathic people, relationships can often be challenging regarding this issue.  

My client, William, grew up with a mother who was depressed much of her life. As the oldest of three children with a father who was not around much, William took on a lot of responsibility for his mother’s wellbeing. He grew up as a kind and caring man, believing that he was responsible for another’s feelings, especially a woman’s.

Lauren, William’s wife, grew up in a family where she received constant criticism from her father. From the time she was little, she had learned to try to do everything right in order to have control over getting her father’s approval and avoiding his disapproval. Lauren learned early in life that her father and others were responsible for her feelings, and it was up to her to control them.

As so often happens, William and Lauren got together at their common level of woundedness, with William feeling responsible for Lauren’s feelings and Lauren making William responsible for her feelings. But it didn’t take long for William to feel engulfed by Lauren’s demands and to shut down as a way to protect himself from being controlled by her. The more William shut down, the angrier and more demanding Lauren got, and the angrier Lauren got, the more William shut down. Both felt deeply lonely in the relationship, each reacting to the other’s wounded self.

As long as William believed he was responsible for Lauren’s feelings, he was unable to feel any of his natural caring and empathy for her. And as long as Lauren believed that William was responsible for her feelings, she was unable to feel any of her natural kindness and empathy toward him.

We cannot feel both empathy toward another and responsibility for their feelings at the same time.

We cannot feel empathy for another when we feel burdened by responsibility for their feelings, or when we believe that the other is responsible for our feelings. As long as William continued to believe that he was responsible for Lauren’s feelings, all he knew to do was shut down. As long as Lauren believed that William was responsible for her feelings, all she knew to do was get angry and blaming.

Fortunately, William and Lauren were willing to learn and practice Inner Bonding. William did deep work on understanding the sources of his false belief that he was responsible for Lauren’s feelings and was eventually able to let go of this false belief, as well as learn how to take responsibility for his own feelings when he felt attacked or pulled on by Lauren. As he developed his loving adult, he was able to take loving care of himself while staying open, empathic, and caring about Lauren. He found that as he learned to take loving responsibility for his own feelings, his empathy extended out to others. In fact, his empathy grew to the point where he decided to volunteer for an organization devoted to rescuing abused animals.

Lauren did her own deep Inner Bonding work to finally let go of her long pattern of making others responsible for her feelings. She discovered that her current feelings of abandonment were not because of William at all, but rather because she so often abandoned herself by ignoring her own feelings. She discovered that the moment she made William responsible for her feelings, she felt abandoned because making him responsible for her feelings was an abandonment of herself. As she learned to take loving care of her own feelings, her anger toward William gradually disappeared, and she was able to feel her caring and empathy for him when she did occasionally get upset with him.

By doing their own inner work, William and Lauren were able to role-model empathy and compassion for their children. I wish all couples would learn Inner Bonding and learn to take responsibility for their own feelings so they can have empathy for themselves, each other, and their children. Children need this role modeling to grow up to be caring and empathic adults.

This is the most important work any individual or couple can do to bring about their own happiness and improve all their relationships. Learning to take responsibility for your own feelings and not for another’s feelings is vital for your inner peace, joy, empathy, and loving relationships.

Stan, one of my clients, told me this in a session after reading one of my articles.  (quote)“So far, I have been nursing a false belief that what someone thinks about me is important. I have to let go of this program. Then only I will be learning about others which is equivalent to empathizing with others. I know that I have taken some steps towards this path, and I am successful to some extent. But I find I have a long way to go as I look into my relationship with my wife. Because I feel responsible for my wife’s feelings, and she makes me responsible for her feelings, I do shut down and then she gets angrier, and then she shuts down, and the vicious circle continues. Both of us really feel lonely in our relationship. I am also finding I am sexually repelled by my wife.”(unquote)

Feeling like they are falling out of love, as well as losing their sexual attraction, is a common experience for many of my clients who are in the codependent relationship of taking responsibility for another’s feelings or making the other responsible for their feelings.

Equally important to letting go of responsiblility for other’s feelings is focusing on taking responsibility for your own feelings. The more you practice Inner Bonding and develop your loving adult, and the more you learn to have empathy and compassion for your own feelings and take responsibility for them, you will naturally find yourself more empathic toward others.

The challenges between people with empathy and those who don’t have empathy continue in all relationships. A woman in Inner Bonding Village asked the following question:

“When someone is making others responsible for their feelings, especially if they are projecting out their own self judgements and low self-worth, how can we lovingly respond without engaging with their wounded self?

“I’m not talking about an intimate relationship like a marriage. I’m talking about people we have to deal with at synagogue, church, distant relatives at family gatherings, and other group situations.

“There is a woman I’ll call Ellen who personalizes things all the time. She takes offense and sees signs of disrespect where none was intended. This happens all the time with her. If we are out at a group luncheon, she will make up a way that the waitress is deliberately singling her out for disrespect, such as the waitress didn’t remember the extra napkins, or didn’t remember to remove the mushrooms from the mixed veggies as she had requested, and so on. She gets very upset, and with tears in her voice, asks why she wasn’t important enough to be remembered? 

“Some of us are on pins and needles trying to anticipate what will set her off and I know, this is my wounded self at work trying to control her. Others totally ignore her, which deepens her upset. She is a hard working community member, which is why we include her.

“How can we empathically and compassionately respond, without feeding her wounded self and entitlement issues, when this occurs?” 

What I said to her is the problem is that when someone is in their wounded self, they often can’t take in an empathic or compassionate response. You could try saying, “It makes things very hard for you, doesn’t it, when you take others’ behavior so personally.” But if you think this will set her off then it’s actually best to say nothing.

 It’s a hard situation, because as an empathic person, I would feel sorry for the waiters who are having to deal with her upsets, and that would certainly take away from the enjoyment of the meal. I might choose not to join the group if she were going to be there, or I might tell her that I will join only if she agrees not to complain at all – which might not be realistic. Mostly, I choose not to be around complaining and entitled people.

Often, caretakers, who generally have empathy, end up with a partner who lacks empathy. It’s challenging to know how to take care of yourself with a partner who lacks empathy.

I, like many of you listening to my podcasts, was born with the ability to feel others’ feelings, and one of the issues that I had to face was that not everyone is empathic, or even capable of empathy.

This was very confusing to me as a child. In school, I often saw children bullying and making fun of another child. The more the child cried, the more fun they made of him or her. It broke my heart, and I would often try to come to the child’s rescue. I was deeply perplexed at how these bullying children could stand feeling the pain of the child or the animal they were hurting. Couldn’t they feel the pain?

I was perplexed too with my parents, who obviously couldn’t feel my pain. How was that possible? Why could I feel their pain and they couldn’t feel mine? I had the same experience in my marriage, and it took me many more years to understand that some people either lack the ability to feel empathy, or they shut it down so early in their lives that they have no access to it.

I believed that everyone was capable of empathy, but I learned the hard way that this isn’t true. It’s certainly not true of narcissists and sociopaths, and unfortunately, many people have learned to shut down their feelings to such an extent that they can’t feel even their own feelings – and they certainly can’t feel others’ feelings.

It’s disconcerting to discover that your partner lacks empathy. This is the situation that Georgia found herself in:

(quote)”I was recently involved with a narcissistic man who was completely unable to empathize or care or even think about my feelings and needs. Sometimes I would have to explain how his behavior was affecting me and he would eventually acknowledge he could see how I might feel, but never changed the behavior. Can someone be taught empathy or if they don’t have that ability, they never will?”(unquote)

I’m hopeful that it’s possible for even narcissists and sociopaths to learn to be fairly kind, and narcissists may be able to learn to have some empathy, but sociopaths can’t learn to feel empathy due to the deficit in their brains, and for them to learn to be kind, they would need therapeutic help very early in life.   

To learn empathy, narcissists and people who have shut down their feelings would have to go through an in-depth therapeutic process of reconnecting with their own feelings first and learning to love themselves. But the problem with this is that narcissists often do not think they have a problem – It’s always the other person who has the problem. Because they believe they are fine and others are “messed up,” they are rarely motivated to do the inner work necessary to open to their feelings and to others’ feelings. They likely shut down their feelings when they were very young, and they might not realize that they lack empathy.

If you are with a partner who is narcissistic and lacks empathy, don’t count on this changing. You either need to accept that this person will likely never truly care about your feelings and the effect their behavior has on you, or you need to leave. Trying to change a person who currently lacks the ability to feel empathy is a waste of time and energy.

Occasionally, a highly sensitive person who shut down their feelings early in life may suddenly find themselves feeling empathy, but I’ve not seen this occur very often, so it’s not something to count on.

One of the hardest things to deal with in a relationship is when you can see the beautiful essence of your partner, but your partner can’t see his or her own essence – or yours. Many people go into relationships because they fall in love with the essence of a person, only to find out that the person’s narcissistic wounded self is in charge most of the time. I’ve often said that we need to be able to acknowledge and tolerate a person’s wounded self in order to create a loving relationship with them. If you are attracted to someone who has narcissistic tendencies or is a narcissist but are unable to accept their narcissism and lack of empathy, then that person isn’t for you – no matter how much you love their essence. Being in a relationship with a narcissist is never easy, and it’s especially difficult for someone who is empathic.

I love science fiction and I recently read book that really impacted me. I’m not going to tell you the name because what I want to say about it will ruin the ending. It’s a book about how humans learn to communicate and cooperate with a very alien species that communicates in entirely different ways than we do. Being typical humans, the humans were ready to go to war with the alien species and annihilate them, but the alien species were smarter than the humans were and they create a nanovirus that they dispersed through the air on the starship ready to land on their planet. The virus changed the brains of the humans so that the humans had empathy and were able to see that the very different aliens were one with them. The virus gave them the understanding that “I am you, and you are me, and we are one.” Instead of “Them and us,” their society just become “us.” Peace and deep support was created between the humans and the aliens.

Imagine what would happen on our planet if there were no “them” and “us”, but only “us,” which is what would happen if empathy was a very high priority. There would be no racism or sexism. There would be no war or violence of any kind. There would be no hunger or food insecurity. There would be no homelessness. People would truly care about each other, animals, and our planet, because they would feel their oneness with all of life.

This is what we need to heal our conflicted planet. If empathy, leading to kindness and compassion, were of the highest priority on our planet, we would find a way to foster it from day one of a child’s life. We would notice when a child is not capable of empathy and do the therapeutic training necessary to create the neural pathways for kindness. We might even find a way to reprogram the brains of sociopaths so that they are able to have a conscience and do not do the horrific things they currently do.

How can we make empathy our highest priority? It’s up to each of us to make this choice for ourselves and do the inner work necessary to have a deep level of empathy, extending it out to our families, our friends, our communities, to animals, to nature and to the ecosystem of our planet. It’s up to each person who wants children to become an empathic parent and make empathy a high priority in your family. It all starts with parenting.

A good place to start is to practice Inner Bonding and develop empathy and compassion for your own feelings, which will naturally lead to empathy for others and for the planet. We can each contribute to the healing of our planet by each of us doing our own inner work.

If you enjoyed this podcast, I would really appreciate it if you tell your friends about it, and if you give it a review wherever you heard it.

I invite you to join me for my 30-Day at-home Course: “Love Yourself: An Inner Bonding Experience to Heal Anxiety, Depression, Shame, Addictions and Relationships.”

And I invite you join me for my bi-monthly masterclass and receive my live help, which you can learn about at

And you can learn so much about loving yourself and creating loving relationships from my recent books and from our website at

If you want to do individual work with me or with one of our many trained Inner Bonding facilitators, please go and look under Facilitators -> Find a Facilitator, or call my office, the number is on the website.

I’m sending you my love and my blessings.

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