“Sometimes, if you really don’t know how you feel about a topic, reading how both sides argue it can help.”

-Elayne Boosler

You know I always try to look at both sides of an issue. This life has given me the chance to consider things from different points of view. Two things have happened these past 24 hours to help me clarify a couple of curiosities.

I saw the devil’s advocate played out during a philosophy of religion class. Of course, when we talk about God, to argue a different point of view would be the view of the devil. While I appreciate inquiry, I am uneasy with the appearance of arguing the devil’s case. Besides, the devil is all about causing chaos rather than offering a second point of view.

How does one play the devil’s advocate without being antagonistic? Yesterday I read a post where the writer wanted to offer a second point of view referred to as a “doubles” advocate. Sweet. In other words, consider this. It doesn’t question your logic or attack your intelligence. I challenge your premise with a second point of view. My intent is to not advocate for anything. Rather I wish to offer another angle for consideration.

This is how to offer an opinion without shutting down the conversation. I tend to shut down conversations. I know how to start a conversation with open ended questions. I can shut down a conversation with a single statement. I never feel good doing that. What am I doing when I shut down a conversation? Do I listen too long before I say something? Do I summarize well and there is no need to say anything more? Do I throw in a monkey wrench and no one knows what to do with it?

As an advocate, double or devil, receiving feedback is part of the conversation. Remember, having a point of view is different than owning the argument. When we identify with our opinion, we have created an emotional bond. The depth of our conviction equals the level of pain we are willing to go when we defend our point of view. Our attachment to words expose our vulnerable soft underbelly. The attachment also emits an emotional vibration, good, bad or indifferent.

It is the emotional energy that brings me to the second thing I have learned about myself this past 24 hours. I am empathic (emˈpaTHik). That I already knew. What is new about this is the notion that there are residual effects of being empathetic. The words did not leave a residual effect of the concept. The feeling of the emotion that accompanied the spoken words was strong. The spoken words hinted that being empathetic does not imply being sympathetic.

I admit, my world can be confusing. When I hear or see conflict, I am overwhelmed by the energy of the emotions coming from all those involved. Imagine if you will, the energetic charge associated with any situation. and its rippling effect. I feel the anger of the person throwing the punch. I feel the humiliation and pain of the person receiving the punch. I feel the energy that surrounds them, either egging them on or praying they stop. I feel the joy of ceremony from facilitator to participant and audience. I can distinguish the difference between joy and fear, but the intensity feels the same. I either weep or sleep when my cup runneth over.

The idea is that an energetic emotion generated from an event when received by me lacks sympathy. From where does sympathy come? If this is the case, then as an empath my empathy doesn’t process sympathy. Culprits, victims and witnesses generate a pool of emotions. Sympathy is a reaction that another can identify with an emotion. The sympathizer holds temporary space and then continues their day unaffected. The empath holds the emotional energy as if it were their own. The empath must process the energy before separating them self from the emotion. If the energy doesn’t include sympathy when sympathy is not present. Sympathy is a side bar.

It’s not a big deal, it’s only a deal. A second opinion is not the evil dictates of the devil, but a double take. The nature of opinion is better suited as a reflection in a mirror than a fact. An observation does not invoke emotion. The words of the advocate’s double invoke a response. Passion does not muster sympathetic attachment. I am best served to not invoke sympathy for the advocate, nor empathize with the energy of their opinion. In that space, in that moment, the energy I receive is only an illusion. We can all benefit by learning to distance our self from our opinions. Keep the conversation moving to see both sides, then let it lay. That distance placed between our self and our opinion is the space that lets us do more important things. Important things like feel the sunshine on our face and the air drawn into my lungs.