The Superpower of Empathy with Figs O’Sullivan

“Empathy is seeing the eyes of another, listening with the ears of another, and feeling with the heart of another.”

Alfred Adler 

Episode Highlights:

  • How we can streghthen our relationships and deepen our connection
  • The superpower of empathy

About Figs O’Sullivan

Figs is a couples therapist and the creator of the Empathi method and the certification process for Empathy coaches. He’s also Chief Empathy Officer, husband, dad, wounded-healer and was featured on NPR’s All Things Considered as a champion for healthy relationships.

Figs’ life’s mission is to help couples feel more connected.

What You’ll Learn

09:24 On his happy place before he dies

Figs O’Sullivan says the reason for becoming a couples therapist is that he always longed to belong within a relationship. The work he does as a therapist has allowed him to become the husband and dad that his own father never was.

11:49 Being a wounded healer

Figs O’Sullivan shares that he identifies as a wounded healer because in order to help his clients, he must have access to both their wounded and healed parts; in this way he can connect with people and becomes a safe person in which they can show their wounds and thus find inner healing.

13:22 The most important skill being a therapist is being able to become your clients

15:59 The empathic experience

16:46 Empathy vs vulnerability story

Figs O’Sullivan tells a story of a dad whose son fell and the dad was angry. People might think that he was not empathetic to his young son, but Figs O’Sullivan tells us that it is actually the opposite, he felt empathy for his son but did not know what to do with feeling vulnerable so the only thing the dad could express was anger.

19:21 Ways we react to try not to feel our primary emotions

21:46 Work on feeling your feelings better

28:25 Are you there for me? Am I enough for you?

After telling a story about his son not reading a book they had agreed upon, Larry asks Figs O’Sullivan if his reaction was out of fear of his own vulnerability. Figs O’Sullivan replies that yes, and that he basically got stuck in the dynamic of 2 people who love each other very much: wondering if you are there for that person and if you are enough. We have to remember that a child cannot be there to meet the emotional needs, it must be the parent who is there for the child. The magic of parenting lies not in getting it wrong but in repairing the damage.

32:51 A meaningful repair

Figs O’Sullivan, with the example of Larry and his son, shows us what a meaningful repair would look like.

35:47 What the empathic experience is

39:25 The terror of the attachment disconnection

Larry asks Figs O’Sullivan if this way of making amends with his son could cause him to now have no commitment to the agreements they make and be his solution to everything. Figs O’Sullivan tells him no, that once again it is the 2 question dynamic: Are you there for me? Am I enough for you? So in this dynamic you will always fall into a terror for fear of disappointing the other person and the terror of the attachment disconnection, in this case, between Larry and his son

42:56 On the risk of being a disappointment

44:35 On why men (or women) shutdown

Figs O’Sullivan’s Links

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