Many acts of kindness may be motivated by self-interest. But is it naive to suggest that 'pure' altruism can exist as well? An act of pure altruism may make someone feel better about themselves afterwards, and it may increase other people's respect for them, or increase their chances of being helped in return at a later point.
Grief is entirely individual, and the grieving person has to respond to their grief in a way that is relevant to them. How they respond may change over time. The difficulty with the platitudes detailed above is that they infer a judgement about how the person is grieving, the time they are taking over their grief, or how they are feeling.
Most couples have rows. Even therapists who know a lot about relationship dynamics row with their partners (yes that includes me!) But if you feel you're always rowing, you spend a lot of time feeling resentful, or you never really make up following a row, then here are few ideas that might help you.
I sat at the table finishing my meal as fast as I could. Sitting in silence trying so hard not to cry. Feeling like a bad mum and so incredibly guilty for eating while my child was upset. The restaurant was pretty much empty, but I was certain the few people who were there were definitely judging me.
The ideology which terrorists are fed aids this process too. When people take on a belief system, they begin to see the world in an abstract, intellectualised way, rather than through direct perception. They begin to see the world in terms of concepts and categories, developing a dry and rigid outlook which becomes so powerful that it divorces them from the immediacy of experience and contact. It encourages them to see other human beings not as individuals but as units in an abstract, conceptual and deadly game.
So how do we know when we are being empathic? One way is to check it out. Asking for acknowledgement is one way to know what someone is feeling. Another way is to pay attention or own up to what we see or think we see. When we are paying attention to what someone is saying it is a way to pay attention to ourselves.
You might feel that no-one at work quite understands how you are feeling. Men need to off-load too. Some find it difficult to ask for help, especially with emotional issues, but please do, find someone you feel comfortable with (a friend, a relative or a professional) and let go, it will be a great relief.
Couples are frequently talking about entirely different events while discussing the same event. Or they will identify qualities within a person like "She was so angry with me" and as I was sitting right there I could see that it was not happening that way. Allowing for my own warped sense of reality I am often amazed at those inconsistencies within an interaction between seemingly rational people.
I was brought up in an agnostic house- my parents were not particularly interested in religion and made it plain to us three children that we could do whatever we wanted. In a sense I am grateful to my parents who both came from relatively liberal families and were not that ingrained with God and the rest.
Next time you are cut off in traffic, you might imagine that the person in front of you has fears, hopes, regrets, and dreams just like you. If you allow yourself to feel the complexity and depth of this person's humanity for just a moment, you might find that the drive is just a bit more enjoyable.