I am learning the hard way. When my emotions run so high that I can literally hear my own heart beating in my ear, I need to take a step back. Like the wide angle fade back in an old movie, I literally need to become a camera. An observer in the drama surrounding me. It’s the only way I can regain my composure. And hopefully, my compassion.
My transition is to imagine a black and white line drawing with the scene playing out before me, and the wide angle point is leading to me behind the protective lens of my camera. I remove myself from the situation but also remain there ever watchful. I am consciously doing this to remove myself emotionally but still stay present. (In the past, like many empaths, I would have been long gone, but this tactic is helping me to stay.)
What is the point of this endeavor? Of becoming the observer? It gives you perspective. In fact, it gives you multiple perspectives simultaneously. With a cameraman’s eye, you can look at a person as a character in the current drama. And most characters are flawed. It is the human condition. By disengaging and staying present, it helps you to more clearly see what is motivating each person in the room and perhaps why.
Truth be told, I often have to replay a situation as a cameraman after the fact because I have been too emotionally wrought during the real event. This post reflection behind a lens has been very helpful in gaining understanding and compassion for all in the room. Because truly, a character often does not know what s/he does not know. And this can be infuriating in real life. But in a movie, the viewer can garner understanding for said character. And understanding leads to compassion – even for the ignorant or misguided.
I’ll leave you with one of my favorite opening book lines from Christopher Isherwood’s memoir Good-bye to Berlin which the movie Cabaret was based on. He captures this idea of recording and watching for later reflection. “I am a camera with its shutter open, quite passive, recording, not thinking….Some day, all this will have to be developed, carefully printed, fixed.” I will add, on your timetable. And with compassion.