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    Two Sides of Compassion

The Integram: an Integral Enneagram of Consciousness;  a model of consciousness, including all aspects, for designing practical paths of personal development and evolution.

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Two Sides of Compassion
(click for podcast)

Empathy vs. Objectivity
Empathy and objectivity seem to be incredibly different at first glance.  Empathy is all about your mirror neuron systems doing their jobs in the insula region of the brain, causing you to have experiences internally that match what you are viewing or hearing externally.  You feel sadness take you over when watching someone experiencing deep grief and loss.  You wince in reaction to seeing someone else being kicked in the head.  When you see someone grasp a glass off a table, you can somehow “tell” whether they’re going to drink it or they’re clearing the table.  These are the basic building blocks of empathy.  The more developed and complex our mirror neuron systems are, the more empathic we are.

Objectivity seems to be the opposite of empathy.  It’s a place where you don’t connect to the person having the experience, you merely observe it.  You don’t “feel” their feelings, you observe them.  Although the lack of reaction could be considered cold or detached, there is a way that this objectivity can be an important part of compassion.  Just as empathy can incite compassion for someone having an experience you can “feel,” objectivity can incite compassion for someone having an experience you can’t possibly understand.  Rather than coming from our own feelings, we can recognize someone else having their own experience; one that we may not be able to relate to or feel ourselves. 

The place where these very different approaches intersect in compassion is in their shared “detachment from judgment.”  When we put ourselves in the position of the other person having an experience, we can bring a lot of baggage with us.  This is where we run into problems, especially in communication.  The worst thing we can do (and we tend to do this quite unconsciously) is to introduce “logic and reason” in the form of huge assumptions.  The most common way we do this is the little phrase: “if it were me saying or doing that, it would mean ___________.”  It isn’t us, and we’re almost always wrong.  This is not using our mirror neurons to “feel” what the other person is feeling.  This is using false objectivity, or straight detachment.  We observe, then we create a rationale to explain the observation.  This detachment is very problematic.

The only detachment that works, is detachment from judgment.  This is where we don’t make evaluated assessments of another person’s experience.  Making those judgments is usually us using our brain to protect ourselves from our heart, because we’re afraid of those feelings we don’t understand crashing over us like a tidal wave.  We physically (or emotionally) push back in our chairs and say, “they shouldn’t feel that,” or make a crack like, “what kind of a wimp tears up watching a commercial?!”  Without that judgment, we can be objective, and allow for the person to have the experience they’re having.  Allowing them to have their experience without having to defend themselves is a perfectly valid form of compassion that requires no empathy or mirror neurons.  This is the compassion that even someone with autism or Asperger’s  Syndrome can offer.  Just making that space.

The Law of Allowance

The “Law of Allowance” is using empathy and objectivity to allow the other person to be who they are.  This sounds deceptively easy and obvious, but it is one of the most powerful practices my clients learn.  We have many reasons for why we don’t simply do this naturally.  We want people to be a certain way.  We want them to be like us, or predictable, or be what we’ve projected them to be, or simply to make “sense” to us the way we see things.  To just let them be whoever they really are could be devastating to the story we’ve been telling ourselves; the story that has supplanted reality.  The story that we have built our play around.

Using our natural abilities to “feel” each other, we can let our judging, evaluating, discerning brains work on something else; something logical, rational, linear, and suited to the job of the brain.  We can “feel” someone not understanding a procedure, and adjust our description, rather than becoming annoyed at them for not getting it.  We can “feel” the effect we’re having on someone, and rather than using our detached, protective brain to assess what’s “wrong with them,” we can check in and learn something real.  We can make all the micro-adjustments in our interactions that replicate the micro-adjustments of equilibrium, and achieve that same kind of balance.

Our communication, when raised to this level of consciousness, connects us the way we are naturally designed to be connected.  We are social animals, with the most sophisticated mirror neuron systems of any animals on the planet.  Feeling each other is part of knowing each other.  We can communicate with other socialized animals who’ve learned to “read” us for their own survival.  If our dogs and cats can feel our sadness, and provide the compassion we need, we certainly should be able to do as well for each other.  At the very least, we can give each other the space to feel our own feelings, and think our own thoughts, without the pressure to defend them.

Want to learn more about how to become the best you possible?
 Come visit the web site, or better yet, contact me and see how we can design a program to fit your needs and desired outcomes.

     - Ian J. Blei


Quick Communication Tip

The Check-in
How many times have you heard "never assume?" And yet, we still seem to do it all the time in communication. We assume we know what someone's going to say before they say it. We assume where the conversation is going. We assume we've already had this conversation a million times before, and so on. What these all have in common is that they completely remove you from the actual conversation; either putting you into a past situation with someone else, or just an alternate to where you are. I've lost track of how many times someone has gone off on a tangent built from the first five words of my sentence, and completely taken the discussion off track, as I try desperately to pull them back to the original point, or get locked in a battle defending what I really meant.

The solution is the simple, tried and true check in. Listen to the other person without interrupting, and then ask them if you really understand what they said. "When you said you need a vacation, did you mean in general or from me?" I only use this silly example because for the most part, people invent the worst possible way to take it, then make that be what the other person "said," and then get into an argument. Totally unnecessary and not fun.

Want to learn more about how your communication can hold you back or catapult you forward?  Come visit the web site, or better yet, contact me and see how we can design a program to fit your needs and desired outcomes.


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Resource Links:

The Integram Archive - the podcast series

Melissa Risdon's Raving Fan Radio Show:
Ian Blei on the
Integram (TM) -understanding ourselves, each other, and our relationships

KG Stiles: "Conversations that Enlighten and Heal"
Ian Blei on Kind Ambition and the
Integram (TM)

Kind Ambition - 2nd Edition

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Welcome to the Integram, where consciousness meets intentional design.   Enjoy!



The Optimizer
Ian Blei,
Director of the
Institute for Integral Enneagram Studies and
President of
Optimized Results



Kind Ambition

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Kind Ambition:
Practical Steps
to Achieve Success
 Without Losing Your Soul



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Kind Ambition is about you having the tools to slide over to the driver’s seat of your own life.  Circumstances will always be changing, seemingly thwarting our plans, but we don’t have to be  thrown around by them. You can be in charge of your choices and actions more than you might imagine - yet.


Kind Ambition is written for you, as a practical guide you can use right now.  It is a collection of  insights and actions designed to help you move forward and get more out of your life at home and at work.  The chapters hold to a formula of first giving you a new way to look at things, then offering you tangible Action Steps to try them out, and finally some things to notice when you do.





Kind words for “Kind Ambition”


"If you are interested in success, whether it is in running a large organization, a small business, or leading a satisfying life, you will find a right blend of rules, wisdom and wit in a digestible fashion that will serve to accomplish your objectives. The notion that kindness can be blended with ambition and made to work and serve the "bottom line" is enlightening, uplifting and satisfying."

-Steven Kiefel – CEO, Red Pill Media




“An easy to use guide for anyone who wants to achieve real  growth and success. His sensible and practical tactics solve age-old challenges with real, how-to solutions. Best of all, Ian lives his work!”

-Romanus Wolter - Author: Kick Start Your Dream Business
Success Coach Columnist: Entrepreneur Magazine
Radio Host: Syndicated Kick Start Guy Segment




" We all face obstacles in our lives and careers. Some of these come from within, subverting our conscious intentions. The  good news is: they can be overcome.  The techniques and processes found in this book will help you on your way."

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 Manifesto on Business and What Really Matters

Syndicated Columnist: Fast Company Magazine




“A scientifically-based, spiritually-awake, (and smart and funny) guide to making the most of your life.  Ian Blei provides the know-how, the inspiration, the structure and all the tools you need in  this straightforward and inspirational book.”

     -Lisa Betts-LaCroix, Past President of SF Coaches
Star of Unapix film, “Dance Me Outside”




" Ian Blei shares his deep insights in simple and straightforward ways.  His work continues to inspire me whenever I feel I'm getting stuck in some area of my life."

-Roy King, III , Director Pacific Development Partners





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