Comedian and mental health campaigner, Mike King has been named New Zealander of the Year for 2019. Congratulations Mike.
Mike wasn’t always the poster boy for young New Zealanders. While he was a well-known entertainer and comedian he was also addicted to drugs and alcohol and experienced mental health illness which lead to behaviour that often alienated him from friends and fans.
His journey to recovery and recognition has been long and hard over the past 15 years. When asked on a recent radio programme about this transformation he said that the number one thing that turned his life around was changing the way he reacted to things around him.
Instead of hearing a screaming baby on the plane and getting upset about “the annoying baby” he instead would say out loud “that poor baby”.
He entered the world of the baby and realised it could be distressed because of the change in cabin pressure on its ears. The only way the baby could express this distress was by crying.
“When I changed the way I thought about the world and other people I found that I could react to them in a more empathetic way”.
This is one way you can develop empathy. When you change your thoughts and focus on the other person you no longer see yourself as the centre of the universe and say ‘that baby is annoying me”. Rather, you enter the other person’s world by saying “that baby is in distress”. You could spare a similar thought for the mother too, who might be feeling that others are judging her for not having a quiet baby.
Nelson Mandela mastered the art of showing empathy when he was imprisoned on Rodden Island for more than 28 years. He could see that the prison wardens were also trapped on the island and he showed them kindness even when they were making his life difficult. Showing kindness and empathy to his captors kept Mandela in a healthy frame of mind and ultimately had a huge impact on his jailers.
Develop more empathy by thinking more of the other person and what is distressing them and less of your (unrealistic) expectations of how the world should be treating you.
Mike King spends much of his time now sharing his experiences with young people in schools and clubs and promoting good mental health. Thanks Mike.