Don’t Put Yourself in Other’s Shoes

Posted on by Sen.

As humans we have this habit of putting ourselves in the shoes of another living being and imagine how their experience would be like. For example, you might see a handicapped beggar on the roadside looking for food in a garbage can and immediately get a sick feeling in your stomach because in that moment you are trying to put “yourself” in the shoes of that beggar and imagine what it must be like for him to live that way – we also use a term for it called “empathy”. But in truth, whenever you put yourself in the shoes of another person, you will always get a very skewed idea of what’s really going on – because the level of consciousness you are at is not the level of consciousness the other person is at, and “experiences” are always “personal” determined by the level of consciousness in a living being in that moment.

It’s like you trying to put yourself in the shoes of an animal and imagine what it must be feeling – one reason why so many animal activists feel so much suffering within them, because they constantly keep projecting themselves into the shoes of the animals, imagining what the animals must be going through, and getting a completely skewed picture of reality because the consciousness level of an animal is not the same as the consciousness level of this human being who’s projecting himself/herself into the animal’s experience.

Things are never what they seem to you from outside

Always remember that your “projections” are purely based on your level of consciousness. So when you look at a person outside you and try to imagine what he/she must be going through, you are doing so from your level of consciousness – and so you can never understand the accurate experience that they are going through because their level of consciousness is different from yours (may be higher or lower) at that moment.

You can verify this in your own mind – do you remember the days of your life as a baby? Say when you were 2 years old or 5 years old or 10 years old. You may have some dazed remembrances of stuff that happened, but you can’t recollect most of your days the way you can recollect your days after you were 25 years old or so. Because when you were a child your consciousness level was totally low, whereas now as an adult your consciousness level is high. But in your brain you can put yourself back into your childhood days and relieve some negative experiences from your present level of consciousness and imagine how terrible everything was, but in truth when these things really happened in actuality, they were a totally different experience – as a child you were mostly in a daze and went through life almost asleep though your body moved around and did whatever was required for its survival back then.

A lot of people just don’t get this simple reality of life that your experiences are dictated by your level of consciousness in the Now, and it’s not possible for you to imagine, accurately, what your experience would have been like in the past or to imagine what someone else’s experience must be like. You can only know what “your” experience is like right Now everything else is just “imagination”. When you empathize with someone who you perceive is “suffering”, you also suffer with that person but your suffering would come from your level of consciousness which would not be the suffering the other person is going through based on their level of consciousness. So you will always have an inaccurate picture of what’s going on and in most cases would torment yourself by projecting a situation in a totally skewed way. Empathy is fine, but if it puts you in a negative state of being it’s not serving any good to this reality in any way, it just perpetuates suffering.

The “Now” is always simple

The only way you can experience the Now, is in your personal experience with your level of consciousness – so it’s always a “personal” Now. And if you just stay with the Now, without projecting into the past or into the future, you will realize that the Now is very simple, it’s free of problems, it’s easily manageable and there is nothing “overwhelming” in it. All the overwhelming, or suffering-based, thoughts arise when you try to put yourself into a future situation that’s not Now, or into a past had happened at a lower level of consciousness than what it is Now or into the shoes of another living being who’s level of consciousness you can never know – I call all these “hypothetical situations” and I never encourage any discussion around “hypothetical situations” because that’s not how “reality” is. Hypothetical situations will always give you a totally skewed picture of what reality really is like at any given moment.

Most philosophies and movie stories are written based on hypothetical situations, by trying to imagine what it must be like to be in the shoes of some other being. You can watch movies where animals seem to talk about their problems, and start believing that that’s how animals are perceiving their reality, when in truth it’s just a “human” projecting his perceived experience onto an animal. I can state easily that humans, even as children, have the highest consciousness levels compared to any species on this planet because their brain is much more developed, but of course there are varying levels of consciousness among humans – some are at a high level of consciousness, some at a very low level of consciousness even as adults. Some humans even die with the same level of consciousness they had when they were 10 years old because their brain was not able to grow in awareness (mostly due to physical limitations).

Your level of consciousness is not always the same

Remember that your own level of consciousness, in the brain, is not always at the same level. It keeps dipping or increasing at different times. The highest it can go to would decide your actual depth of awareness, but it’s quite possible for your level of consciousness to dip to the level of almost a “sleep” state even when you are awake and moving around – for example, when you are driving a car, sometimes you can just be lost and not even know how you reached home.

There are also people who do some miraculous things and then claim that they have no idea how they did it, that’s because in that moment the consciousness of their brain had switched off and was taken over by the consciousness of their “wholeness” which made them accomplish a relatively miraculous feat from their human standards – this happens especially during cases of emergency. One can later look back and imagine several stories about what really happened, but in that moment their experience was totally dictated by the level of consciousness in their brain at that moment.

Always remember that from a human perspective, your experiences are totally dictated by the level of consciousness in your “brain” at any given moment. When a person hypnotizes you, he basically just manages to switch off most of the consciousness in your brain while keeping you in a semi-waking state so that you respond to the commands without any conscious interpretation of it. So you don’t really remember what you did in that trance because the conscious part of your brain was switched off or dimed out. We are aware of waking state and sleep state of the brain, but there is also a “semi waking” state of the brain where it’s lost to its consciousness but awake, something like the state you are in while “sleep walking”, this is state is what the “hypnotists” tune into.

The bottom-line of this understanding is to recognize that it’s never possible to imagine what someone else is really going through, except through a skewed projection. Inaccurate projections are the cause of close to 90% of our suffering. That’s why the simple pointer to “just stay in the Now” instead of making fearful projections about the past, the future or living beings outside you. Next time you feel like putting yourself in someone else’s shoe, do so while understanding that it’s not an accurate projection in any sense, it’s an “imagination” in you happening from your level of consciousness, a “hypothetical situation” is never the “reality”.


  1. Lee

    Hi Sen, I have read a few of your articles and have found them very very interesting.

    I suffer from intense OCD with never ending intrusive and unwanted thoughts leading to obsessional thinking and anxiety. I am currently undergoing CBT treatment but it’s not helping much.

    My OCD is at it’s high when I am extremely stressed. One of my major stress factors since an early age relate to this article and I was somewhat taken aback when I came across this article. I need some clarification however.

    Can you advise how one deals with the constant barrage of bad news on television, newspapers etc -past and present. How can one feel at ease with themselves and release bad/negative energy with so much exposure of suffering, not just on television, it’s everywhere.

    I just don’t understand why it is easy by so many to ignore. I find ignoring it makes me feel worse. Why do I constantly put myself in other people’s shoes whether it be people I know or strangers on the other side of the world?

    1. Sen Post author

      There are two aspects to a human being – “humanness” and “beingness”. The humanness part of you is basically the physical body with its “brain” or mind. The beingness part of you is the space of awareness in which the mind operates – this awareness has no boundaries. You can read the post “Freedom from the mind” to get a better insight on how the “physical mind” and the “non-physical space of awareness”, are just two aspects of the same energy that we are. I am assuming that till now you’ve only been aware of yourself in your “humanness” aspect – you only know yourself as this human body and mind, and hence are totally identified with the movement of the mind. One of the aspects of a mind is that it’s a “survival machine” and it always looks out for danger or threat to its survival – this makes the mind prone to fear by its natural design, some minds are way more fearful than others because of their upbringing and some fearful vibrations present within their body even before birth (for example, when the mother is prone to fear or negativity, the fetus takes in a chunk of these vibrations). But all minds (be it in humans, animals, birds or insects) are fearful to some extent because its a survival machine. And the mind can never become totally fearless as long as its alive – because one of its jobs is to constantly look out for danger to its survival. So if you are only aware of yourself as the “mind” (or the humannnes part of you), without being aware of yourself in your wholeness (as the being part of you), you will be prone to total identification with the mind and thus fuel its fears with your attention and interest – this is the root cause of obsessive fear based thinking.

      Most people who suffer from obsessive fearful thinking (termed clinically as OCD) start trying to work on their mind either through medication or psycho-analysis of the mind. Medication mostly becomes a means of getting temporary relief by “numbing” the nervous system – and it can helpful in extreme cases but it’s still an powerless way of living because you are dependent on external chemicals for freedom. Psycho-analysis of the mind can help you understand why the mind behaves the way it behaves (and hence its a step in the direction of becoming aware of the mind) but it still keeps you rooted in the mind – it’s like now you know why your mind is dysfunctional but you are still lost in it. If you truly want to experience freedom in your being, you need to be free of the mind rather than want to “change” the mind. As long as you are stuck in the “Strategy” of trying to change the mind, you are still identified with the mind, and hence will be privy to its inherent design of fear based thinking. Like I mentioned before, it’s not possible to make the mind fully fearless on matter how long you meditate, how many spiritual/self-improvement books you read, no matter how much counselling you attend, no matter how much you understand it – the mind/brain is a survival machine by its very design, and a part of a survival machine’s job is to look out for danger and hence fear is an obvious part of its job. Anyone who is able to observe the mind consciously will understand this “limitation” of the mind, and thus let go of trying to change it – rather they would start finding their place more in the space of awareness (or their beinginess) than in the space of the mind. Let the mind be, rest as awareness and see how the mind no longer influences your peace. As you rest as a space of awareness, the mind automatically starts losing its momentum and intensity, and hence it stops influencing your vibration – you are no longer gripped by the intense resistances created by the intensity of your mind’s negative thinking. You will also notice that your feelings are not as intense anymore, and you feel “spacious” and vast inside you, you are rooted in a space of peace even in the midst of “mind movement”. This is true freedom, when can only come as you become more and more aware of yourself as the “beingness” part of you – the wholeness of this space is your true body, not just this human body.

      The OCD condition of your mind is an invitation to you to “awaken” from identification with it and realize the other part of you – the beingness part of you. The mind, or your body, is just a small aspect, a small physical creation, in the eternal space of awareness, or conscious energy, that you are. Do you realize that you always refer to your mind as “My mind” or “My body”, so ask yourself what is the “me”, do you see that the “me” is not the mind, its the awareness that’s watching the mind. As you become more rooted in your “beingness”, by resting as a space of awareness (that just watches the mind but does not identify with it), a whole new wisdom will start operating in your life and it will burn through a lot of unnecessary fears and resistances of your mind – it takes the level of consciousness in your mind to a whole new place where it’s limited to its narrow perspectives but becomes open to a universal/wholistic perspective on life.

  2. Lee

    Thank you so much Sen. I think I get what you are saying.

    This has been refreshing advice in a very very long time.

    I would like to email you questions from time to time if that’s ok.

  3. Gabriel

    I am having a problem. I used to see the world through my own eyes. and naturally, we all want to be the best. I used to be empathetic towards others, but i had tunnel vision, so I believed peoples opinions didn’t matter. I would judge people from my value system, and what i thought was right, but when people judged me, I didn’t like it. Now I don’t know who I am, and I feel so insignificant and unimportant. I feel like I’m seeing the world through the eyes of everybody. Shoe shifting messed up my mind. arrogance is bad, but envy is worse. so what then, worry about others, or worry more about yourself? I don’t know how to view the world anymore.

    1. Sen Post author

      Gabriel, the egoic perception of the mind shifts between extremes, it changes one lens and replaces it with another lens, and both are equally limiting. The freedom arises when you can sense that you don’t need to depend on the egoic lens to give you a sense of identity, rather you can know yourself first as the space of life/being which is in the background of all thoughts of the mind. If you’ve tasted this space of being you will know that it’s open and unconditional, and it connects you with an inner balance/wholeness, you can then bring this wholeness to your mind/ego where it has a balanced view (a deeper sense, rather than shallow percetion) of itself and of the outside world. It’s a good thing when the mind feels confused, because now it’s an invitation for you to step outside the mind and connect with the space of being, you may get some insights from this post – reaching a place of total allowing

  4. Gabriel

    Thank you Sen. So I am basically a blank slate. and I can become whatever I want to be, since personality is what i brought myself to believe to be?

    1. Sen Post author

      Gabriel, your brain has a personality as a part of its natural makeup which you must first “realize” and then accept, since this brain is the vehicle through which you will live life. Your brain possibly has also collected a lot of “fake” persona, in a bid to meet expectations of people or in a bid to fit in, you need to see through these fake personas, and sense the true personality of your brain. When they say be yourself, what is meant is “be true to your natural makeup” in you brain, this is how you allow your true expression, potential and attract a reality that matches who you are. You can read this post for more insight on this – core personality of the brain

  5. Gabriel

    Thanks Sen you are the man. The reason I come off as arrogant and careless to some people, is because it’s basically a defense mechanism. I was bullied as a child. people made me feel insignificant, and could never be myself around others. But the fact that there are so many different people out there and many bad ones that don’t realize we are all the same, worries me. I’d like to be able to protect myself and my family whenever someone tries to get physical, but the fact is that you never know if you will come out the victor. There is no main character in this story of life. I can’t fathom the idea of being a subordinate character.

    1. Sen Post author

      Gabriel, you are the main character of your life, it’s your personal reality. When you are aligned with yourself you allow the manifestation of your natural expression and attract realities that are compatible with your well-being and joy. Allow yourself to be aware of your own inner negativity, and through this awareness start letting go of them, so that you can be more free of resistance and thus be more aligned with the pull of well-being coming from your life-stream.

  6. Gabriel

    Thank you Sen. This helped me clear my mind alot more.

  7. Michael

    Sen, does this also apply to looking at other people as being “better off” than you? My ex girlfriend (when we talked) painted this picture of her always having fun and being busy, which pissed me off and filled me with jealousy, because I’ve been at home for the past 4 years. There’s that and every time I come in contact with a 14-17 year old, I feel a sense of longing for those years back, because mine seemed wasted.

    I’m only 19, which is incredibly young, but I feel old in a sense. I don’t let those thoughts dominate my mind, I just let them be there, even though they are intense. It seems like even when my mind momentum is gotten rid of and I am a deliberate creator of realities that I want, that there will still be thoughts of “If only I could go back in time and change those years, no matter what I have now, it can’t compare!”

    1. Sen Post author

      Michael, this particular journey (of finding inner balance/wholeness) is not about the fulfillment of an imbalanced-ego but about ego-balance, where you reach a place where your perception is not coming from a place of delusion/imbalance which allows you to have a balanced/reality-based ego that’s in sync with the wholeness of life. Think about it this way, consider that you are a cell in a body that’s located in the kidney area (and hence your job is to help filter impurities) and you’ve been around for a few weeks (and hence old in terms of cell-age), you look upon the cells in the brain area and think that they are having a better time than you and that they are more important than you, and thus feel that you are somehow not good enough. From a limited perspective, one can say that the cells in the brain area are more important than the cells in the kidney area because a brain-damage can kill the whole body whereas a kidney damage might still not be fatal, however, a healthy kidney as important to a healthy body as a healthy brain and hence from the body’s perspective the cells in the kidney area are as important as the cells in the brain area. This is how the wholeness of life is, from the perspective of life everything/everyone (all aspects of life-energy) has a certain place in its movement towards self-realization, growth and self-expression, including the imbalances. But from the perspective of an individual ego there can be comparison and hence a limited perception. These thoughts, that you have, stem from an immature ego which is yet to align with the wholeness-based thinking needed to align with the perspective of life – at this point in your life these thoughts may seem very valid, however once you truly move towards a deeper/wholeness-based understanding of life, while also allowing yourself to let go of being identified with the pull of ego-force (created from the imbalanced perception), you will notice your perspective changing, the way you look at life will be very different from the way you look at it right now. This transition is your choice in many ways, you may or may not allow it, if you constantly keep clinging to the perspective of the ego-force it just becomes more difficult to allow the wholeness-based understanding to come in.

      There is a place for the pursuit of the fulfillment of an imbalanced-ego, and it’s also a “required” phase in the journey of a being. This is when one’s focus is rooted in finding one’s identity/status/self-esteem in possessions, accomplishments, amassment and external approval. This phase eventually does lead to you to realize that no matter what is achieved the imbalanced-ego is rooted in the mindset of comparison and some false sense of seeking “extra-ordinariness”, eventually one either gets tired of it or gets into a lot of psychological suffering because of it, which acts as a wake-up call towards finding balance. Of course, this of phase imbalance is also a necessary phase to see through the “delusion” of this pursuit after which one is more receptive towards entering the journey towards wholeness.

  8. Michael

    Thank you for replying, I really appreciate it.

    The part about not trying to fulfill an imbalanced ego resonates with me, as a few months ago when I was completely identified with the thoughts of inferiority, the “solution” so to say in my head was “I have to have lots of fun, know a lot of people, be busy, etc. for me to be happy”. I now know that life doesn’t work that way.

    Of course I want everything to happen now, as does everyone else, but will my ego mature as I keep being allowing? I’ve been doing that seriously for about a month and a half as well as listening to the full BrainEv course (level 1 so far) for 3 weeks.

    I do believe the accumulation of health problems, crappy and boring life, and my girlfriend dumping me finally served as a wake up call. I’ve been going through a lot of depression since allowing, but it’ll all be worth it.

    Are you available to go on Skype sometime?

  9. Andeline Williams-Pretorius

    Hi Sen,

    I am passionate about EMPATHY. Your example of the beggar, is not the be all and end all when it comes to empathy. For me, Empathy is about responsibility. Feeling sorry for someone, is more about sympathy.

    When I put myself in the shoes of someone, I believe in thinking BEFORE doing or saying something hurtful.
    I ask myself: “How would I feel if someone were to do that to me?”
    This is how I get into the shoes of others.

    And as far as the beggar is concerned, I show empathy, by ensuring that I am not the cause of their situation. Empathy is about considering our actions BEFORE taking the actual action.

    We might feel sorry for the beggar (feeling sympathy) and give them food or money. As mentioned above, EMPATHY in this situation, is about making sure that you are not the reason why they are begging.

    Nobody can truly help another, when they are “paralysed”, because of the hardship that they see. This shows sympathy, NOT Empathy. And this could be indicative that the person may need counselling themselves.

    Many years ago (in counselling training) we were taught to hear the person’s problem, but to not have their problem “become ours”, because we would lack objectivity to assist and / or provide the best possible counselling.

    And this doesn’t mean that you care less.

    So, I say “YES!” to empathy. We have to get into the shoes of other people more often. We’ll then be able to create that “better world” that most people dream of.

    Andeline, Creator of The Empathy Campaign.

    1. Sen Post author

      Andeline, “Empathy” can border-line into deluded thinking when you imagine that you “know” what the other person is going through – you can only truly know “your” experience, you can’t know the experience of someone else simply because you can’t know what their mindset is like, you can’t know their level of awareness, you can’t know what’s really going on within them and what their level of sensitivity is. The fact is that you can only “guess” what the other person is going through. As long as you understand this distinction you can work with your “empathy” towards doing the right thing, based on your wisdom, without moving from a place of delusion. There is no pointer in this post that says “don’t be empathetic towards others”, it’s just a discussion on the pitfalls of deluded “assumptions”.

      The pointer in this post is not about “don’t show empathy”, it’s about don’t put yourself in a hypothetical situation of trying to imagine that you are the other person, because your level of awareness, your mode of perception and your intelligence may not be what the other person is working with. For example, you can see a blind person and start suffering by thinking that “this person must be miserable, he can’t see like I can, how miserable is that, it’s so unfair, it’s so bad, this shouldn’t be happening” and you enter into a state of misery through this form of thinking (basically what you are imagining is “what would I feel if I was blind like this person”). In truth the blind person may be having a totally difference experience than what you imagine him to be having, he may be enjoying his experience in his own way, he may not be miserable because he doesn’t have the reference that you have to compare his experience with – this is the reason why a lot of “handicapped” hate that label, and prefer to be called “specially enabled”. It’s like how an American may come to India and imagine that all Indians are miserable because there is so much population in India, when in truth the experience of the locals would be very different from the experience/projection of the foreigner – for example, an Indian is quite adept (and adapted) at driving in crowded traffic conditions and his experience of driving is very different from what the American might imagine. Your empathy can very easily border-line on delusional thinking creating suffering for yourself and a negative projection on the outside. Basically, the pointer of this post is to let go of “imbalanced empathy” and function from a place of a balanced/aware empathy – you can’t be certain about what the experience of someone else really is like, you can only guess and as long as you have this “lee-way” in your thinking you will not get fixated on your mind projections alone.

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