*Blink* The woman is primed and ready as the train pulls into the platform. She knows the score, the doors will slide open and she must pounce. The train stops and I let her get off first. Her eyes turn wide, as she meets my gaze forgetting the opening door and the place she was rushing to get to. She stops and she smiles.
*Blink* The man is surprised at being offered a seat. He blusters and chuckles as he sits happily next to his girlfriend. From the corner of my eye, I see his fingers entwine with hers as the carriage rumbles on.
These were some of the reactions I encountered using the 1st empathic power, the skill of opening yourself vulnerably to feel with people, known as affective empathy (lecture 6.1).
London has 8 million people and city commuters are used to the determination it takes to brave the hoards of strangers. We pack our arsenal in the morning; book, headphones, the glazed mask or the piercing stare of a person who has somewhere important to be.
There were other strangers I encountered that day, but I found my use of affective empathy was not consistent. Sometimes, my thoughts would wander, I would turn and realise I had looked away and missed that moment.
*Blink* The girl at the bus stop, stooped over, her head in her hands. I can’t tell if I’ve embarrassed her, as she rushes out a flurry of “I’m ok, I’m o.k.” urging me with her soft voice to move on.
These strangers are no different really from the ones I pass on my way to work most days. Pressed up against them, but tuning them out. I have become accustomed to ignoring the myriad of human emotions brushing up against me in those moments; anxiousness, happiness, sadness.
On my journey, I blinked and saw them again and though they still seemed strange to me, unique, they felt less like strangers.