The Power of Being “Grokked”

By Dr. Margaret Paul
February 11, 2019

It is profoundly healing when another is able to deeply understand and empathize with our core painful feelings.


In 1961, author Robert A. Heinlein coined the term “grok” in his best-selling book, “Stranger in a Strange Land”.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines grok as “to understand intuitively or by empathy; to establish rapport with” and “to empathize or communicate sympathetically (with).”


Being Grokked Can be Very Healing… 

It is gratifying for all of us to be deeply known – to be grokked. Especially when we are feeling the very painful feelings of life – the heartache, heartbreak, grief, sorrow, and helplessness that result from others’ choices and past and present challenging life events – it is profoundly healing to know that someone else knows what we are feeling and has deep empathy for our feelings. Perhaps this is why, in some cultures, it is traditional for a group of women to wail with someone who has lost a loved one.

One of the reasons people receive so much healing at our 5-Day Intensives is due to the experience of being grokked for the heartbreak of their childhood. For some, it is the first time they have ever shared what really happened to them and received deep understanding, compassion and empathy. After they have sobbed and been held with love and understanding, the relief on their faces and the light that shines through their eyes is so beautiful to behold!


We Run Into Problems When We are Being A Victim
We run into problems when we try to get grokked for the wounded feelings of hurt, fear, anxiety, depression, guilt, shame, jealousy, anger, and so on – the feelings that we create with our self-abandoning thoughts and actions. Others cannot feel into us when we are being victims and pulling for sympathy. They cannot feel into us with their empathy and compassion when we are victims of the feelings we are creating.

In a phone session with Timothy, he was angry over a fight with his girlfriend.

“We had just gone out for breakfast and I thought things were going so well. I felt so good being with her that I called her to have dinner that evening. When she said she was busy, I got upset. I told her I was coming over to talk with her about it, but she said it was not a good time – that she had other things she needed to do. I came over anyway and she got really angry at me. How dare she treat me this way!”

Timothy was being a victim. He was not taking responsibility for himself at all – instead, he was making his girlfriend responsible for him. When she didn’t do what he wanted, he behaved in a violating and invasive way, and then blamed her for her anger at him. In the session, he wanted my sympathy for how badly he had been treated by her.

Instead, I told him that it was he who was treating himself and her badly. He had created the situation by handing his inner child to her and being invasive with her. Then he was furious at me for my lack of compassion. This is the crazy-making situation where he lacked compassion for himself and was not open to learning, and then pulled on others to give him what he was not giving himself.
On the other hand…

In my session with Sydney, I felt deep empathy and compassion for her heartbreak over the loss of her relationship. Her boyfriend had suddenly left her with no warning, and she was shocked and grieved. However, her intent was to learn rather than to get me to sympathize with her. Through her tears, she wanted to understand how she could have created this situation – again – in her life. I was able to “grok” her – to get completely with her, because, not only was she open to her heartbreak, she was also open to learning about how she could take care of herself and what she could learn from the situation.

The more you learn to truly get present, with a compassionate intent to learn from your feelings, the more you will feel seen and understood – grokked – by others.

Join Dr. Margaret Paul for her 30-Day at-home Course: “Love Yourself: An Inner Bonding Experience to Heal Anxiety, Depression, Shame, Addictions and Relationships.”

Join IBVillage to connect with others and receive compassionate help and support for learning to love yourself.


Comments are closed.