Learning empathy?
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22-07-2012, 12:51 PM
Learning empathy?
I let it shine through a few times in the past, that I am not good with emotions. My own or other's doesn't matter.

So today I realized something.
As I was watching/listening to all these tradegies... the 911 emergency calls, things about suicide, WTC calls.... The whole time I tried to understand what was going on, and I was very rational about it.
I am also currently reading a book about a girl that has been abducted and ran 8 years later.

Everytime I told my hubby about these things, he seemingly blocked. I felt almost offended by it.
Today I learnt why he blocked.
Today I told him that I had listened to a call of a man inside WTC who called emergendy and died on the phone.
My hubby said "I don't want to listen to that"
I respected that of course.
But I told him I listend to a lot more like that and he asked why I am doing this. He didn't know that I don't feel anything when I listen to it, I don't relate.
He actually asked me if I am a psychopath.
No, I am not.
I have empathy to people through whose situation I have lived myself. And knowing what they are going through, I always want to help.
And these are honest feelings, not faked, not trained to act them well. I have never been standing in front of a mirror, training expressions.
When I cry, I feel like crying and I do it whole heartedly.
Sometimes when I laugh, I do it because it is socially expected from me, sometimes I honestly feel like laughing.
When I experience pain, I really feel it and can express it, and so on. I do have feelings, I really worked so hard on letting them back into my life.
I kinda blocked them in the past as a
protection but this thing with
empathy seems so important, and I just can't. I don't have it.

I can't relate to other people's situations. I will watch them, study them, try to understand them, I just can't. I lack empathy a whole lot. I do not expect empathy, so when it is brought towards me, I am confused.
I don't only lack that for negative situations, but also for positives.

So is there an actual way to learn empathy? I would like to know. I would like to understand people better, be more "normal". Maybe at some point I have a wider range of emotions to draw from, and in that case it might come from alone. But I am not counting on it, so... yeah... Kinda helpless here.
I have reacted completely wrong in many situations due to me not understanding the other person's feelings at all.

Any ideas, hints, help?

"Freedom is the freedom to say that 2+2=4" - George Orwell (in 1984)
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22-07-2012, 01:21 PM
RE: Learning empathy?
(22-07-2012 12:51 PM)Leela Wrote:  So is there an actual way to learn empathy? I would like to know. I would like to understand people better, be more "normal".

Not interested in the whole be more "normal" or understanding people better bit, but empathy comes easy for me, naturally even. I just realize there ain't no fucking difference between any of us. Experience don't make no significant difference, intelligence don't mean dick as difference, appearance don't mean dick as difference, education don't mean dick as difference, wealth and success don't mean dick as difference, gender don't mean dick as difference, sexual preference or identity don't mean dick as difference, beliefs and delusions don't mean dick as difference, whatever we can imagine as being differentiating between us don't mean dick as difference. Elephants, dolphins and whales seem to get this better than we do.

Whenever I hear about a mortal tragedy, I invariably weep. I weep first for myself, I weep second for those left behind who have to deal with it, I weep third for our collective condition. I never weep for the dead.

As it was in the beginning is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.
And I will show you something different from either
Your shadow at morning striding behind you
Or your shadow at evening rising to meet you;
I will show you fear in a handful of dust.
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22-07-2012, 01:47 PM
RE: Learning empathy?
Well I find it difficult to react the wrong way so much, just because of me being unable to relate. And it seems to be so normal and natural to everyone around me... weird

"Freedom is the freedom to say that 2+2=4" - George Orwell (in 1984)
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22-07-2012, 01:53 PM
RE: Learning empathy?
(22-07-2012 01:47 PM)Leela Wrote:  Well I find it difficult to react the wrong way so much, just because of me being unable to relate. And it seems to be so normal and natural to everyone around me... weird

I can empathize with that. ... that's even weirder methinks. Wink

As it was in the beginning is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.
And I will show you something different from either
Your shadow at morning striding behind you
Or your shadow at evening rising to meet you;
I will show you fear in a handful of dust.
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22-07-2012, 02:26 PM
RE: Learning empathy?
I don't think you can learn it, Leela. You can learn how to act like you feel it, but I doubt you can learn how to actually feel it. You will and do learn case by case as you experience similar things, but you really don't want to be murdered so you can empathize with murder victims Tongue

I don't think at all that it makes you a psychpath, but you may look at the various borderline personality categories and you may find yourself there.

Not that it matters much if you are happy and the ones you love are happy and you function well in daily life.

There is a british message board that deals with borderline people and it may be the best way to find out - reading psych publications is often totally misleading because one tends to hook into something that appears to fit without knowing that most of your other traits would contradict that diagnosis.

It is much better to talk with people who feel the same you do.

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22-07-2012, 02:58 PM
RE: Learning empathy?
Dom, you may have a point there. Btw I have actually been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, so it does fit, yes. As I said I have worked hard to let emotions back in, but missing lots of emotions makes it very difficult to emphasize.
If you don't mind, would you pm me that message board?

"Freedom is the freedom to say that 2+2=4" - George Orwell (in 1984)
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22-07-2012, 03:06 PM
RE: Learning empathy?
Leela,
I don't know if my take on empathy is exact but I look at empathy as actually being able to understand what someone is going through because you have experienced the same or something very similar. Sympathy, to me, is more general compassion for what is happening to someone.

Wow, so much for clarity.

Anyway...I had sympathy for women that were diagnosed with breast cancer. From what I had heard, it was a hard thing to go through. Now that I have been there, done that...I empathize with them, I know firsthand how totally your life changes. I can lay out in my mind the steps they will have to go through. I still have sympathy for those that are ravaged by chemo and radiation but since I didn't go that route, I really don't KNOW what they are going through, I can only imagine.

Although you can feel concern about people who suffer an illness, a loss...whatever...you don't really understand what all goes on unless you have been there yourself.

I have seen things you write here on this forum...I don't think you are as cold as you think you are. You give support and encouragement and just because you don't wear your heart on your sleeve, it doesn't mean you don't care. I am right there with you.

Just coming here to ask how to help your mom shows that you have concern for others.

I'm not anti-social. I'm pro-solitude.
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22-07-2012, 03:46 PM
RE: Learning empathy?
Thanks Angie, this is helpful, especially your definition.
On the other hand, I don't have sympathy for a lot of things others go through. I have learnt in the past that whatever it is, it is as bad or good as it is for this person. Everything is very subjective, and things that wouldn't make me happy or sad, will make others very happy or very sad.
So, I guess I lack a lot of both. Empathy itself, I would define it more as being able to feel what another person is going through. Sympathy I think, is more a rational understanding of what is going on and acting accordingly.

"Freedom is the freedom to say that 2+2=4" - George Orwell (in 1984)
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22-07-2012, 04:17 PM
RE: Learning empathy?
I don't think you give yourself enough, credit, Leela. From our interactions through the board, I've found you to be very empathetic to what others are going through. It surprises me whenever you make comments about being unfeeling, because I find you to be very kind and encouraging and concerned about the welfare of others. Give yourself a hug and stop beating yourself up. Smile <3

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22-07-2012, 05:43 PM
RE: Learning empathy?
(22-07-2012 03:46 PM)Leela Wrote:  Thanks Angie, this is helpful, especially your definition.
On the other hand, I don't have sympathy for a lot of things others go through. I have learnt in the past that whatever it is, it is as bad or good as it is for this person. Everything is very subjective, and things that wouldn't make me happy or sad, will make others very happy or very sad.
So, I guess I lack a lot of both. Empathy itself, I would define it more as being able to feel what another person is going through. Sympathy I think, is more a rational understanding of what is going on and acting accordingly.
I often have to stop myself from saying out loud.."Suck it up and move on, shit happens." I am easily frustrated with people that fall apart over things I would have just handled. So, I get it.

We just all aren't the touchy, feely, hearts, flowers, and rainbows type.

That doesn't make us flawed...just different.

I'm not anti-social. I'm pro-solitude.
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