At a funeral I am unable to maintain my composure. When I grieve I feel overwhelming, debilitating pain. At those time I look at "normal" people being stoically sad, and I feel that they are callous. I see a chasm between myself and the mass of humanity who has so much less passion and so feels sadness, happiness, and pleasure in much smaller amounts than I.The psychologist responds:
[T]he excessive emotionality you describe in yourself is not what I would call empathy at all. As I understand it, empathy is the entirely normal and usual human ability to tune in to the feelings of others as if feeling them oneself. That is all. Empathy really has nothing to do with the exaggerated grieving you describe. When the grief is yours, and you feel great pain, that is not empathy, but self-pity, for, as I say, empathy means tuning in on the feelings of another person, not experiencing your own feelings more deeply than you assume that others do. I say "assume," for, based on your letter, I do not think that you really know much about what others feel—you seem to be too wrapped up in your own emotional world really to comprehend the inner experiences of other humans. Since I do not know you personally, I could be mistaken about this, but I do not think so.The psychologist goes on to whine about the horrors of war, blah blah blah. The father, caught redhanded in his self-deceived web of lies, starts backpedaling, replying in the most bizarre fashion that he made it all up, with additional sociopaths-are-evil rhetoric thrown in for good measure:
To me, a high level of emotional capacity would not mean being overwhelmed by emotions, but quite the opposite. To me, it would mean being able to experience and contain a wide range of emotions of various kinds without being overwhelmed by them. And, sorry to say, I must agree with you that your attitude does have the aroma of ego-mania as you said of yourself. In fact, an egomaniac, which you say you are, is the opposite of an empathic person: the egomaniac is all wrapped up in himself and his own feelings; the empathic person constantly relates to the feelings and concerns of others as well as his or her own. I agree with you also that you are objectifying your fellow humans in a rather strange way, which also is quite the opposite of empathy since empathy, in its purest form, sees no gap between self and others. In other words, the empathic person does not objectify others, but experiences, second-hand of course, their subjectivity.
You had previously stated that it is difficult or impossible for a therapist to empathize with a sociopath. You are right. It is also impossible for me to do so. As you stated the theories which I presented are garbage.According to the father, he was just "testing" the psychologist to see whether he would really be a suitable therapist for the son. Having obviously failed the test, the father asks for a recommendation of someone more qualified:
What I was really trying to ascertain was whether you would be able to provide therapy for my son. Whether you would be able to win his trust and some modicum of respect from him.
I am sorry that I had to fabricate this nonsense about the existence of "empaths," lump yourself and myself in that category, and then add Genghis Khan and Hitler to the group for good measure. That was a little excessive, but necessary for me to ascertain your ability to deal with morally and emotionally challenging statements that are reasonably well articulated. That is nothing compared to what my son would say to you in sessions! He is much smarter than I am, and exhibits a level of callousness that would make your blood run cold!
If you have any recommendations on how I can find someone who can provide therapy for my son I would be deeply grateful. I believe that person should possess remarkable levels of emotional intelligence, incredible levels of objectivity, and be a phenomenal critical thinker (able to look beyond the 1st, 2nd and 3rd levels of communication). I know that is a tall order, but my son will be able to fool anyone who does not posses these traits, and he will not respect them.The psychologist, to his discredit, believes the father implicitly, apologizes profusely while justifying himself, "A good therapist can go very much deeper in a face to face conversation--body language, tone of voice, facial expressions, feelings in the room, etc., all speak volumes—but anybody can hide behind words on a page as you did. . . . The problem is not one of an intelligence gap as you seem to think—despite your little experiment I am notoriously hard to fool tete-a-tete." Are people really this easy to fool? I mean, I know they are, but the psychologist knew the father was off from the first letter, and the proffered excuse was so flimsy! I know I always hate on narcissists, but really guys? This is the best you can do? I guess there's no reason to do more when there is apparently no need. Still, what a hack job. And I say "allegedly sociopathic son," but speaking from experience as the child of a narcissist, I wouldn't be surprised if the son was actually a sociopath.
So many disturbing things about this exchange, but I guess those are the highlights. Sigh.