Sunday, December 29, 2013

Power of empathy?

From researcher Brene Brown on the distinction between empathy and sympathy, among other characteristics of empathy:

It's interesting that Brown quotes another scholar, Theresa Wiseman, who studied professions in which empathy is (allegedly) important. Wiseman came up with four main qualities of empathy based on these studies:

  1. Perspective taking (ability to take perspective of another person or recognize their perspective as their truth)
  2. Staying out of judgment (not easy when you enjoy it as much as most of us do)
  3. Recognizing emotion in other people 
  4. Communicating that 
To me, I can say yes to all of those things. I can take people's perspective, as well as other people (maybe better?). I stay out of judgment (no bandwagon angry mob public shaming). I can recognize emotion in other people and communicate it back to them, it's why I am so good at reading and manipulating people. My main problem is recognizing emotion in myself. But Professor Brown then concludes that empathy is "feeling with other people." Ok, maybe that is what it is, or maybe that is what it feels like for most people (whether or not that's even possible or if people are just projecting their own emotions on the empathy target). But if the four main qualities don't include "feeling with other people," is that what is really valuable about empathy? If I can do the other four things, am I basically covering all of the important empathy bases?


  1. You have empathy, you're not a sociopath.


  2. You have what method actors call "instrumental blocks" when it comes to emotions. Practice doing emotional explorations of what you feel in the moment, it could start as slow and simple as "i feel hot right now... Because i am wearing a jacket inside and the heat is up!" and work your way towards more complex stuff. "What do i feel? I feel angry... Because... That person just cut me off in traffic!"

  3. M.E. has finally hit the brick wall that I, and other spiritually astute
    empaths had predicited she would hit: Intellectualism isn't enough!
    M.E. has spend years arguing her cause from an "arm's lengeth"
    perspective. Her arguments work on paper. She might even believe
    that she can bide her time until she becomes deified by God and
    can "safely construct her planets." Aren't Morman's suppost to be
    LATTERDAY SAINTS? M.E., (Like many others) Believes if she can
    only HOLD OUT, she will make it safely over the FINISH LINE.
    I hate to bust M.E.'s bubble, but that's NOT going to happen.
    M.E. is a young (mostly) healthy woman. She needs love NOW. Like
    people need fresh air and sunshine NOW. The year 2070 will NOT
    cut it! Nobody is promised to live to the year 2070. Nobody is even
    promised tomorrow.
    M.E. needs LOVE. She needs God's love of course, but she needs
    human love as well. NOT what passes for human love. She needs an
    individual that seeks the Kingdom of God and concentrates on
    spiritual health. She needs a person who has become symbolically
    "Born Again." Not necessisarly a Born Again Christian per se, but a
    person who places spiritual proieties first. M.E. must find an esoteric
    school and interact and learn with the other people in that school.
    True, it will be nessary for M.E. to "give up" and "unlearn" many false
    beliefs, but once she purifies herself she will find her co-equal
    "significant other," and the two will live in spiritual bliss.

    1. What are you on about.

    2. I concur with anon 2:36! We should all hold hands together, sing "Kumbaya", pick flowers, and dance all day, only then can we be free and leave our mortal shells, for we shall truly connect with each other, not as meaningless organisms, but as souls equal to one another! We shall then all intertwine with one another, our energies twirling and dancing together in eternal harmonius embrace! Kumbaya, Lord, kumbayaaaaa!

  4. TAhaik amE to the paromistttaha lanndddaha :)

  5. ME,

    If your main problem is recognizing emotion in yourself, by the definition of empathy you list, that has nothing to do with empathy. Empathy is about connecting with others.

    What do you mean by not recognizing emotion in yourself? Does it mean that you don't cry during sad movies? Does it mean that nothing makes you feel happy? Nothing makes you get angry? What does it not recognizing emotion in yourself look like to you? How does it affect your life?

    You tend to make a big deal about empathy, it's definition, who has it and who doesn't, and theory. But you never discuss or explain what it is about your life that you would like to change; what's not working for you using specific examples. Maybe instead of talking about scholars and theory share something about your life that's not working for you or that you would like to change.

    If you want to propose a new theory of empathy, keep researching theorists and talking about scholarly literature. If you want to bring about change in your life, starting talking about what you want to change. What you focus on you get more of.


  6. I was struck by your (ME's) apparent realization that ruining people because they committed a singular offense was perhaps short sighted given the dynamic nature of human experience/personality/behavior.

    At the risk of over interpreting one data point, it appears to me that you (ME) seem to have located an important point of reference for social behavior. You've made no secret of the fact that you began this blog partially for the purposes of self exploration. Over these last 7 months, I have watched you explore numerous topics related to understanding your own humanity. Through that process it seems that you have acquired an awareness of the humanity of others who are wired differently from you.

    While I feel completely unqualified to speak in diagnostic terms about the state of your mind or your soul, I see you as a person who has unflinchingly faced her dark side, and in doing so, has developed the capacity to stop the binary thinking that allows sociopaths and borderlines to treat others with utter ruthlessness.

    You also seem to have a well developed "theory of mind"- something that those high on the autistic spectrum can not grasp. By that I mean that you are capable of putting yourself in someone else's shoes and using that information to discern their motivation.

    Whether you have or are on the path to having a neurotypical experience of empathy seems beside the point. What matters is that in making peace with your own dark side, you seem to have located your humanity. By turning the spotlight to your own conflicts, you escape the hamster wheel of an external locus of control that allows you to blame others for whatever hardships you have experienced. In doing that, you are free to walk away from the self sabotage of singular self interest.

    In short- you've found your humanity. By that I mean you understand that you are one of many different beings who exist within an interconnected web. Nobody acts in a vacuum. The sociopathic trap is to think that each negative action they take will not have a ripple effect that will likely return to them in some manner down the road because of the nature of the web.

    Instead of jumping webs to try and start fresh, you seem to have worked backwards to finding your own capacity to recognize the intrinsic dignity and value of each life. That's not to say you've become warm and fuzzy (not likely)- but rather that you recognize the complexity of each human experience makes the action of "ruining" someone because of how you feel in the moment a dicey proposition.

    Game theory has provided an excellent lens for intellectually understanding why cooperative and altruistic behavior is in your best interest. Your lack of self righteous moralizing forced you to find a different line of reasoning to justify prosocial action. But you seem to have located a powerful reason to treat others with care.

    Your insights enable you to act in a way that maintain your social ties so you have the key to transcending the suffering your previous self sabotaging actions brought. Who cares how you got there? While I'm wired differently than you are, I find your logic and cognitive empathy to be far more palatable than the moralizing and sentiment of people who have considered themselves "empathetic" and therefore morally superior to you.

    In the end, your life will be an amalgam of the consequences of the actions you have chosen. You have the tools to stop self sabotaging. And I daresay, you have helped many people through your willingness to be vulnerable as you explored how to access those tools.

  7. I have a similar problem. I think maybe what it comes down to is the part where we all take credit for the experience. And that's something I have a hard time with. But yes we have covered all the bases all that's left is to get whats ours.

  8. Hi Carlos. Can you explain what u mean "we all take credit for the experience"

  9. Thich Nhat Hanh is clear: a doctor does not need to feel the patient's pain to help. Just recognize what needs to be done and do it. That is real compassion (upekha).

  10. one of 7 billion people on the planet. above it all. none of this matters,it's all an illusion.

  11. Yeah, but we still breathe. So it does matter. It really really matters what illusions we keep and which we discard, and which ones we might pick back up again.

    We grow. Everything effects the next moment. So now really matters.

    Nothing matters when you have no more habits to get into, when there is no "want".

  12. Interesting that she said that empathy is a choice, I thought it was an inherent characteristic. It's also my understanding that there are 3 types of empathy:


    1. Mmm, that's the biggest thing I took away from that video- the empathy being a choice thing. Though I know that some choices are easier for people. Violence is a choice as well (though not on the same level as empathy) and some people have it in them to be more violent than others.

      I've always thought that I had an empathy-cap. Like I could give out only so much per day or per week and then the rest of the time I'm just giving the person what they want to hear. Which is usually enabling them, but is a lot less stressful than calling them out on any self-pity or irrationality.

      So if what she said is completely true, than there would just the question of who could be empathetic (apparently everyone), how genuine, and to what degree.

      Or not. I'm no doctor.

  13. If that is all that empathy is and empathy is all that is required to be an empath, then every sociopath is a more in tune empath than most "textbook" empaths. However, I doubt that either of those conditions are true, therefore I can claim with confidence that the conclusion is not.

    What if empathy were expanded to include caring about others with seeking nothing immediate in return? This would not be inconsistent with sociopathy, as a short term payout is a long term investment. What then? If you say you treat people in no such way, I would have to call you a liar. You choose your friends because you believe they will be good friends, or at least they fulfill some end of a transaction that you desire and they feel the same about you. In the end, you are both hedonistic, and it is not the level of it that matters, but rather, the shape. Even then, how it matters is a topic for debate that I have no marketable transaction on the table to do so right now.



    1. Basically in giving something without wanting anything in return, you get even MORE in return.

    2. Carlos,

      Why would someone give without wanting anything in return? I propose to you that none do, but I would be interested to hear your perspective on this.



  14. I think maybe the difference between empathy and sympathy is that people believe empathy. They don't believe sympathy, n'or do they want sympathy.

  15. Well that was massively wet, very informative though.

  16. Is it normal that I feel absolutely horrible all of the time? I mean, I dont feel any positive emotions, really; I do acknowledge that I am completely devoid of them... I am 17 and although my emotions are shallow, I only care about myself, and cannot love anyone, I yearn to. I yearn to have a meaningful relationship. I am very selective with friends, and have some very loyal ones, but I do not love nor care for them. I could lose them and the only thing that would bother me a bit would be having to find new people to sit with during lunch. I am spontaneous but for some things I like consistency (or convenience). I am very good at making "friends" and have many acquaintances. I am respected and admired by most of my peers and teachers because of my ability to innovate, lead, and at the same time work alone and progress very quickly. I just have no interest in (almost) anyone. Most of my life has consisted of making a single friend, getting to know them inside and out, and then switching to a new one the next year, being completely oblivious (or indifferent) to the damage I cause when I just stop associating with them for seemingly no reason. This year I met a person whom I found myself growing attached to. I found her intriguing, but I had met her online. She seemed very fascinated in me also, and we texted very often. She was a very enthralling individual and I have never found myself saying that about anyone. She brought out many of my tender qualities and soon I found myself opening up about my thoughts to her. I stopped lying and I was ready to call her on the phone, facetime, and even meet up. However, by that time she had already moved on I guess. Our friendship was deteriorating fast and I was growing green. It was out of my control and that drove me nuts. We are no longer on speaking terms, but I do admit I stalked her a bit. No bad intentions, but just to feel more connected. I even made "friends" with some of her friends, but nothing serious. I grew tired of them and I yearned for her even more. The last and most desperate attempt to feel connected to her was to start talking to her fraternal twin brother. I began to snapchat him, him only knowing that I knew his sister and I lived in a different state. He didnt seem to mind, because the first thing I had proposed was to sext. I honestly dont know what was going through my head. He was very similar to his sister, and he sometimes sent pictures of her in the daytime as snapchats, so that is what kept me hooked. An eye for an eye, so I continued to exchange pictures at night to get pictures (sometimes of her) in the morning. And it kept me connected; it kept me in control. He says he really likes me and he loves talking to me, and the pictures are just a bonus, and not the only reason he talks to me. I dont care for him, honestly, but they are in Hawaii now and he has been sending tons of videos of her and stuff. I need to get over her, I know, but I feel as I can only get over it if I meet her. I dont understand what it is that I am feeling, but I do know that here is the only place I can talk openly about what is currently going on in my life without being given the reputation of "psycho".

  17. Sociopaths can be "absorbed" by laugh attacks?

    One person laughs, then another person laughs because the other person was laughing (because he/she was absorbing other people's emotion state and not because of the joke itself).
    I think these situations are interesting to observe emotional empathy in action.


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