Friday, October 24, 2014

More on compassion

These two comments as a little bit of a follow up on empathy and compassion discussion:

why is it that so many empaths expect the sociopath to unfailingly feel things the way they do, no matter how much effort is required, yet are unwilling to put the same amount of effort into managing their own emotions? 


to me compassion feels expansive, like a feeling of connectedness where no one is better or worse than you, a feeling where we're all in it together... just like a drug high but without the drugs. compassion makes me want to paint or write, create art. or freely give you money as if i'm giving it to myself. and that's cool 'cause we're one. : )

empathy feels tight and urgent, like a toothache. it's personal, in its own tight little space, and more about filling my needs even though i'm actively filling yours. i may be feeling with you, but not WHAT you're feeling. and the whole point is to calm my own feelings. if i give you money, it's because things aren't okay and i'm hoping the money will change that. empathy that has no outlet just makes me want to get drunk. 


  1. I think the Buddhists nail compassion.

    Empathy - aren't there a few kinds? Cognitive (doable) Affective (NOT!).

    1. Buddhists "nail" nothing. I am an empiricist. I exist. You may exist. I can't walk through walls. You can't walk through walls. You can't "nail" compassion to a real wall with an imaginary nail.

      We are social animals who became self aware and realized our mortality. It is what it is. I am 70 years old. I will cease to exist within the next ten years or so. I am in fairly good shape, but my back hurts, so I am going to the chiropractor and he will "adjust" my back and I will feel a little better. For a while. I am sure there are "Buddhist chiropractors." Ah! The web is marvelous. Here is Dr. Ricky Fishman in San Francisco, indeed a Buddhist chiropractor. I don't know him. I am not recommending for him or against him. I have nothing to gain or lose. He's either competent or not. If you live in Puget Sound and want to know the name of my current chiropractor, who seems reasonably competent (and I guess is not a Buddhist), post a request here and we can figure out a way to communicate with disposable email accounts and I will let you know. This advice is worth what you are paying for it. Buddhism, like all other mystical beliefs, is bullshit. BELIEVE!!

  2. I really don't think there is such a thing as Sociopathy. Psychopathy yes,
    because, if all intents and purposes, Psychopathy is a BRAIN disorder.
    Sociopathy is a PERSONALITY disorder-a state of mind.
    The Sociopath may have been "abused," but that doesn't account for their
    behavior. Abuse, in and of itself, is not the "cause." I think it's more like
    personality type itself. Some people are born more, extraverted, naracistic,
    risk taking and non empathic then others. Some have theorized that the brain
    is responsible for these differences but not to the same extent as a Psychopath.
    These folks CAN function within the margins of society, but ocassionally
    "spillover" occurs and they find themselves in trouble. They are probably the
    'SP" types on the Myers Briggs, or numbers 3, 7, 8 on the Ennagram.
    The maniacts of recent days, who are attacking cops and soldiers are probably
    Ennagram 5's.

    1. "The Sociopath may have been "abused," but that doesn't account for their

      I think it's an important factor (but not the only factor). Maltreatment affects brain structure and behavior. For example, a study recently published in the American Journal of Psychiatry has found an association between child abuse and the reduction of gray matter in the right orbitofrontal/superior temporal gyrus, amygdala, the parahippocampal and middle temporal gyri and the left inferior frontal and post central gyri and larger gray matter volumes in the right superior frontal and left middle occipital gyri. (Lim L, Radua J, Rubia K., 2014).

    2. "I really don't think there is such a thing as Sociopathy."

      Psychopathy is, at its most basic level, a brain disorder, yes. but then surely, like most brain disorders, it is not here or there situation, but rather a graduating series of severity of the disorder. what many people think of as 'psychopaths' are probably the death row inmates. and these people are most likely at the extreme end of the spectrum. think about as one would autism. you get differing levels and severities of it. the term 'sociopath' is merely used to clump together a range of people on this psychopathic spectrum. I agree that sociopathy is a personality disorder. but so is psychopathy. the difference is we know (or have an idea) of what causes psychopathy.

      this psychopathy scale is basically a measure of the different 'traits' of psychopathy. psychopaths lack a moral compass; they simply do not understand the difference between 'right' and 'wrong'. a sociopath, it could be argued, is a psychopath who has made their own compass, through the observation of others. we understand what is 'right' and 'wrong'. we may not feel it in the same way an empathy would, or make the decision for the same reason, but we recognise that there is a 'right' or 'wrong' option. we just don't always feel inclined to chose the 'right' one.

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  5. "why is it that so many empaths expect the sociopath to unfailingly feel things the way they do, no matter how much effort is required, yet are unwilling to put the same amount of effort into managing their own emotions?"

    Because managing one's emotions in this manner makes one look like a sociopath.

  6. The world exists. I exist. I tentatively assume you exist because pixels appear on the screen of my computer and I imagine a man or woman sitting at a computer and typing nonsense in a way very similar to what I am doing right now. In a few minutes my wife is going in for her acupuncture treatment and I am going in for my chiropractic treatment because we are getting old and suffering more pain. We prevent, we treat, we alleviate, we prepare to die. My wife is empathic. I am quasi sociopath. I horrify my wife if I reveal my “true” self to blatantly, so I usually hide it. Last night I slipped a little. Metaphorically, the floor creaked like there was a rotten board that would plunge us into the abyss. I quickly backed away. I get relief by talking to you scumbags and rats with shitty asses who populate this web site. Come near me and I will . . . call 911. Or worse. You entertain me. You amuse me. Unfortunately, you exist. As do I. Go jump in the lake or lie down on the train tracks or jump off a cliff, leaving the mess for someone else to clean up. Eventually, we humans will die, leaving our planet a mess for the rats and starlings and coyotes to clean up.

  7. Replies
    1. What is that supposed to mean?

      Four varieties of taste the ancients said: sweet, sour, salty, and bitter. So one of four makes me fairly normal. Then there's umani, just discovered and invented. So I am fairly normal, though I don't quite fit? Can you come up with a new category for me?

      Not very likely. You haven't even taken the first step to stop being anonymous. M.E. did that much with Dr. Phil. I add just enough bitter to make this blog tasty.

    2. "What is that supposed to mean?" one anons view means whatever you want it to mean.

      "I add just enough bitter to make this blog tasty." for whom?

  8. I like this from the Buddhist text:

    These four — love, compassion, sympathetic joy and equanimity — are also known as the boundless states (appamañña), because, in their perfection and their true nature, they should not be narrowed by any limitation as to the range of beings towards whom they are extended. They should be non-exclusive and impartial, not bound by selective preferences or prejudices. A mind that has attained to that boundlessness of the Brahma-viharas will not harbor any national, racial, religious or class hatred."

    Not limiting the range of compassion means learning to expand it past your own prejudices -- all those unresolved unconscious bits that we project on to Others. Prejudice, being borne of emotion, is irrational and always leads to fear and hate. It takes a brain that can 'contain' the emotional material/dross in a way that leads to transformation to be rid of it, and even then it's always a challenge, popping up in different guises. Compassion gels slowly into purer and purer forms over time, if properly cultivated.

    One thing socios may find interesting is that empaths, if they're honest, will tell you that they 'get off' merging with others, so it's fair to say that when they help others, they are 'helping' themselves to a goodly dose of their own medicine, via drinking in the joy of the person they helped. By helping others, empaths feed their addiction to at-one-ment with other beings.

    1. Buddhism is just another variety of shit and nonsense. Sounds good. Means nothing.

  9. Why do sociopaths think empathy is a big switch that can never be shut off? Not every empath is a gauze skirt, flip-flop wearing, ready to cry at the smell of freshly cut grass teary eyed mess.

    That's not how it works. That's not how any of this works.


    1. You forgot hairy legs.

    2. Beatrice, When my brother and I were about 50 or 60 years younger, I remember us saying, "Thank you, God, for things that sort of work."

      As an atheist, I am not sure how anything works. I am about to celebrate 49 years of marriage. It never really worked, but somehow we've kept it together, even though every year gets a little harder. I just wrote my bright granddaughter (ten years old, very empathic, and very bright) suggesting that she organize our 50th (which comes up in a year, assuming we live that long and don't completely lose our minds). We married in a Unitarian Church in Los Angeles because we were too wimpy to tell her drunken mom who wanted a "church wedding" that we were atheists.

      So, AE, I said to granddaughter (who is a talented and empathic if very introverted bright ten-year-old girl with two mommies in Seattle -- recently married and two daddies in Chicago -- still playing the field but slowing down) I invite you to organize our 50th and preside. over our divorce and remarriage in as unsuitable a spot as can be imagined. After all, this is the future. I am hoping the space aliens will land and be the guests.

    3. "Why do sociopaths think empathy is a big switch that can never be shut off?"

      imagine trying to understand an emotion you've never felt. it is impossible to truly see how the emotion is handled and managed. we can make guesses at it, but we just don't know. it is as simple as that. and the reason that we cant find out? because when one admit that one is a sociopath, people (empaths) distance themselves from us, call us monsters. so we don't admit to this. and we cant ask what empathy feels like, because if we are not sociopaths we should know.

      as to your generalisation of empaths in sociopath eyes, I for one know that is not true. my father is the biggest empathy I know, closely followed by my younger brother. my father is a farmer, grew up on a dairy farm and was a manager in an oil company for 25 years. my brother has represented our country as the captain of his basketball team. neither is a 'typical' empath. I think most sociopaths understand that empaths aren't all "ready to cry at the smell of freshly cut grass teary eyed messes" but we are struggling to understand an emotion we have never felt and the empaths are the ones who are 'forcing' us to.

  10. I think I may have an inkling of an example of emotional empathy - I'm interested to hear feedback - however, it's one that mostly the guys will get: seeing someone getting kicked in the nuts. Most guys will cross their legs and/or otherwise "guard" the family jewels. I've been known to cross my legs in discomfort, anyway - so in that example, it's quite urgent.

    I will let the ladies speak to their version -

    As to compassion, I have to think about that more -

    Happy Weekend!!!

    1. HL: Mirroring on a neuro-physical level. Some studies show that our brains do register the experience of another, unconsciously but powerful. Seeing others in pain sparks synapses, certain reflexes; we imagine what they are going through. The body automatically moves in sync.


    2. I physically feel my knees go weak when somebody I care about approaches a precipice or an area that I perceive as dangerous.

    3. " I've been known to cross my legs in discomfort"

      Yep, you can blame emotional empathy for that.

    4. Hi O&W,

      My typical response when I see people I care about getting close to danger (and I have small children, so...) is to intercede. It's an interesting process - there are "flashes of feelings," but I very quickly numb out and begin to act. My son choking on some food as a baby comes to mind - I go emotionally blank and I begin doing what is needed.

    5. Hi HLHaller, interesting question.

      When I was a kid, I accidently kicked my brother in the testicles during a soccer match. I remember feeling physical discomfort in the chest. I don't have any balls but it hurts anyway, but we probably don't realize exactly how bad it hurts to get hit in the nut.

  11. I would like to take a crack at answering the question: "why is it that so many empaths expect the sociopath to unfailingly feel things the way they do?"
    First I believe many empaths do not understand on an emotional level what a sociopath is and how he thinks. This was certainly my case a few years back. We may know about sociopathy cognitively, but it is not enough. In my mind, you have to be exposed to a sociopath for quite a while and even perhaps suffer because of it to fully grasp the concept. It is foreign. Somebody mentioned that this site was their "Hogwarts" not long ago... how appropriate a parallel. Discovering sociopathy is a paradigm shift. This is one of the main reasons why empaths expects sociopaths to feel things the way they do, i.e. the "usual" way. They don't know any other way.
    Also, it appears that most or all sociopaths wear the proverbial mask quite well. It is after all part of their make up, so to speak. They fake their feelings, and they often can be over the top doing that. That is what makes them charming, but that is also what makes them feel odd when you dig a bit below the surface. Before you dig, you are faced with what you believe is this caring, understanding, perhaps slightly over emotional person. So yes, the empaths will expect the mask to be on all the time. They are shocked and taken aback when it is off. That is when the empath goes from liking the sociopath to despising him. They lose their trust. Human relationships are based on trust, and when we emotionally realize the sociopath can't be trusted, the relationship is usually over. Few empaths can go beyond this and continue liking the sociopath, knowing full well that they are not liked back in the usual way. The empath is liked in the same way as perhaps the sociopath car, his couch or his exercise routine. Again, this is foreign to us. We expect the feelings to be the same inside as the ones being portrayed and we expect to be more important to you than your car after you make us feel that we are a friend or a lover.
    Correct me if I am wrong, but if the mask was off all the time, we would be faced with this autistic, emotionally unresponsive person. Why would you spend time trying to connect to this person? Out if compassion, perhaps? Actually, I am interesting to hear if or under what circumstances a sociopath would spend time trying to connect to an autist.
    I hope I am making sense. I find this very tough to explain.

  12. Not all of us fake our feelings so much. some of us don't care to. if I don't want stuff from you, why should I lie? too much effort.

    i catch myself lying when it benefits me. much of the time I'm content to be honest, callous and unemotional.

    and yes, it is the dishonesty about emotions that bugs me in my sociopath acquaintances. It leads to lack of trust.

  13. Hi O&W,

    It sounds like you see things similarly to Simon Baron-Cohen - namely that what we call sociopathy may be an adapted form of autism. We've "partially" grown past our developmental delays, but we're not really complete people. (I'm not sure I buy in, but I can see his points).

    I think you're on the right track with perspective and trust. However, there are also some problems with how the vast majority of people understand "the empathically challenged" - historically referred to sociopaths and psychopaths and we are scary people - just ask "Hollywood." (to be fair, there have been some better portrayals of late, but...). So, I think there's an element of awareness raising that is needed (and I think underway, thanks in part to M. E.).

    It doesn't help that the APA can't seem to get their collective shit together on this either -

    1. Hi O&W,

      One example of where I run into people on the autism spectrum is work (I'm an engineer). They can be a lot of fun to work with - they are quirky and can look at a problem in ways that would never occur to me. And there is a general lack of malic in my experience that makes them easy to work with.

      So there is at least one pretty common context in which the "two spectrums" might intersect and can make for a "mutually beneficial and satisfying relationship."

    2. Only the Paranoid SurviveOctober 25, 2014 at 5:30 PM

      "And there is a general lack of malic in my experience that makes them easy to work with."
      That's why autistics are easy targets for sociopaths. They are incredibly gullible and easy to manipulate and exploit.

  14. ".... to me compassion feels expansive, like a feeling of connectedness where no one is better or worse than you, a feeling where we're all in it together... just like a drug high but without the drugs. compassion makes me want to paint or write, create art. or freely give you money as if i'm giving it to myself. and that's cool 'cause we're one. : )....."

    Love it. :-) well expressed.

  15. I don't know if it solely depends on empathy or compassion for me. Although those are nice virtues to acquire. But not all have this. Which is ok, we are wired differently with different levels of each. I've met some really nasty empaths and some really nice socios. I've met nasty socios and nice empaths. For me -- it matters if one can take responsibility for their actions and has mannerisms to their personality. That's what matters to me. And we all should acquire those skills to live more peacefully and get along...socio or not. Whatever spectrum one falls on.

  16. " I've met some really nasty empaths"

    Ditto. The nastiness displayed by some empaths is amplified by their self-righteousness.


  17. I like what it says about compassion. Compassion makes me think of when I am in love with myself... It feels like I effortlessly draw power (love/healing power) from a well (satan?).


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