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Old 06-12-2019, 11:24 AM #1
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Default Empathy

What i'd like to know is whats it like being highly empathetic? Advantages? Disadvantages? And overall, does it benefit you more often than not?

Feel free to add additional thoughts, articles, etc on the subject of empathy unrelated to my questions. Consider this the all encompassing empathy discussion thread.
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Old 06-12-2019, 12:07 PM #2
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Default Re: Empathy

Being empathetic means to feel other people's feelings and often take them on as your own.

For example, attending my Mood Disorder Support Group can be at times painful as I will sense and feel other people's duress. I take these feelings home with me instead of leaving them at the door. Even with my boyfriend's efforts to debrief and fragmentize my upset or even painful feelings do not result in pulling me out of it. The feelings sometimes linger for days - often until a new set of feelings about yet someone else's difficulties take their place.
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Old 06-12-2019, 12:17 PM #3
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Default Re: Empathy

Quote:
Originally Posted by WishfulThinker66 View Post
I take these feelings home with me instead of leaving them at the door.
Intentionally? Can you leave them at the door if you want to? Can you shut them out entirely? What do you do with all these emotions?

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The feelings sometimes linger for days - often until a new set of feelings about yet someone else's difficulties take their place.
How often do you feel nothing?
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Old 06-12-2019, 12:29 PM #4
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Default Re: Empathy

Empathy is definitely not about feeling nothing. That is something more in the avenue of sociopathic thinking. On the contrary empathy is about feeling a great deal about other people - their situations and their feelings. To be empathetic is to feel - and it is other people's joy and duress that one feels.

No, to feel another's emotional pain for instance is not intentional. Empathy cannot be controlled. One cannot choose this situation or that situation to feel for. It just happens uncontrollably. Neither can one simply shut off the feelings. Sometimes they fester and take on greater significance than one's own. Another common trait about empathy is the unfaultering need to make things better. Empathy then often occurs side by side the emotion of frustration and sometimes even anger.

Empathy I am told is admirable. No, I would not wish this upon my fellow man. While having a great understanding of people and there feelings can be advantageous, feeling their emotional agony definitely isn't.
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Old 06-12-2019, 02:58 PM #5
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Default Re: Empathy

my dog is a therapy dog. he feels the weight of the world. if you are upset because of a death, sickness..he is there for you. because he is there, I am there. his reaction makes me slow down and be aware of what is around me. which is good.

when I was working my job required me to remain focused and not get involved at times in people's emotions but to deal with the situation at hand. so I can react that way as well when the situation requires it to be...

it is nice to have the option of both responses now...the dog has opened up a whole new level for me....it's easy to see a child crying and focus on that but with him I am in touch with everything...things I would not even notice before, and that is ok..it's good to be a decent person and help others.
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Old 06-12-2019, 07:44 PM #6
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Default Re: Empathy

Empathy is still a bit of a mystery to me. What I do know is that it's a continuum...people have varying degrees of it. It's also not a case of you either have it or you don't....empathy can be learned....the research supports that. Though the person of course would need to have a desire and openness to learning empathy.

I fall higher on the empathy scale. That can be difficult for me but great for others around me. My work has required a great deal of empathy. I have struggled with 'negative empathy' quite a lot. I think that's the main problem for people who consider themselves "empaths" (though I don't label myself that way)....they have lost the line between empathy and negative empathy.
Negative Empathy / Psychology Today
Negative Empathy | Psychology Today

I also think it's important to point out that empathy, or a higher level of empathy, doesn't make someone "better than" others. It doesn't mean that the person is perfect by any means. We all have our flaws. Sometimes I hear people describe themselves as basically saint-like based on "empathy" and that's a red flag. They are very quick to point out the flaws of others and to avoid any self-analysis. I wouldn't call that empathy though it is a story they are telling themselves.

Similarly, someone with less empathy isn't "bad" or wrong. Someone I love very much is quite a bit lower on the empathy scale from me. But he is a wonderful person. And loving. There are just certain things he cannot relate well to if that makes sense. Or he'll need it broken down very explicitly as to how to respond in a given scenario.

Theoretical, you asked about feeling nothing. Great Q. I often feel empty or numb. My whole life. I am told it is because I have the capacity to feel emotions deeply (and h/o trauma) that my mind starts to numb out a while to protect me. I don't know if I believe that but it's what I was told

And yes, we can of course keep empathy in check provided that we want to. Dr. Gabor Mate has much to say on that subject. He noticed in his research and clinical practice that people who put others' needs before their own are much more likely to get serious diseases or to die at a younger age. He wrote an interesting book: 'When the Body Says No.'

The Need For Authenticity - Gabor Mate
YouTube

Society tends to skew ideas in very reductive ways. There is actually a middle ground between callous individualism and negative empathy or putting everyone else before yourself. Though for many of us, that's not as easy place to find. And yet, well worth the effort! That's one of my new goals...to put myself first.
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Old 06-13-2019, 11:28 AM #7
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Default Re: Empathy

I think empathy can mean a few things. I think if you have had an experience that someone else has had you can almost feel the way they do, good or bad. I think like wishful said you can take on these feelings as your own which is where being mindful comes into play. Feelings are not facts. Feeling someone else's pain or joy does not mean it is our own. Which is why its important to try and remain objective if you can. I think its a true skill when you can feel empathy and not make those feelings your own personal feelings. I am much better with this. For example: My struggles with alcoholism have made me very empathetic to other addicts but not to the point where their feelings or actions control my feelings. This is why I am dedicated to helping other addicts. In the past before I got sober I would be involved in too much of other people's business and that was a problem. Many times it wasn't my business. Its hard to tell the difference sometimes. Empathy is a double edged sword sometimes. You feel these feelings and its hard not to take them on. When I find myself taking them on I need to take a step back and really decide if its worth it for me to be that invested. Its almost like a skill, learning when to let things go. It is hard being very empathetic though because whether you like it or not sometimes these feelings affect you.
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Old 06-13-2019, 11:47 AM #8
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Default Re: Empathy

It feels like absorbing other people's pain. It's overwhelming, which is why I like being alone or in small groups. I've had to learn to consciously put up a shield to keep myself protected. That is the downside.

The upside is that I haven't turned into a monster like my abusers. Being highly empathetic has kept me sane.
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Old 06-13-2019, 12:45 PM #9
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Default Re: Empathy

Question:

are there any folks on PC who are higher on the empathy scale who did NOT experience childhood trauma or abuse?

One idea is that children growing up in abusive homes become acutely aware of other people's emotional states because it helps them to survive and avoid triggering abusive family members. Does that ring true for anyone?

Anyone here who did NOT grow up that way but still feels very high on the empathy scale?
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Old 06-13-2019, 03:15 PM #10
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Default Re: Empathy

Iíd not be able to do what I do for a living if I wasnít empathic person, it would be just very hard. Being able to to feel other peopleís pain and struggles makes it possible for me to help others. No I canít leave my feelings at the door when I leave work. Itís forever with me.

At the same time I am very solution oriented. I helped a lot of people in life in a very serious ways because I provided practical help and suggestions of actual solutions and it made a difference. I donít mope and donít offer empty fake words. Iíve met some people who claimed to be ďempathĒ yet they were the most passive aggressive and mean full of themselves manipulators.

So it could be tricky. For example (very hypothetical ) the person is bleeding. Two people witness it. One goes for stopping blood, getting ambulance etc. Someone else starts moping and sending unicorns and rainbows making themselves feel important. Both perhaps feel empathy. But what people do with it what matters.
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