The word ''empathy'' is becoming my worst word

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Joe90
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02 Jul 2015, 9:18 am

Empathy has become a word that gets scattered around a lot, and seems to cause more stigma than needed for Aspies/Autistics. I wish they wouldn't use ''lack empathy'' in the DMSV... whatever it's called, because most people see the word ''empathy'' is a gentle, kind, caring person who will thoughtfully help anyone out and understand others in any given situation and would never want to hurt anybody (emotionally or physically). And is that how you would define the majority of humans today? I don't think so. Yes, there are lots of kind, caring NTs out there. I know a lot, and I feel I can talk to them and feel understood. But I also know a lot of people who don't seem to have any thought or understanding, and don't even have an inkling of what it's like to be in my shoes.

I'm not saying I'm an empathetic expert who can put myself in the shoes of anyone in any situation and care for every person that walks the Earth, because I'm not bigheaded. I make mistakes, just like any normal human being. Sometimes I acknowledge or recognise how somebody feels but know I'm not giving a damn. But I do try to understand, and I would never tease of bully anyone who's different.
The only people I can't have empathy for is murderers and rapists, those sorts of people. I have no idea what is going through their mind, and why they would want to kill or rape innocent people for no reason. Are they proud of themselves after they committed the crime? Do they regret it afterwards? Do they even know they did it?

Anyway, we won't go into murderers and rapists at the moment.
I think the main empathy that the majority of NTs naturally experience is reading/picking up on facial expressions, tone of voice, body language, etc. And also empathy isn't just about what to do when somebody is crying. Some NTs would come and comfort you and feel how you're feeling. Some NTs may stand there awkwardly and not know what to do, but do recognise that the person is crying. Some NTs won't even bother to acknowledge the person who is crying, and would just walk away coldly. But even that doesn't mean they lack empathy.

I just hate seeing that word ''empathy'' on Autism forums. If empathy means understanding, respecting and caring for others, then why does depression and anxiety get so misunderstood? Most people think you can snap out of depression, and get over anxiety. I get told that all the time. But a lot of people really don't know how it feels to feel overwhelmed and anxious of life, and have difficulties coping. But why are we so expected to have empathy for the world around us? Seems such an unfair double standard.


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jk1
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02 Jul 2015, 11:01 am

I know what you mean.

I think the definition of "empathy" is somewhat vague because it encompasses a lot of meanings and many people seem to have their own definition of it. I have even met a course teacher who was mixing up sympathy and empathy.

Any way, I agree with you. Many people actually don't seem to have real empathy. When someone is suffering, most people don't actually feel the pain/whatever, but they actually enjoy talking about it. Most people underestimate other people's suffering. If lacking empathy is a trait of autism, most people in the world are autistic.

Autistic people's inability to read body language etc and respond accordingly seems to be mistaken for "lacking empathy". And this misunderstanding seems to have led to people thinking that autistic people are emotionless/selfish/cold monsters.



Joe90
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04 Jul 2015, 6:45 am

Quote:
I think the definition of "empathy" is somewhat vague because it encompasses a lot of meanings and many people seem to have their own definition of it.


Yes, especially on sites like this.

Quote:
Any way, I agree with you. Many people actually don't seem to have real empathy. When someone is suffering, most people don't actually feel the pain/whatever, but they actually enjoy talking about it. Most people underestimate other people's suffering. If lacking empathy is a trait of autism, most people in the world are autistic.


Quote:
Autistic people's inability to read body language etc and respond accordingly seems to be mistaken for "lacking empathy". And this misunderstanding seems to have led to people thinking that autistic people are emotionless/selfish/cold monsters.


That is what I find most disturbing. It annoys me that whenever I read anything anywhere about AS and Autism, ''lack of empathy'' is always listed as sort of like a key word.


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Ettina
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04 Jul 2015, 2:27 pm

There is a big difference between being able to identify facial expressions and so forth and feeling an emotional response to someone else's circumstances. Those really should not be referred to by the same word.



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06 Jul 2016, 9:01 pm

This is also one of my biggest pet-peeve. Strapping the "lack of empathy" label on folks who are on the autistic spectrum is akin to saying those who wear glasses are smarter than those who don't (And yes... I've heard that stupid comment before.) Just because someone can't grasp all the nuances of social communication, protocol and etiquette, doesn't mean they don't have feelings and can't experience compassion for another fellow human being. Struggling with expressing feelings doesn't equate with a lack of them. They really need to reassess the DMSV definition, in my opinion.


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ToughDiamond
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07 Jul 2016, 4:27 pm

Yup. I'm very suspicious of the way the psychs use the word empathy. It's a great shame because I think it's a very important concept.



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07 Jul 2016, 4:36 pm

A lot of doctors agree with you. In fact, if you read the criteria in the DSM V, the word "empathy" is nowhere to be found. Its not a part of autism, but it is a big part of negative stereotypes about autism. A lot of those are BS.



kraftiekortie
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07 Jul 2016, 4:38 pm

Autistic people are empathetic. There are times when they are "disordered" in how they express it, though.

I've been "disordered" in the way I've expressed my empathy.



ToughDiamond
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07 Jul 2016, 6:16 pm

somanyspoons wrote:
A lot of doctors agree with you. In fact, if you read the criteria in the DSM V, the word "empathy" is nowhere to be found.

That's encouraging. I probably should have said "eggheads" instead of "psychs" in that case. A lot of the research into ASD is peppered with the term "empathy."



somanyspoons
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07 Jul 2016, 9:45 pm

ToughDiamond wrote:
somanyspoons wrote:
A lot of doctors agree with you. In fact, if you read the criteria in the DSM V, the word "empathy" is nowhere to be found.

That's encouraging. I probably should have said "eggheads" instead of "psychs" in that case. A lot of the research into ASD is peppered with the term "empathy."


I'm going to start a study of my own on the subject of why doctors don't have enough empathy to see autistic people for the compassionate people we usually are. Why do you think we put up with you at all? Its not like socializing just comes naturally to us. There's a reason we put forth all this effort to connect with you.



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07 Jul 2016, 10:16 pm

^
I think normal people leave much to be desired in the compassion department. It's pretty rich that they choose to judge us as somehow lacking in "empathy" and social skills.



nurseangela
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07 Jul 2016, 10:27 pm

kraftiekortie wrote:
Autistic people are empathetic. There are times when they are "disordered" in how they express it, though.

I've been "disordered" in the way I've expressed my empathy.


What does that mean?


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nurseangela
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07 Jul 2016, 10:36 pm

I find that I have empathy, but not a lot of sympathy. I don't see where feeling sorry for someone is going to help them. I will maybe have sympathy a few moments with patients and then it is right to fixing why they are feeling the way they are. I'm not the best person to have around if you need hours of consoling. I'm also not good on the receiving end and having someone show sympathy for me. I cry by myself. I see crying as a form of weakness and never really know what to do if someone is needing a lot of comforting support. Women are the most needy I find. They usually just want you to sit down and cry with them and that just isn't me.


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johnnyh
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08 Jul 2016, 3:30 am

Empathy is the ability to see how others feel things THE WAY THEY DO. Many of us have consciences, sympathy, or get very uncomfortable when someone else is in pain in a kneejerk way, but often we just call upon a memory where we experienced something bad and relive it then think "oh they must have felt the same thing". We often actually don't know at all what they feel exactly based on their experiences and their own unique self.


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GarTog
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08 Jul 2016, 3:51 am

The term empathy is bandied about with little or no objective definition. I once asked my tutor (on a counselling course) how it was measured - the garbled response told me all I ever needed to know about the supposed scientific approach of applied psychology.

I have always experienced "uncontrolled empathy" where I have to shut down due to being overwhelmed by the emotional output of others. I am fully aware of their emotions I just cannot process it usefully.

Facial recognition etc is more about something I heard referred to as Emotional Vocabulary - I was tested for this by a Psychologist who had the answers in plain view in front of me - I therefore simply reproduced what I could see (ensuring a couple of mistakes) and stunned them by getting 92% on the test. I then pointed out I had cheated. They didn't believe me until I made him change places at the table...