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

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auntblabby
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11 Jul 2016, 4:26 pm

my empathy, while having improved in the decades I've occupied space on this earth, still is major parts golden-rule.



shadowself
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29 Sep 2017, 9:35 am

I appreciate this topic at this moment because I have been mulling over the same things. Always, the few friends I've had consider me(mostly) compassionate and caring and empathetic. They run things by me because I do not judge them often, I recognize that I really don't "understand" in many cases because I don't have their memories, so I do what I can with what I got. Suddenly, the last few years, it seems like the definition of 'empathy' has changed. Now it's some assortemnt of self-empathy/outwards empathy and if you try too hard to please or help that's actually counter to empathy(???) and if you get caught in the feelings of others because they are being projected at maximum volume, that's not empathy it's over-identification......

Is actual psychology being informed largely by pop psychology now?

I have concluded that I really don't understand empathy, but I know what I mean by it. When someone is feeling anything strongly I usually recognize the driving emotional forces behind their outward emotional expression with some accuracy. It doesn't always clarify why they act the way they do or are doing whatever they are doing, and it rarely helps in knowing what to say or whether to speak at all. That, as I see it, relates to a cognitive difference and not to my own definition of empathy. They care about things a lot that I never will. (ex. fashion, who said what to who about who, prestige as substitute for self-worth, etc.) Many base societal values I cannot engage effectively with internally, and am grateful for that. Maybe that's where this accussation of 'lack of empathy' comes from?


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babybird
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29 Sep 2017, 2:18 pm

I don't really believe in empathy anymore and the more I think about it it just seems to be some kind of phenomenon that's crept in to everyday language over the last few years.

I can never remember people talking about empathy when I was going through the s**t that life's thrown my way. And if empathy does exist then nobody around me back then was blessed with it.

No, as far as I'm concerned, I'm a good listener and I'll do my best to help solve a problem. If I can't help I'll just walk away. I'm not gonna stand there and pretend that I understand how someone feels and to be perfectly honest I don't want to feel someone else's pain.

Anyway that's what I think.


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ToughDiamond
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29 Sep 2017, 4:28 pm

babybird wrote:
I don't really believe in empathy anymore and the more I think about it it just seems to be some kind of phenomenon that's crept in to everyday language over the last few years.

I can never remember people talking about empathy when I was going through the s**t that life's thrown my way. And if empathy does exist then nobody around me back then was blessed with it.

No, as far as I'm concerned, I'm a good listener and I'll do my best to help solve a problem. If I can't help I'll just walk away. I'm not gonna stand there and pretend that I understand how someone feels and to be perfectly honest I don't want to feel someone else's pain.

Anyway that's what I think.


Well said. The word has multiple definitions and I'd prefer it to be replaced by a number of words with clear, specific definitions so that everybody can know what they're talking about.

It's a shame, because when I first saw the word in a therapy book (An Experiment With Empathy) that seemed very promising, it described a method by which a therapist could help people feel better and become healthier mentally, and it made a lot of sense to me. Then I happened to take some psilocybin and it helped me to relate to people until the effect wore off, and I later read that psilocybin is thought by some to be an empathogen, so naturally that was quite exciting for me, but it turned out the word somehow got darkened and obfuscated, and I'm now wary of it.



BassAlien
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29 Sep 2017, 5:40 pm

There is a relatively new theory that autistics actually have too much, rather than not enough, empathy, and that it overwhelms us into non action. I concur.



Conner42
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21 Jun 2018, 1:03 am

Wiktionary's defintion:

1. Identification with or understanding of the thoughts, feelings, or emotional state of another person.

2. Capacity to understand another person's point of view or the result of such understanding.

Considering that a lot of people don't seem to understand my thoughts or feelings or see my point of view, I almost feel like everybody should be autistic if we're going with my experiences.

But, here's a test:

https://psychology-tools.com/empathy-quotient

I got a 15 on here and one of my friends whom I've met online that I really enjoy talking to got an 18. But we seem to understand each other and maybe we disagree on some things but we never judge or criticize each other and we respect each others' points of view.

I sent this test to someone who I thought was pretty rude and inconsiderate with me and took advantage of me in a lot of ways.

She got over 40 and it was one of the highest scores I've seen on it so far.

I think the thing is that there's possibly a "normal" response that people expect over certain things and when people don't respond to something like most people do, it's harder to read that person's emotions so they don't know how to react. My brother and my uncle were both pointing out to me that it was hard to tell what I was thinking or how I was feeling during one of our family dinners and I wasn't sure why that was supposed to be weird.

Full disclosure, I don't know if I have autism and it seems probable that I don't either but I'm still trying to see if I can see someone about this. But, from what I know, I know people can't read each others' minds and (as far as I know), there isn't some sort of spiritual energy that people give off of each other that can make people feel each other's emotions. I think this comes from expectations and how people normally react under given situations so people know how to react accordingly and when it's not normal people don't know what to do about that.

So, most of the time, this lack of empathy, I think, is people saying "you're not reacting in a way I'm expecting you to react so I don't know how to deal with you..."

That's how I see it, at least.

EDIT: I forgot how I found this thread. I just realized it's almost a year old so...oops, haha



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21 Jun 2018, 4:05 am

I scored 61 on the test.


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21 Jun 2018, 6:41 am

And then there are those of us who have hyper -empathy. To the degree that you can't turn it off and it becomes horrendously confusing as to which emotions are whose. I used to think that this would protect me from bullying as I tried to feel sorry for others who are feeling down or who had a problem but this only made me a bigger target for bullying from NTs.

Many NTs would simply not see the effort that I was trying to put in to their problem and would become defensive and quite aggressive as if I was looking for some sort of weakness in them to exploit like their NT friends might. I've had to use the phrase "I'm only trying to help" more than a hundred times in my defense of trying to help them.

I'm in the process of trying to turn this hyper-empathy off because my intent always gets misunderstood.


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21 Jun 2018, 8:54 am

I agree. It is one of the most overused and misused words.



Joe90
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21 Jun 2018, 11:51 am

IstominFan wrote:
I agree. It is one of the most overused and misused words.


Most people (Aspies too) describe empathy as caring, kind, thoughtful and understanding. Those are the words that come to people's minds when hearing or using the word empathy. But if empathy only meant that, then there would be far less bullying and other mean behaviours, and people with differences like autism would be far more understood and less bullied.


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21 Jun 2018, 12:01 pm

Empathy is the ability to understand the thoughts and feelings of people ALMOST AS IF THEY ARE THE PERSON BEING EMPATHIZED.

It's being able to "put one's self in somebody's else's shoes," usually based upon experiencing what that other person has experienced.

I, usually, lack empathy if I haven't experienced something that the person "needs empathy" for. I can "sympathize" pretty well----have a general idea of what the person is experiencing, though.



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21 Jun 2018, 12:32 pm

Joe90 wrote:
But if empathy only meant that, then there would be far less bullying and other mean behaviours

Indeed. I think that people forget that empathy does not necessarily imply compassion, and that the ability to intuit another person's emotional state can be used for both good and bad. Empathy combined with compassion can be the path to mutual support, friendship, love. Without compassion, empathy can be used to assist exploitation and manipulation. In and of itself, the ability to empathise is neutral, it only becomes a positive thing if we choose to use it for good.


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Joe90
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21 Jun 2018, 1:59 pm

Trogluddite wrote:
Joe90 wrote:
But if empathy only meant that, then there would be far less bullying and other mean behaviours

Indeed. I think that people forget that empathy does not necessarily imply compassion, and that the ability to intuit another person's emotional state can be used for both good and bad. Empathy combined with compassion can be the path to mutual support, friendship, love. Without compassion, empathy can be used to assist exploitation and manipulation. In and of itself, the ability to empathise is neutral, it only becomes a positive thing if we choose to use it for good.


Precisely.


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shadowself
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21 Jun 2018, 7:09 pm

It seems as if ND people, especially Aspies, tend to run into the challenge of being very empathic either by nature or by intent and personal effort, however we have different perceptions and needs from NTs in numerous personal and specific ways.

ex. Since I often feel overwhelmed, I am often looking for some space and "free" time - time free from social demands or overtaxing conversation. When I am feeling worn out and down I might draw inwards and sit alone, eat alone(I often prefer to eat alone), read while others chat, etc.. My instinct when someone is clearly worried or feeling down is to give them more space since, logically, they must also be overwhelmed and in need of some alone time, yet somehow that is often the 'wrong answer'; Furthermore, when I do attempt to inquire what's wrong or cheer someone up it can be difficult to know if that is really what they need or if it is a good time to ask. Truly I have no clue how NTs process emotion, but am fairly certain that it must be different from how I do, despite having the same essential feelings. I have no shortage at all of empathy, and know that because with ND peoples I can most often learn to perceive what they need and when, and comprehend why they need certain things, and much less so with NTs. People with dementia, schizophrenia, bipolar and Aspies are all easier for me to get a read on and feel a significant connection with. I am wired differently. 'Wrong Planet' indeed.

It worries me less now than it used to. Now I can see how we are not 'disordered' so much as we are all just not statistically average, thinking at oblique angles to NT reality, perceiving the world through a different lens that assigns value by a different metric.

:)


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21 Jun 2018, 10:40 pm

I must say for me, if I've never had a very specific experience but someone else has, I don't feel I can fully "empathize" because I haven't experienced the same thing. To me that's not lack of "empathy"; to me, that's logical.

Example: I've broken some fingers in my life, but I've never broken a leg. If someone were to tell me she broke her leg, I can obviously assume it must be painful for her, but I don't know how painful. I can therefore only identify to a degree.

Or, if someone were to tell me they lost half of their money in the stock market, I've never purchased stocks and I've never lost half of my money. Of course I can imagine that person would be hurting, but I feel I can't really identify because those things have never happened to me.

On the other hand, I think I can have hyper-empathy if I've experienced something that someone else is experiencing.

Example:

My wife and I were on a dinner cruise some years ago seated at a table with a couple we'd never met (ugh....small talk!! !! !! !). The woman leaned to her partner and told him she wasn't feeling well and put her hands on her stomach. I was utterly preoccupied by her discomfort since I myself have experienced stomach cramping/discomfort in public before. I wanted to ask her how specifically she was feeling or if she needed a bathroom (vomit or diarrhea?) . I had a strong desire (which I did not act upon) to be proactive in trying to help her by asking a boat employee where the nearest bathroom was in order to be able to go back and tell the woman in case she needed to use the bathroom. THE rest of the relatively short dinner cruise my thoughts were dominated by thinking about that woman's discomfort....

I actually think truly empathizing with someone's experience that you yourself have never experienced can't be entirely authentic and therefore on some level, a falsity.

A man can't truly empathize with a woman's pain during childbirth and a woman can't truly empathize with the pain a man experiences by getting kicked in the testicles (I'm not placing the latter on the same level as the former on pain scale).

Maybe I'm not making any sense.....


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