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JourneyFan
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29 Dec 2021, 5:00 pm

I feel there is something missing in my brain. I have an enormous amount of empathy generally, but when it comes to family members getting sick etc, I cannot feel anything. My husband was sick two days ago (stomach pain, vomiting etc) and I just wanted it to be over because it was boring to me.
I also remember as a child feeling the same for my mother if she was ever sick. I feel anger towards them instead of sympathy/empathy.
Is this common with ASD? Or is it some kind of sociopathy? I worry this is ever so narcissistic of me.

Just an example of how much empathy I usually have: my son recently told me about a blind woman who he witnessed walking into a lamp post, this made me really upset and I almost started crying. I think some people would find that funny but to me, it was heartbreaking. Perhaps my empathy levels are unstable....



Joe90
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29 Dec 2021, 6:02 pm

Just sounds like you lack sympathy more than empathy. I used to lack sympathy when my loved ones caught colds, but I was aware that I was lacking sympathy, I just lacked it because I didn't want to catch it so I got angry instead. I didn't really mean it. I should have been more sympathetic.


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Haverish
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29 Dec 2021, 6:09 pm

I'm not sure what causes that, but I definitely relate to this. I'm generally a very empathetic person on an intellectual level, but I am not willing or able to absorb other people's problems and feel them emotionally myself; they just don't make it through my barrier. Personally, I have theorized that I do this because I have such a hard time dealing with my own mental issues I don't have any room left to really experience and empathize with other people's problems. The old "pouring from an empty pitcher" analogy.

Another possibility is blocking the pain of experiencing what others are struggling with as a defense mechanism. I have several relatives that experience chronic pain, and I know I won't ever be able to resolve or reverse that process for them, so logically I try to avoid thinking about it when I am with them. If I allowed myself to really empathize with what they are going through it would overwhelm me and would trigger immense depression, as their problem doesn't have a "solution".

Not sure if you can relate to any of that.



IsabellaLinton
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29 Dec 2021, 6:16 pm

I'm wondering how those people treat you when you're sick. It's possible that you're actually feeling a bit of resentment, if they expect compassion but don't show the same to you. I've had that happen with some friends / family who expect the world to stop when they're sick, but they have never (rarely) done anything to help me. Just a thought of course, as maybe that doesn't apply for you.

I also wonder if their illness increases your workload, either emotionally or practically, and it's tiring for you? Showing or demonstrating empathy in real time can be tiring. Caring for them is also tiring. You didn't know the blind woman so you had no obligation to demonstrate empathy directly to her, or do anything for her. Chances are you don't have any resentment about her not helping you, or showing compassion to you, in the past.

It's possible to have tons of empathy as an autistic person, but expressing it and becoming exhausted are very real possibilities too.



JourneyFan
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29 Dec 2021, 6:25 pm

Joe90 wrote:
Just sounds like you lack sympathy more than empathy. I used to lack sympathy when my loved ones caught colds, but I was aware that I was lacking sympathy, I just lacked it because I didn't want to catch it so I got angry instead. I didn't really mean it. I should have been more sympathetic.


Ah ok. I don't really understand the difference between the two. I have looked it up and perhaps you are right - or perhaps it is both... I don't like to catch illness, however I have now developed mild covid symptoms and have to go for a test tomorrow. So far I am feeling more fatigue than anything else.



JourneyFan
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29 Dec 2021, 6:30 pm

Haverish wrote:
I'm not sure what causes that, but I definitely relate to this. I'm generally a very empathetic person on an intellectual level, but I am not willing or able to absorb other people's problems and feel them emotionally myself; they just don't make it through my barrier. Personally, I have theorized that I do this because I have such a hard time dealing with my own mental issues I don't have any room left to really experience and empathize with other people's problems. The old "pouring from an empty pitcher" analogy.

Another possibility is blocking the pain of experiencing what others are struggling with as a defense mechanism. I have several relatives that experience chronic pain, and I know I won't ever be able to resolve or reverse that process for them, so logically I try to avoid thinking about it when I am with them. If I allowed myself to really empathize with what they are going through it would overwhelm me and would trigger immense depression, as their problem doesn't have a "solution".

Not sure if you can relate to any of that.


It definitely could be the latter. I hadn't thought about that. I like to understand my own feelings and will often sit and theorise or make sense of my actions. This one has never really bothered me until now, because right now I am analysing my every action as I believe it may help with my upcoming assessment.



JourneyFan
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29 Dec 2021, 6:33 pm

IsabellaLinton wrote:
I'm wondering how those people treat you when you're sick. It's possible that you're actually feeling a bit of resentment, if they expect compassion but don't show the same to you. I've had that happen with some friends / family who expect the world to stop when they're sick, but they have never (rarely) done anything to help me. Just a thought of course, as maybe that doesn't apply for you.

I also wonder if their illness increases your workload, either emotionally or practically, and it's tiring for you? Showing or demonstrating empathy in real time can be tiring. Caring for them is also tiring. You didn't know the blind woman so you had no obligation to demonstrate empathy directly to her, or do anything for her. Chances are you don't have any resentment about her not helping you, or showing compassion to you, in the past.

It's possible to have tons of empathy as an autistic person, but expressing it and becoming exhausted are very real possibilities too.


My mum was always amazing when I was sick as a child. My husband is the same now - he will go and get me painkillers, drinks etc if I need them. So it definitely is nothing to do with resentment.



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29 Dec 2021, 6:39 pm

I just read that we can turn empathy on and off, not like a light switch more like a dimmer switch. I have some brutal memories that show my lack of empathy. If you are in the "why am I not feeling anything" mode that is a single focus of the self which turns off the double-focus required for empathy with another.

So caring for family put you into the single mindness but listening to the blind woman story allowed you to double-focus.

Or sumthing.



Last edited by txfz1 on 29 Dec 2021, 6:48 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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29 Dec 2021, 6:45 pm

I don't know how what I feel compares with what the average person feels when a family member is ill. People aren't likely to admit that they don't feel the utmost sympathy. I don't feel the utmost sympathy, but I do feel something. I suspect selfish feelings about how awkward they are becoming sick and messing things up for you, may be fairly normal. But I don't see that it matters much as long as it doesn't lead to bad behaviour. I try to be of practical help when somebody is sick, if I think I can be of any particular use. I don't much like it clashing with what I wanted to do for myself, so I might grumble inside a bit, but I keep that to myself. I've read that bereaved people often feel a lot of anger against their dead loved one for leaving them, and that they also feel very guilty about it, which is kind of understandable emotionally, though not logically.

Coincidentally enough, my wife's mother is currently in a lot of trouble with terminal cancer. I feel sympathy and it makes me sad to think of what she's going through, and what's happening to her father. But I won't pretend all my feelings are charitable. It's turned our life upside down and it looks like the saga could run and run. Of course if I expressed my resentment to those concerned it could only do harm. I know perfectly well it's not their fault.

I think it might take autistic people more time to come to terms with a loved one going through a tragedy that overturns plans. When my father died it was maybe half an hour before I got it through my head why people had interrupted my day to tell me, when I had things to do.



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29 Dec 2021, 7:52 pm

IsabellaLinton wrote:
I also wonder if their illness increases your workload, either emotionally or practically, and it's tiring for you? Showing or demonstrating empathy in real time can be tiring. Caring for them is also tiring. You didn't know the blind woman so you had no obligation to demonstrate empathy directly to her, or do anything for her. Chances are you don't have any resentment about her not helping you, or showing compassion to you, in the past.

It's possible to have tons of empathy as an autistic person, but expressing it and becoming exhausted are very real possibilities too.


Incredibly good explanation. When people are sick or otherwise express distress, I feel like I'm expected to react to it somehow. I almost feel like I'm manipulated, made to feel something against my will.

At the same time I feel very sorry for everything/everyone that/who are not expressing their distress. Starting with broken things, abandoned toys, and ending with people who have been given less than others and struggle alone without complaining.



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29 Dec 2021, 7:59 pm

I will be very unsympathetic if I have to be stuck in a room with them, no space from their presence and rest in between for myself.

Otherwise...?
I won't express any sympathy. I just don't, no matter how I feel about it.
It'll feel insincere if I do it 'politely'.


And empathic??
I wish I'm not. It'll mean another numerous workload to regulate and manage on top of already many subtle things.


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CurrerBell
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31 Dec 2021, 6:19 pm

I find I become more sympathetic to those who are ill as I get older. When I was younger, I couldn’t really understand what they were going through. But with age and wider experience, I can link their predicaments with similar experiences I have had, and understand them better, which triggers empathy. Anyhow, I think It might have to do with theory of mind?

I now am very empathetic, but unfortunately, the way I show empathy is by helping with practicalities and giving advice. I still can’t express sympathy in a neurotype cal way. In fact, I can’t stand the NT way of expressing sympathy, seems so shallow and just a rote recitation of stereotyped responses.



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01 Jan 2022, 1:30 am

These days I only lack sympathy for those who are suffering with smoking-related ailments but won't quit smoking.


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y-pod
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01 Jan 2022, 5:59 pm

Is that really a problem? I always thought nobody really cares about sick people. My parents were always annoyed when I got sick. I feel pretty much the same way about anyone who's sick or injured. Like "Oh great now I have to do this and that, and they'll expect more." It's not that I wouldn't do those things, I was too busy worrying about not meeting expectations. My mom has never been warm and caring, but she expects me to be perfect. I don't think she knows even 1/5 of the real me.

Curiously I think I'd make a good doctor because I'm full of advice and solutions. Not being emotionally involved is an important quality for health care workers. What good would it do if I just start crying when i see someone wounded? :D


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Nemesis2k7
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18 Jan 2022, 3:55 am

I understand this. i am also similar. Unless i have "gone through it" myself, or am going through it, i cannot relate to the other person and what they are going through. If they ask me for my assistance, i provide it of course. But the 'feels" that people get for others, just do not come to me. Its a sad part of my existence that i am not proud of. I have been "told off" before, and accused of "not getting it" and i dare say, that is quite accurate. I would make a terrible doctor, i have no bed side manner. Besides acts of service, i would make a lousy Dr.