On empathy and its absence…
One entry found for empathy.
Main Entry: em·pa·thy
Etymology: Greek empatheia, literally, passion, from empathEs emotional, from em- + pathos feelings, emotion — more at PATHOS
1 : the imaginative projection of a subjective state into an object so that the object appears to be infused with it
2 : the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner; also : the capacity for this
I have never been empathic/empathetic. I’m missing that natural bone in my body. That has, at times, been a savior to me, bringing blissful unawareness, protecting me from the ravages of peer-pressure (since I didn’t care what anyone else was doing), and protected me from the ill will of others, which I *VERY* rarely perceive.
However, it can get me in a world of hurt, too, b/c … well, people like you to just “know” what is going on with them, and why they might be hurt by something you have done. But, unless I have the tool, the key to understanding, I’m probably not going to be inherently empathetic to a person or a cause.
That’s why Meyers-Briggs and their work was such a revelation to me, when I first found out about it, about 9 years ago. I used to think that, basically, people were just like me, except that folks had varying levels of intelligence, and different experience. It was *NEWS* to me that people perceive, process, communicate and value all sorts of things differently than others. Having this tool saved my marriage (really), and in many ways, kept me from going crazy regarding my own self.
(BTW, I’m an ISTJ, but not as responsible a one as described on the above link.) I am now in the midst of a… thing with my sister. I had *NO IDEA* she was upset at me, and even with continuing e-mail exchange (I tried to call her, left a message, but she e-mailed me back. That’s OK.), I’m still completely clueless why she’s upset, and the thing that is troubling to me is that this has apparently, unbeknownst to me, been festering for quite some time. We even had — what I thought — was a GREAT phone conversation about 10 days ago.
Here’s my most recent reply to her:
I’m sorry (truly), but I’m really lost. I will heartily admit that I am one-dimensional, and I do not have a naturally empathic bone in my body. So, help me! I really do want to understand the perspective that you’ve adamantly stated that I’m missing. I need tools and explanation. I’ve really never been any good at just figuring it out.
I am *loathe* to hurt or alienate any of our family. But, I am completely relationally dense in the regard of that, when I’ve hurt some one, I need them to tell me, “You’ve hurt me, and here’s how. Here’s why that hurts.”
If you just keep telling me I’m dense and one-dimensional, and that I need to see from a different perspective, I can AGREE with you, but it still won’t help the situation.
So, I need your step-by-step. I’m sorry if that’s frustrating to you, and I’m sorry that I haven’t just “gotten” it on my own, you know, percieved what is happening and done something about it. I’m just *not* perceptive, and I need your bluntness and exactness about what, exactly, the problem is.
If it’s just that you can’t stand my one-dimensional personality, but you have no tools to help me fix that, then…. well, I’m HONESTLY sorry, but I can’t do anything about that, short of some sort of prophetic insight or revelation. I really, honestly, completely don’t have a clue.
This all has made me very, very sad. I’m not angry, I’m not offended, I’m just sad, and feeling very helpless. 😦