On empathy and its absence…

empathy

One entry found for empathy.

Main Entry: em·pa·thy
Pronunciation: 'em-p&-thE
Function: noun
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.  😦

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About Karen Joy

I'm a partially-homeschooling mother of six -- 3 boys ages 19, 17 and 15 years old, and three girls: 11, 8, and 3. I like birding, reading, writing, organic gardening, singing, playing guitar, hiking, the outdoors, and books. I very casually lead a very large group of homeschooling families in the Phoenix area. I have a dear hubby who designs homes for a local home builder and who is the worship pastor of our church. I live in the desert, which I used to hate, but now appreciate.

Posted on September 21, 2006, in Extended Family Drama/News, Introspective Musings, Sad Things. Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. Hey can I borrow the wording of your mail to your sister? I need to send that to a friend of mine that I managed to hurt. 😦

    We’ve talked before about how alike we are right? 😉

  2. Sure, Amy!!! The blind leading the blind, right?

    Hey, on my blogroll, click on “Mel’s Mundane Meanderings.” She’s not mundane. She’s smart and funny and she lives in Austin! She’s not a homeschooler. Yet. 😉

  3. Thanks! That’s the nicest thing anyone’s said about me in awhile. 🙂

    Although, my current post on my paranoia probably isn’t a good introduction to my blog. Must go write something with some semblance of wit. LOL.

  4. rubber chicken girl

    Now I wanna know what happened!!!

  5. If you like myers-briggs, try enneagram. Much better personality typing. I would venture to guess you’re a 1 or a 5.

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