Coping With and Managing Empathy
What We’re all Dealing With
Everyone tends to believe that circumstances are worse now than they’ve ever been. The truth is that this is just not the case. The Holocaust was a great deal worse; WWI or WWII were terrible times, Hiroshima, plagues in history when millions perished — yes there were worse times. Some of us tend to forget the suffering, horrors, and chaos humankind has endured in the past. Some, understandably, will never forget.
Still, the current status of the world is challenging: climate change, mass shootings, pandemics, cancer, war, the economy, the list goes on and on. But human beings are survivors; we are built to come up with solutions and cope with whatever lands in our laps. Positive thinking and a good attitude goes a long way — I’m not saying it’s easy.
Internalizing the Pain Others Are Feeling
No doubt empathy is a double edged sword. Without empathy we are without care or feeling, while with it, we carry the burden of pain. Still, it should not be forgotten that it is usually a lot worse for those experiencing pain or loss first hand. Being supportive of the person(s) in pain by being by their side or letting them know you are there for them, is more productive and healing for all parties. Letting others know how sorry you are by displaying your emotions publicly is usually not helpful.
When my brother passed, my mother could not support the woman who walked out on him. Even if her grief was real and justified, my mother had lost her son and it was my mother I needed to support. Sometimes we forget that empathy means prioritizing your emotional and physical support.
You can also be empathetic toward someone you are not terribly fond of; this is called being compassionate and a good human.
The Lack of Empathy Around Us
The term “thoughts and prayers” has been troubling me lately. To tell grieving parents that your thoughts and prayers are with them is hypocritical in some situations and most can see right through hypocrites. How could someone who supports the purchasing of firearms without a background check, be empathetic? There are so many clear examples of the use of religion or laws to justify a lack of empathy for others.
This idea of showing strength and keeping your emotions hidden, is nonsense. Being strong when others need you is essential; however, being stoic and without emotion makes those around you skeptical of your ability to understand their pain. As with all things balance is key.
Unfortunately, some people lack the ability to feel empathy; these individuals are broken and in need of therapy or some other means of awakening their emotions.
- I hate to suggest this, but I firmly believe that sometimes the only way to deal with something is to turn it off (not deal with it).
- Thinking about the worst case scenario. Not always, but sometimes, reality is less harsh.
- Be good to yourself — do something nice for yourself.
- Extend your sympathy to the person who is most affected.
- Guilt is a horrible thing to feel and it is usually unwarranted. Survivor remorse or guilt is a very real feeling and for some, it is just as hard to deal with as if the tragedy happened directly to them. One way to deal with guilt is to talk it out with a friend. An objective point of view can be helpful. Knowing that the passing of time often makes things a bit easier, is useful knowledge to be aware of.
- Find peace in knowing that empathy is so much more positive than a lack thereof.
- Putting your thoughts and feelings in writing.
Do you have ways of coping with empathy on steroids? Please share.
How do you tell someone that they lack empathy? The $10,000 question.
This three month break from travel has been exactly what I needed. Too much of a good thing and all that jazz. No need for further explanation.
South Florida in four weeks, then Nantes and Pornic, France, Liverpool, England, and Marseilles, France (first time). Other trips planned for later in the year. More next blog. I’m learning to spread my trips apart and appreciate them more.
Many things help us to cope as we navigate the day-to-day. I find two things very useful. The first is gratitude; thanking the universe for the many things we have to be grateful for: good health, friends, family, travel, having means, the weather, etc. The second thing that helps me prepare for the day and keeps me physically and mentally healthy, is exercise. For me it’s a trip to the gym five or six days a week. I’ve been participating in this daily routine for over 40 years; although it is not a cure-all, it sure does check a lot of good health boxes. Just be grateful that you have a heart and the ability to feel.
How to Be More Empathetic, NY Times, “A Year of Better Living,” Claire Cain Miller.
A question, I thought I should address, came up this week: How do you choose your topics? I do not spend a lot of time thinking about what to write. I usually open up my laptop when it’s quiet and I have no plans. I look at a blank blog page, click “write” and I begin to type. My guess is that the topic has been swirling around my brain the night or day before I write, but I’m not fully conscious of it.
Occasionally, a topic will come up at a table of friends during a meal.
I mostly write to sort things out in my head. I’ve learned that a combination or journaling and blogging clears my mind so that I can enjoy the moments that matter.
“Writing, to me, is simply thinking through my fingers.”
— Isaac Asimov