Another boring empathy thread (sorry)

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Joe90
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06 Jul 2022, 3:50 pm

I've been reading up a lot on empathy lately, and rather than derailing someone else's thread I thought I'd start my own and share my thoughts and facts on it.

We all know that empathy means a thousand different things and no two people explain it the same way, or if they do they get confused between empathy and sympathy, which I'll get to in a moment.

It's easy to run to the dictionary definition of empathy but even that seems vague in some contexts and if you search for the dictionary definition of lack of empathy you may get something like this:

Quote:
Someone with low empathy may have trouble connecting to other people's circumstances. They may believe that a certain event would never happen to them, or that they could handle the situation “much better.” Because they feel this is the case, they won't be able to understand or feel the other person's distress.


This describes the average human being to me. Most humans, except for excessive empaths (even then they can't empathise with everything) tend to feel empathy better for situations they have experienced themselves or that they agree with.

Like on Facebook when I watched a video of people's cute pet rats, a lot of rat lovers criticised those who have a fear of rats, instead of understanding the point that there are different people that like and dislike different things, but it seems normal for people who love one thing to not fathom how another person can not love the same.

This is between NT people, but as soon as you bring autism into the equation, it's suddenly only an autism symptom to think like this and that NTs don't have this, what appears to me, to be a human trait. (Until you bring autism into it, like I said).

On reading about empathy in several different sources (WP, Google, the dictionary, etc) it seems to describe empathy as recognising an emotion of someone else and sympathy as expressing empathy. I don't know if that's accurate or not but it seems to be what 99% of information on empathy is trying to say.

So you can understand how frustrating it is for autistic people to read everywhere that we lack empathy (the explanations described above) when living in a world that seems callous, insensitive and judgemental, not just to us but to anybody that's different, even if they're NTs themselves but are experiencing things differently from their peers, like mental illness.

Some NT parents abuse their autistic children because they cannot put themselves in their child's shoes, even though it's their own child. Thankfully there are some NTs out there that can put themselves in our shoes, but I believe it's down to the personality of the NT, not the neurology. The NTs I am friends with seem to be the kind type with patience and empathy (understanding how I feel that may differ to them and not judging me for it).

Thanks for reading. Sorry it was a bit long but I just wanted to get these thoughts out on the subject.


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klanka
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06 Jul 2022, 5:21 pm

That's interesting cos we could have normal empathy but just lack the common experience



Pteranomom
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06 Jul 2022, 6:27 pm

Autists don't lack empathy at all. They have slow social processing. This means it may take them a little longer to figure out what someone else wants or what the correct reaction is. But I have never seen anything indicating a general inability to feel sorry for others.

If anything, I think the opposite: NTs routinely lack empathy for others; autists often feel overwhelming empathy for others.



Caz72
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06 Jul 2022, 6:36 pm

i literally lack empathy but not saying its all down to autism i think i have alexythemia or whatever its spelled as so if i have difficulty understanding my own emotions im not going to waste energy trying to understand other people (with exceptions of course like my loved ones but thats probably unconditional love


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Dillogic
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07 Jul 2022, 4:25 am

Caz72 wrote:
...i think i have alexythemia or whatever...


That's it. They found those with autism without such had normal levels of empathy. Those with comorbid alexithymia had trouble with empathy. Up to 50% of those with autism have alexithymia. Of note, it doesn't manifest in the same way as the lack of empathy a narcissist or psychopath has. Rather, it's just more akin to confusion without bad intentions behind it, albeit insensitivity can be there for obvious reasons.



strings
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07 Jul 2022, 8:16 am

Pteranomom wrote:
Autists don't lack empathy at all. They have slow social processing. This means it may take them a little longer to figure out what someone else wants or what the correct reaction is. But I have never seen anything indicating a general inability to feel sorry for others.

If anything, I think the opposite: NTs routinely lack empathy for others; autists often feel overwhelming empathy for others.


According to my understanding, "feeling sorry for others" is essentially what can be described as feeling sympathy. Empathy is more concerned with recognising what someone is experiencing or feeling.

It seems to me, then, that what you are saying is in fact supporting the suggestion that autistic people indeed have trouble with empathy; they have difficulty figuring out what someone else is feeling. But once they figure it out (or maybe if it is explained to them), they are then perfectly capable of feeling sympathy for the person.



kraftiekortie
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07 Jul 2022, 8:40 am

Or feel empathy.

Empathy, to me, is being able to put one's self in the "shoes" of another person. Plus, actually being able to feel, at least somewhat, what the other person is feeling.



goatfish57
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07 Jul 2022, 9:37 am

I would say that I am empathy challenged. Emotions are painful and I try to avoid them. One trick I use is to project my happy mask to disarm people. The way I see it, very few people get angry at a happy dog. This is not empathy. As others have said, empathy takes longer and requires more effort.


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Joe90
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08 Jul 2022, 4:54 pm

Some Aspies say that NTs can fake empathy, but then if they're faking empathy that means it isn't natural. Others say that faking empathy is empathy because it means they're responding appropriately to the situation.

But if an Aspie fakes empathy then it's immediately deemed as totally lacking empathy because it isn't natural, even if we fake empathy appropriately in the right situations.


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Pteranomom
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08 Jul 2022, 5:42 pm

I'm not convinced empathy and sympathy are truly separate phenomena, at least in most people. If empathy is recognizing someone else's feelings and sympathy is expressing that, then of course you need the former to do the latter. They are two steps of the same process.

Mental things are complex.

But I agree with Joe that most NTs actually have low empathy/sympathy, at least for people they don't already know. Lots of NT kids are bullies. Very few people volunteer at their local homeless shelter. Lots of people think refugees should just go away. Lots of people knew about the Holocaust and went along with it. If anyone is different, it's the few people who stood up against the Holocaust.

People who write books and TV shows and such aimed at kids often seem to live in a fantasy land where everyone is nice and the bullies "just have low self-esteem." (Excuse me while I puke.) In reality, the aspie kids, at least, tend to be too nice to people. They need to learn how social status games are played and when to actually be a little rude to people so that they won't be taken advantage of. But that would require the adults being honest about how socializing really works...



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08 Jul 2022, 5:45 pm

Joe90 wrote:
Some Aspies say that NTs can fake empathy, but then if they're faking empathy that means it isn't natural. Others say that faking empathy is empathy because it means they're responding appropriately to the situation.

But if an Aspie fakes empathy then it's immediately deemed as totally lacking empathy because it isn't natural, even if we fake empathy appropriately in the right situations.

Of course they can fake it. Everyone in sales is faking it every day. It's plain old lying--and a very important skill.
(Of course, they aren't always faking.)



kitesandtrainsandcats
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08 Jul 2022, 6:01 pm

Perhaps tangents, but I felt like having fun in search engines,

‘Empathy’ Is a False God
‘Responsiveness’ is the real deal.
Posted June 8, 2015
https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog ... -false-god

Quote:
‘Empathy’ has been revered as the emotional analog of wisdom. I’m here to say that it is vastly overrated, and there is something else far better. More on that later.



Economic Progress
Should you fake empathy?
Belinda Parmar
Chief Executive Officer, The Empathy Business
Jul 10, 2015
https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2015/07/ ... e-empathy/

Here’s how to show empathy as a leader — or at least fake it
Published: Aug. 30, 2017 at 11:02 p.m. ET
By Meera Jagannathan
Listen, respond and show “emotional awareness,” a CEO coach and an acting coach tell Moneyish
https://www.marketwatch.com/story/heres ... 2017-08-30


Against Empathy
Most people see the benefits of empathy as too obvious to require justification.
Paul Bloom
August 20, 2014
https://bostonreview.net/forum/paul-blo ... t-empathy/
Quote:
Most people see the benefits of empathy as akin to the evils of racism: too obvious to require justification. I think this is a mistake. I have argued elsewhere that certain features of empathy make it a poor guide to social policy. Empathy is biased; we are more prone to feel empathy for attractive people and for those who look like us or share our ethnic or national background. And empathy is narrow; it connects us to particular individuals, real or imagined, but is insensitive to numerical differences and statistical data. As Mother Teresa put it, “If I look at the mass I will never act. If I look at the one, I will.” Laboratory studies find that we really do care more about the one than about the mass, so long as we have personal information about the one.

In light of these features, our public decisions will be fairer and more moral once we put empathy aside.


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Joe90
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09 Jul 2022, 12:30 pm

I also read somewhere that people who think bad situations aren't ever going to happen to them lack empathy, but I don't know how true that is.

I immediately think that bad things will happen to me. For example, if a plane crashed I think of how unlucky those people were, then I think that it could have been anyone on that flight at that time. So when I panic about boarding a plane because of the chance that it might fall out of the sky, people say to me "it's so rare, that it most likely will not happen", but when people say that, I always say "well you could have said that to the people who were in the last plane crash and then it did happen, so if bad things happen to others then why shouldn't it happen to me? What makes me and my family so untouchable to freak danger?"


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kraftiekortie
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09 Jul 2022, 12:41 pm

I don’t panic unless there’s an immediate reason to panic.

I seem to have less empathy than others if I haven’t experienced the event in which empathy is appropriate.



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09 Jul 2022, 12:46 pm

Joe90 wrote:
What makes me and my family so untouchable to freak danger?"


Nothing. I never understood gambling. The odds are not good and I am risk-averse. But, life is a game of Russian Roulette and we have to play to live here. The risk of COVID did me in. Rejoining this NT world is not a motivating thought. Sorry, not talking about empathy. I do have empathy, but it just takes more work. As to others, movies, novels, and music are good examples of empathy in the wild.

I am more empathetic or understanding when I have experienced a similar situation


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09 Jul 2022, 12:54 pm

I relate better to people when I've experienced a similar situation but I'm really bad at giving sympathy irl because I come across as sounding glib or even sarcastic so I just don't bother.

I'm not a big believer in empathy to be honest. I've never seen a genuine case of it out in the wild.


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