Emotional understanding of another's feelings. Many think that hackers lack this and only relate to their machines. This is a misconception. We think logically and expect others to also, and so have little sympathy for those who pout about their problems yet refuse to help themselves.

A class of (idiotically illegal) drugs called the empathogens (also 'entactogens') has the remarkable ability to enhance and stimulate feelings of empathy. MDMA (Ecstasy) is one.

The ability to comprehend and appreciate the feelings of another person.

Having empathy is the basis for treating others well as you know what that it makes you feel better, and you'd like them to feel that way also.

Lack of empathy results in a dangerous person, as they don't care how you feel, and this will taunt, torture, make fun of, harm, or kill you as they just don't understand.

A goal of most mental health therapy, at least in the United States. Empathy as a goal serves at least two purposes-

1. Puts the needs/wants of others first in the patient's mind, at least occasionally. Gives the patient some perspective and a version of the world different than their own. It also establishes the responsibility for "understanding" others on the person and not on those "other people" or the therapist (since the therapist does not need to live with your friends, relatives)

2. Secondly, and some would say, more importantly, it gives the patient a moment to step outside themselves and see how others view them- how others view the patient's problems. Their version of the patient's situation can be more instructive than any help from the therapist, since they have a more direct, unfiltered view of the patient's world. Empathy, in this sense, allows the patient to listen to and understand not just how others think and feel, but how they feel about you. It's emotional impact, if taken with an open mind, can be powerful.


Patients who cannot relate to others' feelings, and cannot see their side, are blind to the world around them. Worse, patients who cannot relate to how others see them are blind to themselves.

The concept of learned empathy is as close as Western Psychotherapy gets to Zen ideas.

It is essential to understand the difference between empathy and sympathy. People often think they are being empathetic when in fact, they aren't.

Why is it important? Because empathy is productive and sympathy is, at best, neutral, at worst, hindering.

Empathy

To feel with someone. If you can achieve empathy, you are able to fully encompass what the other person is feeling and put yourself in their place. It enhances both your understanding of the situation and the person and enables you to discuss things in a useful and productive way. Someone who is being empathetic will tend to ask questions rather than offering solutions, helping the other person reach their own answers. Empathy is about what the other person feels.

Empathy doesn't only address negative feelings, but also positive ones.

Sympathy

To feel for someone. People who are sympathetic tend to consider how they would feel if the same events happened to them, without taking into consideration what makes the other person different from them. They may express pity which is both patronising and may encourage the other person to wallow in their misfortune; or offer advice, but the solutions they give come from their own perspective . Sympathy is about what you feel.

A sympathetic person is often less interested when the news you have for them is good.

The two words should not be used synonymously.

Empathy is the most valuable thing in today's society. Four things make up the system of classification of MOST of people's basic feelings today: Love, Hate, Apathy and Empathy.

LOVE

Love is a very bizarre idea that many people have difficulty describing. As far as most people are concerned love is the greatest feeling in the world. I would like to challenge that. There are many good things that people feel but I question why people use the word "love" sometimes. There is nothing in life that should not be questioned, including love. Consider a married couple that has lived together for decades. Sometimes genuine feelings fade and couples like this begin to care about each other less and less until they detest each other. Sometimes they'll treat each other like garbage and wonder why they ever got married in the first place and yet they'll insist they are in love.

Is that love?

Or on another note, what about two young teenagers who claim that what they feel is true love. They might not have any kind of emotional maturity, they might have no clue what they're talking about, yet they call what they feel love.

Is that love?

It is understood that not all married couples are like that and not all young couples are completely naïve, but both do exist and sometimes they call that love.

You may argue, "well that is just a twisted version of love",

Try telling them that.

To quote: Kurt Vonnegut: "I have had some experiences with love although the ones I have liked best could be described as "Common Decency". I treated someone well for a little while, or maybe a tremendously long time, and that person treated me well in turn. Love need not have anything to do with it". Later Vonnegut makes a very important point I also find interesting; "I wish people who are conventionally supposed to love each other would say to each other when they fight: "Please a little less love and a little more common decency".

Please understand my goal is not to destroy the happiness that the feeling people call love creates, but to better understand all aspects of it while questioning just what it is we as people feel.

Pardon the crudeness of using a dictionary to define love but I find it interesting. Webster's defines love as: 1. An intense affectionate concern for another person, 2. An intense sexual desire for another person. Number 1 is hard to find value in (seeing as how there are so many different ways to interpret those words and some of them are truly horrible) and number 2 means just wanting to fuck. I find that ridiculous. People sometimes call sexual intercourse "making love. Sometimes they call it fucking. Though fucking is the cruder act it can be more honest. Two people gratifying each other is better than one person taking advantage of another person using false overvalued words like "love". Making love is just about the worst description of sex I can think of. It shouldn't be called making love considering if there is one thing I know, if it ain't there it sex sure is not going to make it.

I also find interesting that dictionary definition number eight is "a zero score in tennis".



HATE

Hate is often mistaken for not liking something. Considering that that is how it is most often used this does make some sense. I prefer to think that hate is what people feel when they don't understand something. Hate and ignorance go hand in hand. The thing most people don't realize is that hate also has no value. If you hate something you might as well admit to caring intensely about it because whether the caring is positive or not it is caring just the same.

Minorities in the United States often claim that crimes perpetrated on them are "hate crimes". Some homosexuals are so simple-minded that they believe every single violent act perpetrated on a homosexual by a non-homosexual is a "hate crime". To some people it is impossible that just maybe a minority could be attacked because they are a jerk. Perhaps statistics will show that most crimes perpetrated against homosexuals are hate crimes, but who really knows what motivates a person to do something. Just because a minority is attacked that does not mean that it was because they were a minority.

Sexuality is a bad example though. A better example is race. People of the same race often attack each other. Just because people of two different ethnic backgrounds fight that does not mean that the difference in ethnicity was the motivating factor behind the disagreement.

Even when race is a factor they are not hate crimes, but rather crimes of not understanding. Hate crime, in my opinion, could only be when a person commits a crime against someone they are obsessed with for one reason or another.

Hate gets no on anywhere.



APATHY

Apathy is the state of not indifference, not caring, not feeling one way or another about something. If ever the youth of USAmerica had a rallying cry it would be "I don't care!". And why should they? So few people are shown something to care about in this day in age. The trials and hardships a person sometimes has to endure before they can find something to care about or believe in are great. The problem now is that people give in to apathy and never return. Some people consider the state of not being able to find a solution a solution itself. Apathy might solve the problems of a person who can't find something to care about but by definition apathy is the act of giving up on finding something. Perhaps people should not give up the fight and should keep their eyes and minds open to find something to care about.

EMPATHY

Empathy. Acceptance that all humans should feel for one another. Empathy is the emotion that makes you cry when you see a stranger get hurt. Empathy is understanding without scrutiny or persecution. Empathy for other human beings is pure. Some would scrutinize empathy and say that it is just produced by a cheap self-interest, i.e. "I sure wouldn't want that to happen to me". This is a misunderstanding of a basic principle of empathy. Perhaps it is driven by self-interest but maybe that's the point. It doesn't matter what drives people to Empathize with one another but as long as they do people will always get along.

Empathy is the level we all relate on as human beings. It should be embraced above Love (the undefinable would-be-solution to all our problems), Hate (the all-too-easily definable pointless abuse of fellow humans) or Apathy (the nihilistic lack of common Decency.) Empathy is understanding.

Empathy is the feeling that we all feel but sometimes have no name for. When you're sick and you realize how terrible it is to feel that way and for a brief second think to yourself "How horrible it must have been for everyone else who has ever gone through this".

It means far more to relate to a stranger than to die for "love" which probably caused more confusion and hardship in life then any true caring.

It means more to understand a person who you may not like than to "hate" a person you don't understand.

It means more to create bonds between humans than to permanently sever them with the trend known as apathy.

Empathy will always solve more problems than the other three.

Start Again

Back


Throughout much of my early life, from childhood through the first decade of my adult life, I lacked anything that could be considered remotely similar to empathy. It is a quality I believe needs to be developed early on in a child's development, but any such development was denied to me for a host of reasons.

I was a different child in the years leading up through Kindergarten. My early life had left me with a need to reach out to others and to try to understand and connect with them. Things changed when I scored extremely high on an intelligence test when I was six years old, which led to me being part of a study done by a woman who was a doctoral candidate at Clark University (oddly enough, fifteen years later I would lose my virginity to a doctoral candidate at Clark University who was doing studies on young children). All this led to me being bumped ahead a grade, given advanced schoolwork to do, and slowly but surely becoming withdrawn from any form of real socialization between myself and other children. I became extremely withdrawn, painfully shy and terrified of failure as a result of all this.

My parents were young and I was their first child. The accidental nature of my conception caused both my parents to sidetrack their education and their career hopes in order to raise me. In many ways they considered my "giftedness" to be a kind of reward for their sacrifice and hard work. My father and I clashed often, I was always afraid to disappoint him, but it took years for the realization to hit. While he was a left brain dominant genius, his son was a right brain dominant wacko. Reconciliation was often difficult, as I was into studying history, writing stories, painting pictures, and trying to create wherever I could, and he was trying to get me to do advanced calculus when I was eight years old. His thinking was mathematical, linear and he connected the dots in a straight line. My thinking was abstract, which was later noted by that young doctoral candidate when she reported that I was finding answers to questions that weren't on any answer key but worked just the same. Years later, when my girlfriend the doctoral candidate was testing me for entertainment purposes, she told me she had to talk to her advisor because I kept coming up with answers to problems that worked just fine but apparently no one had thought of, or at least thought to document as valid answers.

I've been frustrating psychologists ever since.

During the summer of 1994, following my death experience, I found myself at the mercy of a sensation that generally overwhelmed me. In one on one, or even in small group settings, I found myself feeling things I had never felt before. In the past, all of my interactions with people involved fulfilling a want or need of my own I believed they could provide. The few relationships I had with women were predicated on how they could provide the things I desired in a relationship, which were primarily companionship, security, loyalty and sex. My friendships were founded mostly on who provided enjoyable company and would be there for me when I needed them. At no point in time during the various relationships and friendships that existed in my life did I ever consider what I was able to provide them. This inevitably led to my depression and suicide, since the direct result of never seeing what I could provide others was believing I never did provide others with anything they could not get from anyone else. This, of course, led me to believe I was completely meaningless and useless, an easily replaced cog in a wheel, mass manufactured and disposable when broken. So, once I was broken, I disposed of myself.

My survival keyed on acquiring empathy, that which I believed was sacrificed in my childhood in order to foster development of my so-called genius. You ever see those super genius types who function at a higher mental level but are emotionally vacant and are socially inept to the point of not even knowing how to dress themselves? Yeah, that's what they were trying to grow me into. I rebelled as a teenager, escaped the noose, and then found myself without any real grounding whatsoever. I was no longer a genius, I was still completely socially awkward, and I had a serious inability to relate to other people.

The feeling that washed over me in the months after my suicide left me confused and mesmerized. I would listen to people and felt myself understanding them, not only on the level of what they were saying, but the emotions that drove what they were saying. Many of my old friends deserted me in those days, confused by the very dramatic change in my nature and how I dealt with things and how I was no longer completely dependent upon them. Others, who talked to me, were confused at how instead of listening and offering stock phrases I learned from a textbook in response, I seemed to geniunely listen and understand at a different level. Often I did not even have to try, a sense of understanding just came to me and I knew what to say and what to do. I was no longer disposable because I was no longer all about self-preservation and fulfilling my own wants and needs. Other people mattered to me, and once I was strong enough, it became clear that others mattered more to me than I mattered to myself.

It was when I began to go out into large groups that this newly developed sense of empathy began to overwhelm me. Sitting in a crowded club with a friend, I passed out at the bar. Having only had one beer, my friend was confused and concerned, but the truth was that this had been the first time I had been out in a large group since my death experience. As I sat there, I felt waves of emotion, feelings of anger, betrayal, desire and love washing over me from every direction. There were negative emotions and positive emotions, all crashing together in a cacophany of emotional sound. I had no idea how to handle it. My head felt like it was going to explode. My heart was beating rapidly. And I fell off the bar stool and passed out cold on the floor.

A month later, sitting in the office of my new psychologist, I told her everything that had happened to me over the previous six months, and then went back over my life history.

"Do you know what an empath is?" she asked me.

"Isn't that some kind of space alien?"

"Well, you are that as well," she laughed, "but I think your experience has given you an extremely strong inclination towards empathy."

"So, what does that mean, exactly? I passed out in a bar after being overwhelmed by the emotions of other people, I had to leave a concert because the way the music was affecting the people listening drove me to tears, and the people I've known for years get creeped out because they think I can feel what they're feeling because of how I respond, and this is a good thing?"

"It sounds like you grew up trying to, if you forgive me for putting it this way, function like a robot. You tried to please your father by trying to get your mind to work like a computer because that's what you thought would please him. Then you started fighting everything in sight, from religion to social mores, that did not make sense within your strict rationalist philosophy, and then you had all these relationships that left you empty because you felt they should have lasted forever and never change. You ever wonder why, in your near-death experience you went to a desert? Isn't that how you saw yourself?"

"You know, in 1984 I sent myself alone to the desert, well, to the University of Arizona, anyway because I believed I deserved to be exiled for my general incompetence."

"Let me guess, it didn't go well."

"After two months I stopped going to classes and sealed myself up in my apartment, leaving only when I needed to get food. Then I tried to pass myself off as a rock singer, got mixed up with some crazy dudes, did peyote with one of them, and saw a vision of myself as a unicorn impaling himself on a stake in the middle of a big bonfire. Sometimes I think that night was a vision of my suicide. Not exactly prophetic since I was quite aware that I was slowly killing myself because I didn't know what else to do."

"And you came home with your tail between your legs, unicorn boy?"

"You know, sometimes you sound more like a bartender than a psychologist. I get the feeling you'd be happier giving casual advice while pouring beers and shots than sitting in this office."

"Yeah, this office does suck."

"Where are you from? I can't place the accent."

"Houston. I came here to go to work on my doctorate. Clark University. They have a really tough program in psychology. I don't suppose you know anything about it."

"You'd be surprised."

After four regular sessions and another four over beers at a nearby bar, she convinced me to work on developing my empathy and learning how to control it and keep it from overwhelming me. With time, she felt, I would be able to keep it under control and there would be few times I would let it completely overwhelm me. There have been times when I felt it starting to overwhelm me. Those who know me know that sometimes I just mysteriously walk away or back out of plans, always making certain I haven't seriously disappointed, hurt or let down those in attendance. If it overwhelms me, I'm of no use to anyone, and often a danger to myself. I need time to focus.

At the foundation of everything I have come to believe in and to accept, from the deep understanding I have of the message, "Give everything you can to everyone you know" to my sometimes annoying habit of trying to help those who seem to be rejected by everyone else they encounter, I have to thank empathy, which once was a curse but now is the greatest blessing ever granted to me by my angels.

And Angie the shrink gave up her practice, dropped out of the doctoral program and went back to Houston to become a bartender. A couple years later I got a postcard from her, postmarked Houston, and on the back it just said, "You were right. I'm much happier." She didn't sign it. She didn't need to.

Forward

My empathy has focused to a laser beam, a single point
You're beyond its light, outside its tolerated faults
I can't care about your shit, you see
Come back when you're in deeper


Meanings fall away, curls of wood whittled off, this trash
Nearly all of existence, all endless, worthless, useless
I can't love anything now
The emotion is there, but the object isn't
Passion retreats from me, a frightened insect scared by my light
I know there was something I loved, someone
Some ambition once...


Go ahead, earn my pity
I'm not without causes
Look into my eyes, gaze deep, a crystal stare, locked in your moonlit ocean
Earn it and I will blind you
I'll care harder than you could ever want, past all rationality
I'll end your empathy, your humanity
The cold shell you'll become will endear you twice to me
Pushing you away with closeness, suffocating enthusiasm
It's my own commitment to irony, you'll see

Coughing till I vomit
This anemia of the soul must be infecting my body
These words sound plenty shitty
Well, they'll be met in kind, I'm sure


Oh sorry, is that not long enough? Is this not enough in the way of words? Well, I know poetry way shorter, but I guess there isn't much length-wise for a writeup. Here we go, I'll just meaninglessly monopolize your time for a little longer. Do you like movies? I just got IFC, so I expected to see a lot more of them. Most of them aren't really indie films, though, they're like Dusk Till Dawn or Saw or right now Vice Squad is on. I'm not going to watch it, because I decided that if I think nothing's on TV, I shouldn't fucking watch it.

So hey, how 'bout a line break? Okay, good, that's padding things out. Sure are a lot of words here, lately. I missed pictures. Here's a good one. And here's some paintings. Don't get the point of this aimless rambling, you uncultured fuck? I guess there's a lot of things I'd say if it didn't matter. It doesn't really; I'm the only one with the insight to understand what I'm saying, I learn, I get it, hooray for me. If it helps to tell anyone else, simply for knowing that I did, the reaction is still moot. I feel better, I feel worse, the fractured world I'm foreign to and separate from is unaffected.

Expect more.

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