Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Meaning of Empathy

This was via a good friend of mine on Tumblr. It's a scientific definition of empathy. The last part brought me up short: "...without having the feelings, thoughts and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner." That means anything from facial expressions, body language, and tone of voice. In other words, you can catch a clue that I'm angry without me having to come out and say, "I'm angry at you because..."

Most people are empathetic to some degree, and some more than others. On one end are the ones who notice things that most people miss, the ones who ask, "Is there something wrong? You just seem upset (angry, off, etc.)."  And on the other end are the ones who don't pick up subtle clues, even if you picked up those clues and smacked them over the head with it. (People on the autism spectrum, especially with Aspberger's Syndrome, have trouble relating to other's emotions, to "putting themselves in the other person's shoes.")

How would it feel if you're the empathetic one that's surrounded by non-sensitive people all the time, or vice versa? In Star Trek terms, a Betazoid being stuck in a cave with Tellarites, or vice versa. I think it would drive that Betazoid mad, dealing with people who don't understand what/how you're feeling. The Tellarite would go nuts with having to deal with hyper-emoting people.

How would you feel if you lived in such a situation? Misunderstandings galore and resentments on both sides. In that case, you'd have to find a compromise pretty quickly, before one or the other walks away.

And an opportunity to learn and grow is forever lost.

All original writing and art copyright A. Dameron 2000-2011

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