Saturday, October 10, 2015

The Trouble With Empathy

Over at Queer Romance Month I saw this video about empathy:

It's thoughtful and funny, well worth a watch. But for me, it kind of scratches the surface of what empathy actually is: it's more about offering an empathic response. You see it a tiny bit -- the bear gets a cloud over her head -- but you don't really see the bear taking on the fox's feelings with her.

I've always had problems with empathy, and I still do. When my son tells me about something wrong, my instinct is often to distance, to argue, to try to convince him that no, it's not really wrong, or we can easily fix it. And why?

Because empathy HURTS. It's not just saying the right things instead of the wrong ones. It's really feeling. And taking on the depths of my son's pain is agonizing.

I see this in my son too. When he sees me in pain, he's in pain for me. Anything that goes a little wrong for me hurts him. It's a hard way to live. Luckily I'm a grown up and can usually brings things down: "It's okay, it's just a little scratch, happens all the time." But that doesn't work when it's his pain.

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