Society’s Empathic Failure

To truly understand what we are about to talk about, there are a few concepts we must first understand. Without them, the full meaning of this conversation will seem a bit confusing.

The Definitions

A Society is a group of human or other organisms of a single species that is delineated by the bounds of cultural identity, social solidarity, functional interdependence, or eusciality. Human societies are characterized by patterns of relationships between individuals that share a distinctive or institutions. Like other groups, a society allows its individual members to achieve individual needs or wishes that they could not fulfill separately by themselves, without the existence of the social group. Society, however, may be unique in that it is ontologically independent of, and utterly irreducible to, the qualities of its constituent individuals. As a reality “of its own kind”, it is emergently composed of social facts that often hinder rather than help the pursuits of the subjects that form its physical and psychological underpinnings.

More broadly, a society is an economic, social or industrial infrastructure, made up of a varied multitude of individuals. Members of a society may be from different ethnic groups. A society may be a particular ethnic group, such as the Saxons; a nation state, such as Bhutan; a broader cultural group, such as a Western Society; or even a social organism such as an ant colony.

The word Culture is most commonly used in three basic senses:

  • excellence of taste in the fine arts and humanities, also known as high culture
  • an integrated pattern of human knowledge, belief, and behavior that depends upon the capacity for symbolic thought and social learning
  • the set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterizes an institution, organization or group.

A Religion is an organized approach to human spirituality which usually encompasses a set of narratives,, beliefs and practices, often with a supernatural or transcendent quality, that give meaning to the practitioner’s experiences of life through reference to a higher power or truth.

Family denotes a group of people or animals(many species form the equivalent of a human family wherein the adults care for the young) affiliated by a consanguinity, affinity or co-residence. One of the primary functions of the family is to produce and reproduce persons, biologically and socially. A conjugal family includes only the husband, the wife, and unmarried children who are not of age. The most common form of this family is regularly referred to as a nuclear family. A consanguineal family consists of a parent and his or her children, and other people. A matrifocal family consists of a mother and her children. Generally, these children are her biological offspring, although adoption of children is a practice in nearly every society.

Conformity is the process by which an individual’s attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors are influenced by other people. This influence occurs in both small groups and society as a whole, and it may be the result of subtle unconscious influences, or direct and overt social pressures. Conformity also occurs by the “implied presence” of others, or when other people are not actually present. For example, people tend to follow the norms of society when eating or watching television, even when they are at home by themselves.

People often conform from a desire to achieve a sense of security within a group– typically a group that is of a similar age, culture, religion, or educational status. Any unwillingness to conform carries with it the very real risk of social rejection. In this respect, conformity can be seen as a safe means of avoiding bullying or deflecting criticism from peers. Conformity is often associated with adolescence and youth culture, but it affects humans of all ages.

Mass Media is a term used to denote a section of the media specifically envisioned and designed to reach a very large audience such as the population of a nation state.

Propaganda is the dissemination of information aimed at influencing the opinions or behaviors of people. As opposed to impartiality providing information, propaganda in its most basic sense, often presents information primarily in order to influence its audience. Propaganda often presents facts selectively (thus lying by omission) to encourage a particular synthesis, or gives loaded messages in order to produce an emotional rather than rational response to the information presented. The desired result is a change of the attitude toward the subject in the target audience to further a political agenda.

is the deliberate, systematic attempt to shape perceptions, manipulate cognitions, and direct behavior to achieve a response that furthers the desired intent of the propagandist.

The Influences

The reason we have gone over these concepts is that they play a large part in influencing us, not just as Empaths, but as people, as well. They influence our behaviors, our ability to have intimate relationships, how we connect with the world outside of ourselves, and how desensitized we are to the plight of others’ tragedy, strife, and sorrows.

The society you live in dictates, for its inhabitants, a code of conduct which is acceptable within that social network. It also directs its population in what is taboo, criminal, and/or inappropriate behaviors.

Cultures, which are societies on a much larger scale (and can incorporate numerous societies within its framework), work in much the same way, in that they train you from infancy, through the mass media, propaganda, religious and familial venues, and peer pressure, to conform to its strictures.

There is a sense of fear in the taboos set forth by societies and cultures in general, which include , but are not limited to; being sinful, being ostracized, being branded with a stigmatic word like ‘freak, ‘weirdo’ or ‘crazy’, being criminal, and so on.

Religious influences can have much the same affect upon a person as cultures and societies. This is because most religions promise some kind of punishment for disobedience and some type of reward for those who conform to its doctrine.

But beyond all of the larger social influences, the most important influence is that of the family. As we grow up, we first mimic the attitudes, words, and actions of our families, which in turn influences our personal prejudices and perspectives about the world around us. Consciously and unconsciously, these are the rules which guide us through our lives. And even when we try to push away from the family values instilled in us since birth, those rules still guide us unconsciously to one degree or another.

The Empathic Failure

So, what does this have to do with you, beyond that of being a regular person who is susceptible to these influences? On top of this, you are also an Empath who is vulnerable to these codes of conduct, threats of punishment, promises of reward, the desire for familial love and recognition, and the desire to belong.

And yet, when an Empath attempts to conform to these rules and strictures set forth for the majority of people, they tend to fail. I know that sounds mean, cold and harsh. But lets look a bit deeper at this idea, before you get offended and stop reading.

Empaths, for the most part, conform with society superficially. They work, have families, goto church, and other normal and mundane events, which are labeled as proper behavior.

But beneath the surface of that social mask, there is dark churning turmoil within the Empath. This rises out of past experiences which breed whispered voices in the head of an Empath saying things like, ‘you don’t deserve love’, ‘you are worthless’, ‘you don’t even deserve to live’, or ‘you brought this tragedy on yourself because of your sins’. It also rises out of current insecurities, low self esteem, and the overwhelming nature of being an Empath.

All of these things, individually or combined, have the potential to force an Empath to shut out the outside world completely and go into seclusion. When this happens, they sacrifice their relationships with family, friends, lovers, coworkers and jobs, and disappear into a world of their own imagining, where they are safe from outside influences and the potential risks which lie in those outside influences.

This is Society’s Empathic Failure, as much as it is the Empath’s, because it has done nothing to support and rehabilitate those who end up this way. They are left to their own devices, to sink or swim. On the Empath’s part, it takes great strength, a strong will and desire to rise above their current situation, to be able to venture into society again as an active member of that society.

The Hope

But here is the silver lining. Even if your society, your culture, your religion, your family, your peers, and/or your partners, all brand you with a scarlet letter F(ailure), it does not mean it is the truth. It only becomes true when you let the words of the world outside yourself weigh you down and push you into the mud. Because, even if those words suddenly change to positive statements, if you are not secure within yourself, then when the tides change again, you will sink once more.

Its all about you, your perspective, and the way you see yourself. If you see yourself as nothing, then sadly that is all you will ever be. But if you see yourself as someone who is just as deserving as anyone else, with a voice worth hearing, a face worth remembering and loving, and a beautiful spirit uniquely your own, then, even if it begins with small things, the world will take notice. But all of this, to sink or swim, is up to you and your perspective. So think about it. ^_^

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~ by Misuchi Sakurai on May 11, 2009.

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