The Assumptions & Realities Of Empathy

I had a friend recently, who thought she knew more about my life than I did. She thought she saw all of my problems and issues wrapped neatly into a psychological evaluation. And as a friend, she decided I needed to know this and proceeded to drop a ‘harsh reality’ bomb on me. And she made sure to let me know, as she did this, that she did it because she loved me.

Now this friend is not a psychologist. Nor did I solicit her for this purpose. She took it upon herself to ‘evaluate me’ and upon the assumption that I didn’t have a clue about my own life, proceeded to let me know in the harshest terms possible that my life boils down to a mental health issue.

One problem with this is that it was based on the assumption that I do not have a grasp on the realities of my own life. It was assumed that instead of facing my realities…my issues, I run away from them, hiding away online. It wasn’t even conceived that I might have a full grasp on my life, my issues or my reality. And that can be a huge mistake, when one underestimates another person, in the midst of assuming things about that person.

Another problem with this is that there was no empathy in it’s evaluation or delivery. There was no real attempt at understanding my life, my knowledge or my understanding beneath the obeliscal walls of her psychological evaluation, in which my life had been summarily categorized and placed. Empathy for someone entails attempting to understand these things about another person, even when they are making an assessment of another person.

So I am left to wonder, where is the love that this was all supposed to be wrapped in? My sense tells me that this rose out of someone’s assumptions and frustrations with their personal life, rather than any attempt to offer support, guidance, empathy or healing.

Now we come to the question of why I am sharing this with you. Why would I put my personal life on display for everyone to see? What is the point of this story. Well, let’s examine that for a minute. There is a lesson here in how we perceive others, how we empathize with them, and how we treat them.

When we truly empathize with someone else, it isn’t simply about feeling what another person feels or observing and assessing another person’s problems. It’s not about assumptions, we might be prone to make, about another person’s grasp on reality or their capacity and/or capability of handling those problems. It’s not about underestimating another person or placing yourself above them, in a teacher’s position.

It’s about putting yourself at the same level as the other person and attempting to understand their life and their issues through their perception. It is about truly caring enough about another person to share in their pains and their joys. And whether you call them friend or simply a random stranger is of little import, when it comes to truly empathizing with another person.

It’s about the willingness to take the time out of your busy life to stop and, at least attempt, to understand the other person at their own level. And to truly do this, it takes patience. And it takes humility. Humility to let go of your own ego enough to step into another person’s world through their eyes. And patience enough not to make assumptions or jump to superficial conclusions while you are there.

It’s about the willingness to listen and being open enough to care without exception or expectation.

Beyond anything about being an Empath….this is Empathy. Think about it, because this applies to all of us, not just as Empaths, but as people.

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~ by Misuchi Sakurai on July 31, 2010.

One Response to “The Assumptions & Realities Of Empathy”

  1. Hi Misu. I really like this post, as I do all of your posts, and I agree with you wholeheartedly–"where is the love?…". I am an empath, an INFJ, and an HSP and I have a website to support HSPs who are survivors of a narcissistic parent. It is: hopehealing.wordpress dot com. I love your blog and I am going to add it to my links list. I hope you will consider adding my site to your links list too if you like it. Keep up the great work–you are a valuable support to empaths everywhere! Love, Elaine

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