Is empathy overrated?

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Is empathy overrated? Empty Is empathy overrated?

Post by Guest on Wed Jan 18, 2017 5:36 pm

Does the ability to share the feelings of another person make us better human beings?

Fans of empathy describe it as working like a spotlight, focusing us on specific individuals, driving us to feel as they do, and making us care. This sounds good, but it has its perils. Spotlights illuminate what they're pointed at, and since we find it natural to empathize with those close to us, decisions driven by empathy tend to be tribal. Spotlights have narrow focus, and so empathy is innumerate, favoring the one over the many, the specific over the statistical. It is because of empathy that we often care more about a baby stuck in a well than about a large-scale crisis such as climate change.

There are many examples of how empathy can steer us wrong. When it comes to decisions about criminal justice, foreign aid and whether to go to war, we are better off without it. But what about our personal lives? Here empathy seems valuable. Isn't it essential to share the experiences of those we love, our friends, our children and our romantic partners?

I used to think so. But evidence from a range of sources, from Buddhist theology to neuroscience studies, suggests a more complicated picture. Empathy — in the sense of feeling what we believe other people feel — can be meaningfully distinguished from caring about other people and loving them, often called "compassion," or, in the Buddhist tradition, "loving-kindness."

To get a feel for this distinction, note that the best doctors and therapists don't immerse themselves in the pain of others. To do so would lead to exhaustion and burnout and would make them less effective at helping others. Nobody wants a therapist who freaks out when you're anxious. As the essayist Leslie Jamison put it when describing a doctor who treated her, his calmness made her secure; he provided "the opposite of my fear, not its echo."

Similarly, we're often better at comforting our children if we don't indulge in an empathic connection, if we don't suffer along with them. Think about being the parent of a teenager who is panicked because she left her homework to the last minute. It's hardly good parenting to panic along with her.

Good parents love their children and understand them, but don't necessarily mirror their emotions. A parent who channels too closely the feelings of his or her child will be overly protective. Good parenting involves coping with the short-term suffering of your child — actually it involves sometimes causing the short-term suffering of your child, if that's what you need to do to improve his or her life in the long run.

What about friends and lovers? We want compassion and understanding. But if you care for another, you shouldn't always try to mirror that person's moods. As Cicero said about friendship, it "improves happiness and abates misery, by the doubling of our joy and the dividing of our grief." I would prefer that those who care about me greet my dark moods with calm and support. If I'm depressed and my friend feels depressed along with me, I now have two problems, not just one.

Also, just as too much empathy leads to burnout in medical professionals, it can lead to similar problems in relationships. Psychologists describe a syndrome called "unmitigated communion," in which a failure to establish boundaries with an intimate partner leads to a host of physical and psychological difficulties on the part of the empathizer.

Empathy does have it pluses, though, particularly for more positive emotions. It can be a source of closeness. My favorite example comes from the philosopher Michael Slote, who imagines a father whose daughter enjoys stamp collecting. It might be nice for the father to tell her that he approves of the hobby and that he respects it. But wouldn't it be better if he could empathize with her — if he could actually share her enthusiasm?

And empathy can be a source of pleasure. It can amplify sexual experience. The bedroom is an excellent place to try to experience the feelings of another. More generally, it can be wonderful to empathize with the positive feelings of someone close to you.

One of the many joys of having children is that you can have experiences that you've long become used to — eating a hot fudge sundae, watching Hitchcock movies, riding a roller coaster — for the first time all over again.

Perhaps we should think of empathy on a par with emotions such as anger, pride or envy. They are part of a fulfilling human life, so long as they're kept in their proper place.


Paul Bloom is the Brooks and Suzanne Ragen Professor of Psychology at Yale University and the author, most recently, of "Against Empathy: The Case for Rational Compassion." He wrote this for the Los Angeles Times.


https://www.rawstory.com/2017/01/is-empathy-overrated/


Very interesting and its so true how it can be tribal. As look at problems within the world, where others base their empathy geographically. I do though think its important to have empathic intelligence, a understanding of the problems people face by trying to understand them. It does not mean we have to be that way to try and understand what its like to be in their shoes, only to understand what they are feeling.

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Post by Syl on Wed Jan 18, 2017 5:47 pm

Interesting.....detached empathy, where we can sympathise and try to put ourselves in that persons shoes so we can understand better is helpful.

Like the article said though....if we empathised so much we actually FELT the pain and distress ourselves, we would not be helping them or ourselves.
With our families sometimes we do that.....but it's sometimes best to stay detached as much as we can in some situations.

I feel the older I get the more empathetic I am....I seem to feel (and cry) for others a lot more than I did in my youth.

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Post by Guest on Wed Jan 18, 2017 5:58 pm

Syl wrote:Interesting.....detached empathy, where we can sympathise and try to put ourselves in that persons shoes so we can understand better is helpful.

Like the article said though....if we empathised so much we actually FELT the pain and distress ourselves, we would not be helping them or ourselves.
With our families sometimes we do that.....but it's sometimes best to stay detached as much as we can in some situations.

I feel the older I get the more empathetic I am....I seem to feel (and cry)  for others a lot more than I did in my youth.


That is interesting and thus you have high levels of empathic intelligence
To me the key is being able to understand without succumbing to the same pains and fears.

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Post by Syl on Wed Jan 18, 2017 6:13 pm

Thorin wrote:
Syl wrote:Interesting.....detached empathy, where we can sympathise and try to put ourselves in that persons shoes so we can understand better is helpful.

Like the article said though....if we empathised so much we actually FELT the pain and distress ourselves, we would not be helping them or ourselves.
With our families sometimes we do that.....but it's sometimes best to stay detached as much as we can in some situations.

I feel the older I get the more empathetic I am....I seem to feel (and cry)  for others a lot more than I did in my youth.


That is interesting and thus you have high levels of empathic intelligence
To me the key is being able to understand without succumbing to the same pains and fears.

Exactly that....that's the sensible way to do it. Laughing

I think if you asked older people about empathy....the majority would say they have more empathy as they age than what they did when they were younger adults.


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Post by Guest on Wed Jan 18, 2017 6:17 pm

Syl wrote:
Thorin wrote:


That is interesting and thus you have high levels of empathic intelligence
To me the key is being able to understand without succumbing to the same pains and fears.

Exactly that....that's the sensible way to do it. Laughing

I think if you asked older people about empathy....the majority would say they have more empathy as they age than what they did when they were younger adults.


Have a thanks, as i do believe people empathize more as they get older in life, because they have experienced more hardships and pains.

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Post by Syl on Wed Jan 18, 2017 6:50 pm

Thorin wrote:
Syl wrote:

Exactly that....that's the sensible way to do it. Laughing

I think if you asked older people about empathy....the majority would say they have more empathy as they age than what they did when they were younger adults.


Have a thanks, as i do believe people empathize more as they get older in life, because they have experienced more hardships and pains.

Well have a + for that 'Thanks' cos I agree with your agreement. Laughing
I also think having children and grandkids opens us up in a way perhaps we didn't see things before?
I know that's generalising....but I think it's true (it was for me anyway)


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Post by eddie on Wed Jan 18, 2017 6:52 pm

I completely agree with most of the article - it's actually just good common sense that you don't start to "mirror" and act depressed around a depressed friend - but I will say, I've always been an empath and I've devoted great chunks of time and energy in helping others for years and years and now, as I've got older, I'm inclined to be more choosy and have started to become a little more selfish lately.

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Post by Guest on Wed Jan 18, 2017 6:53 pm

eddie wrote:I completely agree with most of the article - it's actually just good common sense that you don't start to "mirror" and act depressed around a depressed friend - but I will say, I've always been an empath and I've devoted great chunks of time and energy in helping others for years and years and now,  as I've got older, I'm inclined to be more choosy and have started to become a little more selfish lately.

You do have high levels of empathic intelligence Eddie
Both you and Syl love inspirational stories and want to see the best in people
That is a great trait to have and wanting things to be better for people

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Post by eddie on Wed Jan 18, 2017 6:56 pm

It's a great thread didge. Really good article too.

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Post by Guest on Wed Jan 18, 2017 6:57 pm

eddie wrote:It's a great thread didge. Really good article too.

Thanks eddie

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Post by Ben Reilly on Wed Jan 18, 2017 7:13 pm

I think a lot more action would be taken when people feel empathy if they couldn't distract themselves from it with something else. But nobody likes to dwell on negative feelings, so we just put it out of our minds and keep going.

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Post by Guest on Wed Jan 18, 2017 7:16 pm

Ben Reilly wrote:I think a lot more action would be taken when people feel empathy if they couldn't distract themselves from it with something else. But nobody likes to dwell on negative feelings, so we just put it out of our minds and keep going.


Its a very good point

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Post by Syl on Thu Jan 19, 2017 12:29 pm

Major wrote:IMHO it does not make you a better person, maybe a different person.
POSITIVE action makes you a better person.

Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.

I can do this, not a problem but it is meaningless whether or not you do feel it as hardly anyone acts upon it unless it concerns your own family.
People have EMPATHY for blacks without decent drinking water but do not do anything about it, people have EMPATHY for people with horrible ailments but do not do anything about it, people have EMPATHY for ailing animals but do not do anything about it.

My point is, words words words are pointless when action action action is needed.

Empathy/sympathy go hand in hand IMHO.

I agree with a lot you say here....wringing your hands on the sidelines when you could be doing something positive is useless........if you can help you should help.
Like the article said, Dr's help but they cant get emotionally involved, they would be useless.

I do think though that some people are not very good in sympathising/empathising with others. I think it's a form of selfishness really....if they are OK that's all that matters.
Most people are emotionally attached to their families though, it's hard not to feel pain when they feel pain, the hardest thing is to help without showing it.

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Post by Syl on Thu Jan 19, 2017 5:52 pm

Major wrote:I can tell by how some speak on forumz whether or not they are decent people no matter what they scribe.

I agree if we post alongside someone for any length of time, their character will show through whether they want it to or not. Laughing

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Post by Victorismyhero on Thu Jan 19, 2017 6:45 pm

Empathy ....Pfffft

A psychobabble construct used by various "groups" to browbeat the populace into submission withnregard to unpopular ideas/decisions...cos we all know...if you aint got it you are a non person...right?

pfffft

care for family is love

care for ones friends and close aquintances is good sense

beyond that????

Well beyond that anything else is mere "charity", conditioned mainly by
a)guilt
b)bragging rights
c)tax fiddles
d) pragmatism ...as in giving to the prime medical charities like cancer research/heart or kidney research...since firstly one hopes they may find a cure and of course secondly...one day you (or someone close) may need their services.....

I ALWAYS suspect the motive of the type that try to tell me how they are giving (things/money to the latest fund to provide whatever in the darkest reaches of god knows where) becasue its "the right thing to do" and my first question always is ...how much you trying to scam me for???

Finally IF empathy does exist......its magnitude is in inverse proportion to the numbers needing it.....


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Post by Guest on Thu Jan 19, 2017 7:13 pm

Lord Foul wrote:Empathy ....Pfffft

A psychobabble construct used by various "groups" to browbeat the populace into submission withnregard to unpopular ideas/decisions...cos we all know...if you aint got it you are a non person...right?

pfffft

care for family is love

care for ones friends and close aquintances is good sense

beyond that????

Well beyond that anything else is mere "charity", conditioned mainly by
a)guilt
b)bragging rights
c)tax fiddles
d) pragmatism ...as in giving to the prime medical charities like cancer research/heart or kidney research...since firstly one hopes they may find a cure and of course secondly...one day you (or someone close) may need their services.....

I ALWAYS suspect the motive of the type that try to tell me how they are giving (things/money to the latest fund to provide whatever in the darkest reaches of god knows where)  becasue its "the right thing to do" and my first question always is ...how much you trying to scam me for???

Finally IF empathy does exist......its magnitude is in inverse proportion to the numbers needing it.....


But you have empathy for animals. Is that brought on by guilt?
I would say its brought up by a mutual respect. So can humans then not have mutual respect for each other?
So you stigmatize empathy into basic categories is misleading to say the least.

You can empathize with a work colleague, as its the team that in reality can achieve results for all working in that company. So where they are struggling you can empathize where you have yourself struggled to help them.

When we have been hungry of which all of us have at some point felt to varying degrees. Does it require guilt in order to want to help someone? Sometimes it does and sometimes it does not, because some people know that for people to be healthier, they are less likely to need medical help. Of which we back unanimously to have medical help for everyone within the system. Even though children do not pay into having medical aid. Yet nobody would argue against them receiving any help. We are humans after all and its natural to collectively help others in order to survive. Groups have a far better chance of survival than those alone. Its simple, we would not want to be hungry or ill and thus strive to ensure people are not facing the same problems. It does not require the four aspects you listed to have this, because we have generally faced this ourselves and thus empathize.

The reality is people rarely act out on their empathy with real meaning.
Take Korben for example, he has, with going to Africa to do some real help for people
He has not done this for greed, bragging rights, tax or pragmatism. He has seen people struggle and clearly wants to help. So you are looking at this too logically and not looking that much closer to yourself with this

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Post by Ben Reilly on Thu Jan 19, 2017 8:17 pm

Yeah, empathy is pretty integral to the survival of the human race, and it is based on the notion that if you help others, you stand a better chance of getting help when you need it. What's so wrong with that?

I've seen this attitude here a lot -- that "do-gooders" are just trying to make others think they're so wonderful or something. What's wrong with that? Shouldn't we praise those who help others? Or should we think selfish bastards are wonderful?

"Oh, I'm not voting for Candidate X because she obviously just wants people to think she's a saint, what with all those proposals that would help the country!"

Lunacy.

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