Sunday, February 26, 2006

Better or worse?

In between playing chauffeur to my daughter and all her friends, I spent the night browsing thru blogland checking out the misery and suffering of others in the world. This brought to mind one of the "skills" we recently discussed during DBT...comparing your life to others and basically accepting that your own life isn't nearly as fucked up as you believe it to be, it could be a lot worse.

I find this to be a nearly impossible task. Sure I don't have some rare, crippling disease or cancer or lost my child, etc. But how do you compare your life to someone else's when you haven't ever experienced what they're going through and they have never experienced what you've gone through? Everyone has different skills in dealing with what hand life has dealt them. Some rise up against pain & suffering and find a way to plow forward despite their roadblocks. Others like myself succumb to it, we view the obstacles as immovable walls with no way around, under, over or even through them.

It's not a lack of compassion or sympathy on my part. I can be brought to tears when I read or hear about the loss of a child in particular. I care about others, though some would disagree with that statement based on some of my past posts.

What's missing from within me is a component of empathy. The direct identification with, understanding of and vicarious experience of another person's situation and feelings; but only when they are different from my own.

Where or how do people obtain the ability to empathize with things they haven't been through, to put themselves in someone else's shoes as the saying goes? Is this something you're supposed to learn from your parents or other relationships? I'd be curious to figure this one out. Maybe it's a part of my "defectiveness" that I lack this skill and so many others that everyone around me seems to possess.

Less than human is how this makes me feel.


Blogger Maggs said...

I struggle with it. Believe me, I do.

It's a borderline thing, babe.

I find that when my previous boss was a complete dick, I would try to think about shit he was dealing with outside of work, and that's why he was a dick. Like, maybe he didn't get any sleep the night before because his toddler was up all night (been there done that). Or maybe he has a parent with a serious illness (haven't been there yet).

It's tough.

1:20 AM, February 26, 2006  
Blogger Raven said...

Damn! I wish I could be non-empathetic. I have the opposite problem. When someone comes to me with their probs I can actually "feel" their pain to the point where my eyes start to water. (I'm a sensitive snot) I want to do everything I can to help that person no matter how much pain I may be in.
I guess what they say is true, "The grass is always greener on the other side."
Anyway, thank you for your comment on my journal. Stop by anytime its so nice chatting with others of like mind.
Ps. You write very well. I'll be back!

9:09 AM, February 26, 2006  
Blogger the depressed nurse said...

Very interesting question and I'd love to say I had an answer for it, but I don't. I guess you can suppose empathy is a learned behavior from those around you, if you see them expressing empathy for others, then you too can learn that, but then I think that if you are seeing others eating green beans you'll like them too. That isn't the case though.
I empathize with some people and others I don't, but don't let your lack of it make you feel any less human. It's the human in you that lets you realize it in the first place.

12:11 PM, February 26, 2006  
Blogger Polar Bear said...

I don't think I'm very good at emphathy myself. infact sometimes I get very impatient with people. But when I try to apply the DBT skill of comparing myself with someone worst off, I tend think of how bad things can become for me - like for example, if I watch the news, I think about those people who have gotten themselves into a whole heap of trouble and I think, well, maybe I don't have it so bad....

4:26 PM, February 26, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't believe you. That sounds like me talking when I am spiraling. I think you and I both are empathetic with others, we just do not give ourselves permission to be empathetic with ourselves.

6:49 PM, February 28, 2006  

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