Saturday, May 24, 2008

The trouble with empathy

Empathy in large quantities is spontaneous self-destruct. Because, I feel the pain and fear and dull hopelessness of the young naked girl being thrown down a flight of stairs at the same time as the gloating perverse sexual pleasure of the monster performing the deed. Often at the same time. If I do not distance myself forcibly, I would be deranged in days. Maybe I am already.

The trouble with feeling someone else’s pain is that there is a sensation of being conjoined with them at some level. The pain, the pleasure, becomes too real to be imagined. It becomes more intense every time I feel it.

You, my dear friend, might be feeling heart break for the first time. For me, I have broken my heart every time I empathized with someone’s heartbreak. So their experiences meld with my own and now yours to produce a sympathy heartbreak in me that is sometimes more acute than yours. Of course, for me the empathy is temporary whereas your heartbreak is permanent. Doesn’t make it any easier for me.

I have come to realize that empathy is something that can be controlled with time and maturity, but I still suffer the aftershocks of someone else’s earthquakes months, years, after they happen. And I am cursed with an excellent memory. An emotional scar is not easily erased unless it can be forgotten. Its worse if its not your own scar. You suffer and you don’t know why, or how to stop it.

My auto defense mechanism is to distance myself from unhappy people, literature, art, and movies so as to take in as little destructive input as possible. Maybe someday I will be able to control my empathies enough to read and watch them without sinking clean into depression myself. But till then, I have to stay positive and this is how I deal with it.

Its not all bad of course. The pleasures, the exhilaration, the vicarious thrills, they too are mine without moving from my figurative armchair. A much bigger high than any drug can be. But my biggest fear is jumping off a high-rise building someday, hard wired into somebody else’s head and forgetting to pull the plug before I splat onto the sidewalk.

lolcat - no one understands emo cat


  1. The problem with empathy is that, we identify intellectually - feelings, thoughts of the *victim* and that sort of creeps into our emotions and we identify our self with that...

    maybe first being sensitive to one's self as you mention have defence mechanism in place - would bring in the equilibrium...

    jeez, you provoked my thoughts !

    Good one
    Still Preggi...that is sort of getting to me :(

  2. I totally understand. I usually end up playing agony aunt.. and sometimes it just wells up in me until I just want to just make myself small and hide myself in someone's warm pocket.
    Sensitivity is a vice at times, no?

  3. Pregman - Cheer up darling :)! Yeah, the "victim", the "predator" too ... I hate it :(

    Mackie - Yeah, it is :( ... I play agony aunt too and generally, its fine, as long as I dont have something Im dealing with myself... Else it becomes too much to cope :( ... Gess we must stay strong wot :(!