Having or possessing degrees of empathy must be seen as common for everyone. Empathy is a vital aspect of social life.
I am inclined to agree that empathy is an important aspect of an individual’s’ personality, but it is not the full picture regarding that which empathy deals with; ie.
1. the psychological identification with or vicarious experiencing of the feelings, thoughts, or attitudes of another.
2. the imaginative ascribing to an object, as a natural object or work of art, feelings or attitudes present in oneself:’¹.
When I was really ill, being alone was the easiest thing in the world for me to do, and the best way for which to be. Under the spell of a mental health condition, I felt like I was in a trance the majority of my days. But what was entrancing me was totally beyond my control.
Empathy with others was always easy for me growing up, I remember being in a conversation with a young girl, when she and I was at the formative age of fifteen or so. She and I were discussing how we felt about a certain social situation or other. We were chatting about how I personally seemed detached from arguments and social strife within our group of friends, but at the same time conscious and able to cast a critical eye over our social environment to find a route cause. Therefore, even at a young age, I do feel that this was my empathetic powers beginning to develop and in a way prove useful in intimate groups.
Contrast that aspect of my being with me now, I can safely saw things have changed. Not for the better though, as this quality was one of the better aspects of my adolescence.
In her book: ‘the Art of Empathy’, Karla McLaren writes of the six essential aspects of empathy. One central aspect being; managing empathy in yourself and others and controlling it, rather than letting it control your emotional make-up.
As a man I can say that going along with what common folklore tells us; that empathy is for women. But on the other hand those with certain mental illnesses like mine, do not possess empathy at all, I find all this literature a little confusing to say the least.
I do know, that I am empathetic. I am certain that I can understand and feel the emotions of others. But what I am a little concerned about is the fact that I find myself unable to control the times and degree with which, I sense emotions and feelings in others, especially if it is indirectly experienced in the presence of [some] others.
Empathy, must be one of the greatest gifts humanity has. But yet, we may only (or mainly) experience it when we are social. This goes without saying, but yet if one is not able to practice their empathetic skills with others in groups and social situations, then what happens to those skills?
For example: At times I am personally quite isolated. I find myself not choosing the right environments and people to surround, support and nourish me as an good individual, in a sort of self-destructive way. I would love to support others personally and emotionally, but being isolated in a sense kills that desire and need in individuals, or so I believe extinguishes the emotional flame you may have for/with others.
I do find it hard relating to others at times. Usually, i’d say most of the time when a situation revolves around emotional content. To be fair, I find it more difficult when I am suffering mentally, to engage with other people’s emotions now. But when I am having a good day with others and being socially engaged, I am a good listener and help others if I find they explicitly address an emotional issue with me. But I don’t go seeking out people to emotionally bond with. This is self-destructive.
I love certain others’ in my life, for the people they are and the things they do.
I’m not in a bad place at the moment, but I do appreciate that those new to my story, may read this and become concerned that I am feeling isolated. This I feel is just a fact of my life, I struggle on, and enjoy life as much as possible – believe me.
But this subject of empathy is touching, and strikes a chord with me as a grown man and a individual, like many others in the world. In the definition above: vicarious living is where I am today, but that’s a whole other article.