I think I have a hypothesis, but i’ll get to that in a minute.
I have completed the first chapter of “The Art of Empathy” and there is a quiz to see how empathic you are. So that you can gauge yourself and know where to focus on the rest of the book, I guess. So, I take this like 50 something Y/N question quiz and I score a 29.
This puts me in the “Empathy Sweet Spot”.
I read this and it basically states that my “Empathic Ability” is neither too hot, nor too cold; however there maybe areas of adjustment that I may want to increase (or decrease) sensitivity in my awareness.
So, now I am kind of confused. I have a book written by someone that is an expert in empathy telling me: “Meh, you’re good. You just need to refine some things” and I have a psychological assessment telling me that I have the empathy of someone with a form of autism. One thing that the post quiz page stated it to look at these traits and reflect on what you feel that you think this score means.
Here’s what I think it means:
I can read facial expressions, body language, notice various other non-verbal cues, read verbal sub-text, undertones, inflections in speech patterns, and I can sense other people’s emotions. I am an empath, the problem is that I do not care most of the time about these things.
Here’s an example:
Let’s say that you and I are buddies. We are sitting at a non-Starsucks coffee shop having a cup of [insert your favorite beverage that could be found at a coffee shop here] and I am talking about the color code system on resistors and how it works.
I could notice that you are:
1)Leaning forward, making eye contact, big smiles, your blink rate would be reduced, only subconsciously doing other actions (sipping your drink and setting it back down for example) and not breaking focus, you breathing may be slow and shallow, you would be actively listening (only acknowledging that you have understood what I have said or that I have said something with a one word answer like Uh-Huh, Yeah, OK.), your answers are also quick with different inflections and you would be excited, focused and content.
2) You would be leaned back, small smiles, your blink rate would be normal, you would consciously be doing other things and breaking focus, your breathing would be normal, you would still be actively listening, but the tone may be mono-toned or exhausted, and you would be apathetic, unfocused, but possibly content.
3) You would be leaned back and possibly have your arms crossed or your body pointing away from me, not smiling, you blink rate would be intensified, you would be consciously trying to find other things to be focused on, your breathing would be heavy and exhausted, you would not be actively listening and you would be un-happy, bored, and discontent.
Out of these three basic scenarios I know that for #1 you are interested in what I am saying and this is a good conversation. #2 means that you don’t really care about this conversation and would rather talk about something else or that you possibly have something else on your mind that that is bothering you. #3 Means that you are bored shitless by this conversation because resistor codes is a boring topic and even I don’t want to talk about them and you would rather talk or do something else that talk about fucking resistor codes.
Now, because you are my buddy I would care about this and would notice and change the subject or ask what’s going on with you or something like that; however let’s say that I am at that non-Starsucks coffee shop alone. I am drinking my macchiato (that’s an actual macchiato and not what “they” call a macchiato) and I see a woman crying just two tables away. By her facial expressions and her almost fetal position at the table I can tell that this isn’t a “happy cry”, and because she keeps looking at her phone I can tell that it’s because of a text, MMS, or Visual Voice Mail that she got that is upsetting her and assume that it is the loss of a relationship of some kind. I can feel for her, I have been there, those moments suck; however I do not feel the need, desire or obligation to go over and talk to her and give her a shoulder to cry on. I basically assess the emotions of the situation, come to a conclusion, and decide “been there, sucks to be you right now” and go about sipping my coffee and reading Reddit. Now, if she engages me then I will oblige her as a sounding board and try for scenario #2 and hopefully not slip into #3. Because while it sucks that this person is hurting, it isn’t my concern nor my obligation to heal/help them.
To me it’s the expectation of others that is being put on me (and you for that matter) to go and talk to the person that is having the negative emotion to be their sounding board or be their temporary therapist. Maybe I am detaching from these emotions because I don’t want to deal with them. Honestly, that’s the part that I think I need to figure out.
While reading this book, even though it’s just the first chapter (and even now while writing this), I thought back to something that my mother did to me as a child. When I would get a gift from someone, I would mind my manners and tell them thank you; however that wasn’t enough for her. She would always make me go give that person a hug (and sometimes a kiss) for the gift that I had received. I remember not wanting to do that so many times as a child. At the same time I remember when I was young, and even when I was a teenager, and I had some form of emotion (sadness & depression especially) that she didn’t want to deal with, or help me deal with, she always told me to “suck it up” or “quit being such a drama queen”. I can always remember her trying to shit on my happiness, too; however I think that was her way of trying to keep me from getting too excited about things and setting myself up for disappointment. Of course I could be wrong about that one. No matter how you look at it, on one hand I was forced to give an emotional response that I wasn’t comfortable with and at the same time, not allowed to deal with or have emotions on my own.
So, my hypothesis is this:
I do not have an issue with empathy. I have great empathy skills; however it is the emotional aspect of empathy that I do not deal well with and that makes me appear and feel apathetic and not deal well with the world around me.
I am going to keep reading this book, and will be taking my notes and book to my therapy sessions (along with my hypothesis) to see what I need to do about correcting this or if it can be corrected. Maybe this is just damage that has been done or maybe it is something that can be remedied.
I guess we’ll find out.