The danger of empathy — if you THINK you know what another person is thinking or feeling you are much less likely to ask them how they actually are feeling. I wish I could take credit for that idea, it is from my new favorite podcast Invisibilia The subject was a person who has Mirror-Touch Synesthesia the way I understood it is a person can see something happen to someone else, they are slapped, they are eating, whatever, and the person with the mirror-touch synesthesia feels the sensations the other person is experiencing. They feel the punch, or the food being put in their mouths. The podcast did not go into how this would affect sexual situations, that could be really amazing, or terrifying, probably both, but I think it really should have been included. Will someone please research this for me?
I am not a doctor, and do not have any training in psychology, therapy, human relations and all of that, but the subject is fascinating to me. Please do your own research, it is really cool stuff, I am so happy to have a forum to share these thoughts.
Nearly everyone has some amount of ability to feel what others are experiencing, the people with mirror-touch just have an extreme variation of it. Most of us experience it as empathy or when someone else yawns, others around them begin to yawn (there is a term for it, just can’t remember what it is at the moment.)
Empathy is important, it is part of what makes society possible. To borrow from Bill Clinton, ” I feel your pain” A lack of empathy leads to all sorts of problems, like Republican control of the House, Senate, Presidency, and Supreme Court (OK I try not to interject politics into this site, but this example was just too obvious). But too much empathy can be overwhelming, we loose ourselves in the feelings we imagine in others. The subtle non-verbal cues we pick up from others lead us to all sorts of incorrect thoughts. We imagine people are angry, or sexually attracted, or bored or whatever when we really have no idea what others are thinking….
Unless we ASK THEM.
They might not have an answer, people often are not able to articulate how they feel. We know we feel uneasy, or good, or scared, but getting to the root of these feelings is hard. And, the fact that is hard is what makes it so worthwhile to explore these feelings with the people in your life. Does not always work, and there are people who are not at all happy to share their honest feelings, so we take small steps with them, always being respectful of their comfort level in sharing such things.
My unasked advice: Every day be a little more honest with yourself and those in your life, Who knows it may lead you to something wonderful. Or we can keep going as we always have, that is the fun thing about life, there are so many ways to live it.
The photos from this post are from last year. I went with my kids to Southern California to visit family. I always take photos like this, but never seem to get around to sharing them. I think I posted one or two of these on Instagram, but thought they would somehow illustrate what today’s lecture was about. The photo below was taken around the same time of one of my dearest friend’s son. They were visiting San Francisco, and I was able to spend a few hours with them.
Did this combination of these photographs and my writings work? I photograph from a sense of empathy, I am not sure exactly how to explain it, but the act of photography is a chance for me to fully experience other people, and it is really wonderful, beautiful, sometimes sad but in a nice way (ok that makes no sense, but it does to me). But, sometimes I have to put the camera down, and face people without the shield. I am getting better at that.
This photo has nothing at all to do with the rest of the post, for some reason it was in the folder with the family photos, and that is great. It is all the somehow the same.