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Empathy vs Compassion...good or bad or somewhere in between?

missy

Super_Ideal_Rock
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A friend (with whom I share different political beliefs) forwarded this to me this morning. I just skimmed it as I am running late but thought some of you might find it interesting.

http://nypost.com/2016/12/10/obama-preaches-empathy-trump-projects-it/

In “To Kill a Mockingbird,” the moral guidepost of the story is
planted by Atticus Finch, who tells us, “You never really understand a
person until you consider things from his point of view. . . until you
climb into his skin and walk around in it.” President Obama tells us
“to see the world through the eyes of those who are different from us”
because “when you think like this. . . it becomes harder not to act,
harder not to help.”


As a guide to living, this attitude is mistaken. Far from being the
spark for doing good, empathy is a kind of moral short circuit that
damages our ability to make rational choices. Empathy can be racist,
thrill-based, corrosive, hostile to facts and logic, with an alarming
tendency to cruelty and violence. “On balance, empathy is a negative,”
Yale psychologist Paul Bloom puts it in his cleverly contrarian book
“Against Empathy: The Case for Rational Compassion.” “It’s sugary
soda, tempting and delicious and bad for us.”


Empathy — feeling what you believe someone else is feeling — starts
with the basic error of availability bias: We focus on whatever
problem is right in front of us, such as what’s on the news, at the
possible expense of much larger problems affecting far more human
beings. “You cannot empathize with more than one or two people at a
time,” writes Bloom. These feelings crowd out more thoughtful
deliberations.


Say you learn an 8-year-old girl named Rebecca has become mortally ill
due to a faulty vaccine. You’ll be outraged. Halt that vaccine! Write
your congressman! Fueled by the satisfying surge of empathy, millions
like you could create a movement that will sicken many children by
stopping them from being vaccinated.


Raising children is a mass act of putting aside empathy: Frequently,
we not only ignore our kids’ pain, we actually cause them pain, for
their long-term good. We make them cry by forcing them to go to bed,
do their homework or see the dentist. You might say that resisting the
allure of empathy is one of our most important tasks as parents.


Moreover, controlling your empathetic urges is critical to leadership
in general. A business exec who couldn’t bear to fire anyone could
wind up costing everyone their jobs by driving the firm into
bankruptcy. A principal who never holds back any students because she
frets about the resulting stigma would be making things worse for
those falling behind. Empathy even handicaps nurses. A study cited by
Bloom found nursing students with high empathy spent less time caring
for patients and more time seeking help from other medical
professionals.


Empathy can usefully be compared to anger, Bloom says: Both are
universal responses mainly geared toward others, both can make us
irrational and both are moral — they include judgments about right and
wrong. Both have positive aspects; anger, for instance, according to
evolutionary theory, leads to enhanced cooperation among humans by
instilling punishment for those who cheat or are unkind to others.
Donald Trump proved how easily empathy and anger can operate in
tandem: He felt the same rage with the Washington establishment,
free-trade agreements and political correctness that his voters did.


Empathy isn’t necessarily a liberal trait; conservative Supreme Court
Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito spoke of the need for
judicial empathy in their confirmation hearings. During the Ferguson
riots, the one thing both sides agreed on was empathy: Protesters felt
the pain of black youths shot by police, while defenders of law and
order put themselves in the shoes of cops menaced by aggressive
criminals.


To be a good person, though, it is critical to understand when others
are hurting. If, being kind, you want others to be happy, you have to
have what Bloom calls “cognitive empathy” or social intelligence — an
awareness of other people’s feelings. He encourages compassion,
otherwise known as concern for others, which should not be confused
with empathy. Say there are millions of people suffering from malaria
— you can have compassion for this group and wish to take steps to
alleviate their pain, but you don’t actually empathize with them.


There is a measurable difference — it can readily be seen on a brain
scan — between empathy and compassion. The former lights up the insula
and anterior cingulate cortex, while compassion buzzes the medial
orbitofrontal cortex and ventral striatum. More noticeably, compassion
training produces a warm and positive outlook, while empathy is
mentally draining and unpleasant.


Think about the most empathic people you know, the ones who are
constantly in an emotional five-alarm state due to distress about the
condition of the world. Do they seem happy?
calvinapathy.gif
 

Tacori E-ring

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Messages
20,038
Re: Empathy vs Compassion...good or bad or somewhere in betw

That's interesting. I am a big Brene Brown fan. I can't remember if we are allowed to link videos but if you google "Brené Brown on Empathy" it will bring you to a small clip that I think explains empathy perfectly.

ETA: Empathy is a huge term in my field. I disagree with the definition the article gives. I am a very empathetic person, sometimes to a fault. I often can "feel" someone else's pain. However true empathy is not about giving solutions. It is about being there. A "connection" like Brené Brown describes. I don't think it makes me unhappy but it can be very draining.
 

LLJsmom

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Re: Empathy vs Compassion...good or bad or somewhere in betw

Sorry can't get too detailed in this response. Time crunch.

Maybe I don't understand the article. I don't think that being empathetic means that you will make decisions base solely on those feelings.

So I guess I don't agree. I think there can be both. Empathy and compassion are not mutually exclusive but maybe the article says they cannot exist together. Maybe I just don't get it.
 

missy

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Re: Empathy vs Compassion...good or bad or somewhere in betw

Tacori E-ring|1481594678|4106760 said:
That's interesting. I am a big Brene Brown fan. I can't remember if we are allowed to link videos but if you google "Brené Brown on Empathy" it will bring you to a small clip that I think explains empathy perfectly.

ETA: Empathy is a huge term in my field. I disagree with the definition the article gives. I am a very empathetic person, sometimes to a fault. I often can "feel" someone else's pain. However true empathy is not about giving solutions. It is about being there. A "connection" like Brené Brown describes. I don't think it makes me unhappy but it can be very draining.
Thank you Tacori. I googled the video and watched it and I agree. Connection is what makes empathy. And yes it can be draining but also rewarding being there for another and just lifting their load a bit by being there for them and ultimately worth the energy. And I agree it doesn't make me unhappy per se but by feeling their pain it does weigh on my mind. But again just being there for another and helping them by knowing they are not alone makes it worth it.

Just sharing the clip for anyone who is interested.

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/partnering-in-mental-health/201408/bren-brown-empathy-vs-sympathy-0


LLJsmom, I agree there can and often is both. The article didn't make complete sense to me either.

calvinhobbecompassion.png
 

Polished

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Joined
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Messages
1,068
Re: Empathy vs Compassion...good or bad or somewhere in betw

While it’s useful to look at the drawbacks and possible negative effects that over empathising can have on a person, I think this article overreaches on the subject. For instance a boss might need good boundaries which could entail the need to fire people for the good of the organisation but in another situation a boss with an ability to empathise might motivate others to be more productive at work.

While I can understand that empathy needs to be managed and that distressing emotions can lead to burnout; it’s equally true that detachment can lead to indifference. Take the example in the article:

“Say there are millions of people suffering from malaria
— you can have compassion for this group and wish to take steps to
alleviate their pain, but you don’t actually empathize with them.”

This is a call for compassionate action but I’d argue that it is a call that would tend to fall on deaf ears. It has no connection to the heart.

The elephant sanctuary I support in India has reached capacity and they need more land. They have found an ideal spot, complete with streams, trees and plenty of quiet fields for long elephant walks. How do they appeal to us for help. By harping on about the land and the plight of captured elephants in India in general. No. They’ve given us one example of a working elephant who is buckling under the weight of heavy loads while being prodded by a sharp stick to keep going. By identifying with this elephant and knowing the paradise we are capable as a collective to give it, we are more likely to be motivated to help than simply supporting a cause out of a general compassion for the cause. I’d say that empathy is a stronger place to begin to strategize ways to help than compassion because you are actually moved to bring about an outcome.
 

missy

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Re: Empathy vs Compassion...good or bad or somewhere in betw

Polished|1481627262|4106829 said:
While it’s useful to look at the drawbacks and possible negative effects that over empathising can have on a person, I think this article overreaches on the subject. For instance a boss might need good boundaries which could entail the need to fire people for the good of the organisation but in another situation a boss with an ability to empathise might motivate others to be more productive at work.

While I can understand that empathy needs to be managed and that distressing emotions can lead to burnout; it’s equally true that detachment can lead to indifference. Take the example in the article:

“Say there are millions of people suffering from malaria
— you can have compassion for this group and wish to take steps to
alleviate their pain, but you don’t actually empathize with them.”

This is a call for compassionate action but I’d argue that it is a call that would tend to fall on deaf ears. It has no connection to the heart.

The elephant sanctuary I support in India has reached capacity and they need more land. They have found an ideal spot, complete with streams, trees and plenty of quiet fields for long elephant walks. How do they appeal to us for help. By harping on about the land and the plight of captured elephants in India in general. No. They’ve given us one example of a working elephant who is buckling under the weight of heavy loads while being prodded by a sharp stick to keep going. By identifying with this elephant and knowing the paradise we are capable as a collective to give it, we are more likely to be motivated to help than simply supporting a cause out of a general compassion for the cause. I’d say that empathy is a stronger place to begin to strategize ways to help than compassion because you are actually moved to bring about an outcome.

Polished, thank you for that excellent example. Having empathy allows you to feel their plight and drives you to want to do what you can to help alleviate the suffering. Makes so much sense.

Do you mind linking the elephant sanctuary you support here? I would like to make a donation to help them. Thank you!
 

Polished

Brilliant_Rock
Joined
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Messages
1,068
Re: Empathy vs Compassion...good or bad or somewhere in betw

Bless you missy! I go to Wildlife SOS India facebook page. If you scroll down a bit you get to the donation link for the land fund for the elephants.

www.facebook.com/wildlifesosindia/

Thank you!
 

Bayek

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Messages
6,678
Re: Empathy vs Compassion...good or bad or somewhere in betw

A friend (with whom I share different political beliefs) forwarded this to me this morning. I just skimmed it as I am running late but thought some of you might find it interesting.

Empathy is to feel another's pain, joy etc. It's not just sadness.. I feel empathy with a person who receives their first diamond~ I remember that feeling.. I cannot feel empathy for a person who loses a leg, not lost one yet, but I can feel great sympathy for that person.

NYPost, used to be a decent paper 45 years ago.. today, a lite ALT Right rag...

Even if one feels empathy with another, that does not mean advisement of answers that may be wrong.

Tell your friend to read the Daily News, much better writing.
 
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