Why my empathy can be weak.

Correction: Why my empathy is weak.

Psychology, a relationship between persons in which the condition of one
induces a parallel or reciprocal condition in another, without the same experience as their own. The fact or power of sharing the feelings of another, especially in sorrow or trouble;
fellow feeling, compassion, or commiseration.

The psychological identification with or vicarious experiencing of the feelings, thoughts, or attitudes of another.  Knowing a personal similar experience and sharing the feelings induced by the experience.

Basically, sympathy is feeling for another when you have never gone through what they have.  For example, a friend losing a parent.  I never have, (thank God) but I can feel for them and all that they are certainly experiencing.  Empathy is feeling for a person who is experiencing something you have been through.  Like when my son says work is so bad, but I have worked longer and harder so I just have a hard time feeling that bad for him.

I struggle with the latter, especially in instances where others think I really should have more compassion.  It has been brought to my attention by people I trust and so I had to really take a look at why.  Where is the disconnect?  To go through such traumas as I have, and then dig deep into what could be blocking my ability to be empathetic to others who are suffering.

A quick explanation to not sound like a total asshole, I do accept wherever people are in their journey, I try to meet them on their path.  I can and do, listen and support, I can be an ear to the struggle and a voice when theirs fails them, and I do understand, often painfully.

Where I fail, is what I also consider coddling, or enabling a situation, which does come across as very harsh.  I have survived things that should have killed me so when I see someone purposefully stagnant in positive progression, I have a hard time.  Not to say I never stumbled and fell, but rather that I did not stay there.  I got up again and pushed forward again, and still.

Let me give you an example.  In regards to domestic violence, I will NEVER ask a victim why they stayed.  The reasons are far too vast, and really of no matter to anyone else.  Each reason is personal, and it carried the weight it did for that person to struggle through that existence. I am far more interested in why the abuser is causing such pain and trauma and getting away with it, exposing their heinous behavior and not enabling it to continue.

However, once a victim is on the other side of a thing, when they are out of the chaos, free of the abuse, I cannot fathom how they would continue to set themselves up for failure, and similar pain again, or in other areas of their lives.  Again to clarify, everyone's path out is their own, and I am not judging at all.  I too was addicted to the chaos and pain, living in such hell was difficult to break free from.  I just have a hard time watching someone continue to put themselves in a bad spot and expect everyone to excuse the self-inflicted pain and behavior because they are damaged.

We all are damaged.  Some in terrible ways, yes, but we cannot compare, pain is personal.

Furthering the example, I knew a woman who had experienced a very abusive and controlling relationship.  Before that, she was a victim of rape and a very tough upbringing.  I do not fault her for any of that, I wouldn't dare.  What I could not do, was make excuses for her getting black-out drunk and going home with a different guy each weekend.  I could not be held accountable for babysitting when people thought it was what needed to be done, because she is a grown damn woman.  Once more, I am not judging, everyone does what they need to, and God bless those who have more empathy than I.  My lack of empathy would come in even stronger, when a few days later she was boo-hooing about the guy not calling her back, furthering her depression, insecurities and lack of self-worth.

I realize I am an exception.  Not because I didn't do those exact things at one time, but because I held myself responsible for my part.  I did use alcohol to numb my pain, I did use men and sex to feel something, anything at all, when I was devoid of all emotional control.  I was a victim, yes, but I never played it to my advantage.  I just have a hard time when I KNOW people are capable of survival and overcoming, digging themselves out of the fucking trenches, but instead they opt to let it become who they are rather than something that happened to them.

My experiences happened to me, they are not who I am.

I would never ever minimize anyone's experience or trauma.  I would never judge them for how far they have come or not, no matter the time between, if they were working towards being well again.  In fact, I am often the one helping people overcome the "well it was not really abusive since he never hit me in the face" stigma, that I myself had.  Because domestic abuse is not only physical.  I am all about shedding light on the truths and validating the horrors endured.  I do that because it is the beginning of the healing.  I know this first hand.

In any experience, the validation that it was real, that it did happen, and how it made a person feel is the start of liberation from the negativity.

Maybe my ability to overcome looks like an impossible strength to some, but I promise you it is not strength that I feel.  What I feel is that it was my last and only choice, my last hope for survival.  I know that I will never be without the pain, the triggers, the emotional setback, the sadness, the fear.  Everything that happened to me will always be there.  But learning how to cope, to improve my existence from mere survival to really living again makes me forego any behavior that holds me hostage in that darkness.

I consider myself compassionate, and kind, but I can absolutely see how I may seem like I am not empathetic.  Like I am a tough-love kinda gal.  I just wish I could show others how accepting the persons self-inflicted setbacks feels like I am enabling their problems.  I cannot partake in anything that is not helpful to their recovery.  I just can't.

But I am working on on my empathy, none the less.

Sending out some love,