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Old 12-23-2011, 02:19 PM
 
Location: Nebraska
4,179 posts, read 9,149,583 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by eastwesteastagain View Post
Yes, those are the dictionary definitions of sympathy and empathy. They are not the functional definitions used in any type of social science research, however.

I'm rather taken aback by some of your assumptions about "the whole empathetic routine." Being able to put yourself in someone else's shoes does not preclude action. I'm not sure why you would assume that?

And FWIW, neither of the links provided has anything to do self-aggrandizement or wallowing in someone else's pain. Do people do those things? Sure. But that's not empathy, it's narcissism.
I would "assume" it because I have seen it in action. The fluttery "Oh, you poor thing!" that does nothing, says nothing, accomplishes nothing ; the woman or man weeping ineffectually at a TV commercial, saying "someone should help these poor (children people animals)" or throwing money ineffectually into a bottomless pit of bureaucracy, walking away with the satisfaction of "There, I DID something!" - without doing anything realistic or truly helpful and life-changing at all.
And yes it is narcissism, as I stated, or at least alluded.

The 'functional definitions' to which you refer, IMO, blur the lines and give people to understand that non-directed 'empathy' is a desired trait. It is not. Welfare (and by that I mean the purely emotional response to a real need, not necessarily a governmental or religious reference or resource) doesn't help most people to gain self-respect or to help themselves; it makes the altruist feel all better about himself while his victims continue to play on the empathy of others. Say "But - it's for the children!" and all sorts of people will open their pocketbooks and pride themselves on being empathetic - without understanding, and in most cases not even recognizing, the damage that they do. It becomes a conditioned response, even a societally-demanded response, instead of a rational, thoughtful, concerned, "Let's look at this and see how we can help - or even if we should" - truly sympathetic, life-affirming, life-generating assistance.

Society should teach children to care, not based on a knee-jerk, whole-earth, spiritually-empathetic response, but based on an intelligent assessment of circumstances. Doctors, nurses, and paramedics are not trained to merely hold someone's hand and empathize - they are trained to titrate their responses to the patient's needs, as well as utilizing what capabilities and resources are at hand to improve their situation. You can't teach sympathy by throwing money into someone's coffers or by dragging your children to a food bank to volunteer, any more than you can bandage a man's wounds whose heart has stopped and expect him to survive; you teach them to assess a situation and help to the extent of not only the complainant's needs, but the resources available and their potential outcomes. Mindless love, caring, and concern "for all those others" is impotent and unreasonable without valid and lasting action that produces measurable results. Once they witness, not the empty self-gratification of empathy, but the productive results of their interest and well-considered involvement, you produce caring adults who can and will offer real help, in real concern for others.
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Old 12-23-2011, 02:21 PM
 
Location: Philadelphia, PA
3,388 posts, read 3,239,171 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nana053 View Post
The golden rule says do unto others as you would have them do unto you. The empath, however, says do unto others as they would have you do unto them.
What a wonderful way to put it! Thanks, you, too, articulated what I was trying to say!

Also, I think it's wonderful that your local GS troop is so community service oriented!
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Old 12-23-2011, 02:22 PM
 
11,230 posts, read 9,285,183 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SCGranny View Post
I would "assume" it because I have seen it in action. The fluttery "Oh, you poor thing!" that does nothing, says nothing, accomplishes nothing ; the woman or man weeping ineffectually at a TV commercial, saying "someone should help these poor (children people animals)" or throwing money ineffectually into a bottomless pit of bureaucracy, walking away with the satisfaction of "There, I DID something!" - without doing anything realistic or truly helpful and life-changing at all.
And yes it is narcissism, as I stated, or at least alluded.
That does not strike me as empathetic at all. That sounds like phoniness.
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Old 12-23-2011, 02:34 PM
 
Location: The Hall of Justice
25,907 posts, read 35,133,939 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SCGranny View Post
I raised my children to be sympathetic but NOT to be caught up in the whole "empathetic" routine. An empath doesn't help others; s/he seeks to make others feel that s/he understands their pain and shares it. It is a totally self-aggrandizing, mindlessly-altruistic, self-promoting mechanism. I would rather my children learn to listen to others, and help them talk things out, or discuss actions for solving their problems or accepting and learning from their grief or pain, than to be mindlessly "empathetic". Fortunately, they did. Which means that rather than breaking down and crying with someone who has a broken arm, they help them splint it and take them to the doctor; rather than trying to share someone's broken heart, they help them try to get over it, learn from it, and live better. I'd rather have my children (all now completely responsible and kind, thoughtful adults) work to employ, feed, and house a homeless man, than cry because he's homeless while they have the audacity to think that they "share his pain". Fortunately, they all will.

Rant over.
I don't agree with your assessment of empathy. Empathy is why your children automatically do selfless acts. When someone has a broken arm, they splint it and take him to a doctor--because that is the right thing to do as a good human being. You would want someone to be kind to you, so give that kindness. The exaggerated grief you portray, with the empathetic person in tears and not helping, is not empathy. That is exaggerated pity, or sympathy: oh you poor thing I am sorry for YOU. The synonym of sympathy is pity; the synonym of empathy is compassion. To me, what you describe about your children are compassionate acts.

Remember also that empathy is not just about sorrow or pain. You can have empathetic feelings of happiness, surprise, joy, and honor.
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Old 12-23-2011, 02:34 PM
 
Location: Philadelphia, PA
3,388 posts, read 3,239,171 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SCGranny View Post
I would "assume" it because I have seen it in action. The fluttery "Oh, you poor thing!" that does nothing, says nothing, accomplishes nothing ; the woman or man weeping ineffectually at a TV commercial, saying "someone should help these poor (children people animals)" or throwing money ineffectually into a bottomless pit of bureaucracy, walking away with the satisfaction of "There, I DID something!" - without doing anything realistic or truly helpful and life-changing at all.
And yes it is narcissism, as I stated, or at least alluded.

The 'functional definitions' to which you refer, IMO, blur the lines and give people to understand that non-directed 'empathy' is a desired trait. It is not. Welfare (and by that I mean the purely emotional response to a real need, not necessarily a governmental or religious reference or resource) doesn't help most people to gain self-respect or to help themselves; it makes the altruist feel all better about himself while his victims continue to play on the empathy of others. Say "But - it's for the children!" and all sorts of people will open their pocketbooks and pride themselves on being empathetic - without understanding, and in most cases not even recognizing, the damage that they do. It becomes
a conditioned response, even a societally-demanded response, instead of a rational, thoughtful, concerned, "Let's look at this and see how we can help - or even if we should" - truly sympathetic, life-affirming, life-generating assistance.

Society should teach children to care, not based on a knee-jerk, whole-earth, spiritually-empathetic response, but based on an intelligent assessment of circumstances. Doctors, nurses, and paramedics are not trained to merely hold someone's hand and empathize - they are trained to titrate their responses to the patient's needs, as well as utilizing what capabilities and resources are at hand to improve their situation. You can't teach sympathy by throwing money into someone's coffers or by dragging your children to a food bank to volunteer, any more than you can bandage a man's wounds whose heart has stopped and expect him to survive; you teach them to assess a situation and help to the extent of not only the complainant's needs, but the resources available and their potential outcomes. Mindless love, caring, and concern "for all those others" is impotent and unreasonable without valid and lasting action that produces measurable results. Once they witness, not the empty self-gratification of empathy, but the productive results of their interest and well-considered involvement, you produce caring adults who can and will offer real help, in real concern for others.
I'm a bit confused, as by your own admission, the thing you are arguing against isn't empathy. I can absolutely see why you would have strong feelings against mindlessness with the function of making oneself feel good. The assumption I'm wondering about is equating empathy with mindlessness. ETA: wouldn't undirected sympathy be just as problematic? For example, "oh, those poor X, I feel so sorry for them, here's twenty dollars to help."

I have no doubt you've encountered people calling mindless do-gooderism by the term empathy, but it doesn't make it empathy. True empathy is trying to react to another person based on their perceptions, not your own. It is not passive and does not preclude thoughtful action; it actually encourages it. And empathy is a personality trait, technically speaking. But the functional term here is about the behavior of relating to other humans as humans and having one's behavior follow suit.

Either way, I think we're arguing semantics here.

Last edited by eastwesteastagain; 12-23-2011 at 03:22 PM..
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Old 12-23-2011, 02:52 PM
 
Location: here
24,491 posts, read 28,888,359 times
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Empathy vs. Sympathy in Psychodynamic Psychotherapy | After Psychotherapy

Sympathy:

“the act or capacity of entering into or sharing the feelings or interests of another”

Empathy:

“the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts and experience of another of either the past of present without having the feelings, thoughts and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner”

Neither seems like a bad thing to me. Neither seems mindless. I think we act compassionately because we have empathy. Why do you buy a sandwich for a homeless person? Because you can imagine what it must feel like to be homeless.

Anyway, I teach by example. My kids' school adopts families for Christmas. It would be much quicker and easier for me to run to the store, buy the gifts, and take them to the school. Instead I wait until the kids are available, take them to the store, explain the prices, let them pick an item, let them help me wrap it, and have them take it to school. This year they even used some of their own money. We talk about how thankful we are that we can afford food and a Christmas tree and gifts, and explain that some people can't afford any of that. This is just one example. We do things like this all the time. I can see it working, too. They have started coming up with their own ideas to help people in need.
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Old 12-23-2011, 03:15 PM
 
Location: Philadelphia, PA
3,388 posts, read 3,239,171 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Zimbochick View Post
How does one teach children? I think modeling is definitely top of the list. Children watch how their parents treat people. Nearly as important s talking to kids. We are a talk, talk family.
I agree. I actually think this is where things get tricky. Speaking for myself, there is nothing like having a little parrot beside me to really make me think about everything I say and do, lining up beliefs with actions that reflect them.

I know my son learns when I slip up and say something about someone else or a situation out of frustration just as much as he learns from the rest of the time how to be more reflective and balanced. I usually catch myself and then we talk about how whatever I said wasn't very kind and I rephrase. I want him to know it's ok to get angry but it's important to deal with it effectively. And also that it's ok to make mistakes, if we then catch ourselves and try to repair. Not sure how clearly I'm expressing myself, but I believe that the crux of empathy is the ability to perspective take and to accurately identify emotions, not just with others but with ourselves as well.

Quote:
Originally Posted by rkb0305 View Post
Neither seems like a bad thing to me. Neither seems mindless. I think we act compassionately because we have empathy. Why do you buy a sandwich for a homeless person? Because you can imagine what it must feel like to be homeless.

Anyway, I teach by example. My kids' school adopts families for Christmas. It would be much quicker and easier for me to run to the store, buy the gifts, and take them to the school. Instead I wait until the kids are available, take them to the store, explain the prices, let them pick an item, let them help me wrap it, and have them take it to school. This year they even used some of their own money. We talk about how thankful we are that we can afford food and a Christmas tree and gifts, and explain that some people can't afford any of that. This is just one example. We do things like this all the time. I can see it working, too. They have started coming up with their own ideas to help people in need.
That's awesome, Kibs. I think this was one of the points the author of the editorial was making, as well. It does take extra effort to have the kids engage in the behaviors themselves, but the experience is then more salient for them. I love that your kids are now running with their own ideas!
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Old 12-23-2011, 04:29 PM
 
Location: Chapel Hill, N.C.
36,437 posts, read 41,875,020 times
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I feel strongly having pets in the home goes a long way to teaching empathy and sympathy to our children. They can see fear, pain, joy, hunger and all sorts of other conditions in their pets that they may not recognize in their family members or other humans. Eventually they mature to the point of assigning these feelings to other humans.

Our school system here in Chapel Hill N.C. does a great job with these teachings as well and I feel the anti bullying campaigns all across the country are teaching our kids the best way to interact with their peers. I know most parents would want to be the primary teachers of these traits and they probably are but to be backed up by our schools is a wonderful bonus.

My children were adopted from third world countries. I never said "If you hadn't been adopted you would be starving in the streets by now" but they are old enough -9- and have read enough books and seen some TV shows depicting conditions in their birth countries to know that there are indeed many children in this world who were not as lucky and fortunate as they have been. I think they recognize themselves in the faces of these unfortunate children and it has made them extremely sensitive to the unfortunate.

We model sympathy and empathy in all sorts of ways here in our home and we would never try to make our kids feel beholding to us for their good living conditions today. But eventually almost every child should be able to see how many blessings they have and want to share with others. The more they see of the world, either in person thru travel or by education and books, the more each child learns sympathy and empathy for themselves.
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Old 12-23-2011, 04:59 PM
 
Location: Geneva, IL
12,976 posts, read 11,851,885 times
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It's truly sad to me that when discussing altruism and how best to make our children aware of those less fortunate who live in their world, as well as teaching them the myriad of things that may be done to help, that people should choose to focus their attention on definitions of language, and not the spirit of benevolence and kindness.

I know what I will be teaching my children; nitpicking on inconsequential details achieves nothing and makes a person appear foolish. Accusing those who actually do make a difference of being narcissistic makes a person appear foolish. Assuming what others may think and feel to spur sympathy or empathy when one cannot possibly have any idea, and then passing judgement on it, makes a person look extremely foolish.

Last edited by Zimbochick; 12-23-2011 at 05:42 PM..
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Old 12-23-2011, 05:03 PM
 
Location: Chapel Hill, N.C.
36,437 posts, read 41,875,020 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Zimbochick View Post
It's truly sad to me that when discussing altruism, and how best to make our children aware of those less fortunate who live in their world, as well as teaching them the myriad of things that may be done to help, that people should choose to focus their attention on definitions of language, and not the spirit of benevolence and kindness.

I know what I will be teaching my children; nitpicking on inconsequential details achieves nothing and makes a person appear foolish. Accusing those who actually do make a difference of being narcissistic makes a person appear foolish. Assuming what others may think and feel to spur sympathy or empathy when one cannot possibly have any idea, and then passing judgement on it, makes a person look extremely foolish.
Oh Zim- you took the words right out of my mouth! Thanks so much for your wisdom.
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