The question that has been puzzling me is why certain ethnic groups that were persecuted at any one time don’t recognize a similarly persecuted other ethnic group as comrades in suffering. Why one victim can’t and won’t give you a hoot about another victim’s misery.
I mostly see this in movies nowadays, but I used to participate in groups and in big seminars, so I have been seeing this forever.
But this was the first time I asked the question: why is this?
Are these bad people? And I guess that is what I have been stuck with until yesterday.
Yesterday I asked the question: is it a capacity to see the same fate in another?
The answer was yes. Hm… but then what is the capacity? Is it the seeing or is it the appreciating of it?
I haven’t gotten to a definitive answer, because until I activate a capacity that I think is responsible for a behavior, I won’t know. But my current vote goes for “empathy”, the capacity to feel another’s pain, or at least recognize it as pain.
Without there can be no compassion, and without there can be no caring.
I first noticed that the capacity of empathy is missing in Black people, in Native American Indians. As a Jew, I have been sensitive to them not seeing a persecuted ethnicity in my kind… You need to appreciate that you can only start where you are… so for me, being Jewish was very important, still is.
But then I started to look further, and the capacity empathy, I found was missing in doctors, missing in chiropractors, missing in most people. My ex, who is a psychiatrist, has it. His mother, who is also a psychiatrist, doesn’t. Dr House MD is a doctor who visibly lacks empathy. 1
Upon further investigation I found that children are born with the capacity on, but turn it off because it is inconvenient.
Empathy is turned off for two reasons:
- people around you lie, say one thing and do another. For a fledgling young person this incongruency is unconfrontable, so better not feel the truth and accept the lie. 2
- recognizing another’s pain, joy, anguish feels like an obligation to get involved, but it flies in the face of “it is either you or me”… But because the young person doesn’t want to feel bad about himself, he turns of empathy. The truth is, there is no built-in need to get involved, it is a societal or religious commandment, not of Life.
So we end up with a planet inhabited by billions and billions of people who don’t appreciate another’s pain, another’s yearnings, and don’t care if they die.
And in a world of pretense-caring, pretense-love, pretense-joy, you think everyone cares… so you get on the bandwagon and pretend yourself.
In some cultures that live in peace, like the Bushmans, empathy stays on into adulthood.
Empathy is really needed to navigate successfully in the world. Without empathy you can only appreciate your narrow point of view… but without being able to appreciate another’s view, there is no communication. Not even with your children.
Empathy is like an energetic communication channel that when it’s on, you know how to talk to someone, because you feel where they are at. Even between women and men… lol
Your cat has it. Your dog doesn’t. Your dog has its information about your state of mind through visual and auditory signals, not through empathy.
Your cat knows if you are a nasty human being, and will only go to you what she wants. Otherwise she avoids you. 3
A dog, lacking the insight, will serve a nasty person just like a good loving person.
The cat is further on the evolutionary scale because of this extra capacity, empathy.
When I test ultra-successful people, they have empathy. The feel…
Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, and of course, master marketers. On the other hand, people who make their living doing motivational speeches, he doesn’t. He wins by dominating… by having a big voice, by forcing.
T. Harv Eker has empathy. He had it turned off as a child, but when he internalized the sentence, uttered by a millionaire friend of his father, “when something is not working, there is something you don’t know” and from the inside he started to see, not with his eyes, but his feelings.
He has a famous saying, I’ll paraphrase: “I can tell you in a 30 second interaction your financial future”. He may have said three minutes… short time.
How can he do it? I spoke with him once. One sentence from me, maybe two, and one half sentence from him. As an empath I felt that he accurately diagnosed me as someone who lived making lies true.
What do I mean?
We all create an identity in reaction to what we think is happening to us.
One of my identities was “shy”.
But I was shy only in my head, in life I was bold, unreasonably bold.
He didn’t, could not see anything else, but saw the incongruency of reality and self-image.
You can only see it with fully functioning empathy.
If I hadn’t chose to follow the human mystery into the rabbit hole, deeper and deeper, I could be anything.
I would be especially successful in anything that requires the ability to say what would move the other person to buy something…
You don’t have to do anything with it, but is like a third eye. You can navigate the treacherous waters of life a lot better.
As I was searching for images to make this post prettier and easier to read, I saw that a lot of people talk about empathy. They call it life’s most essential skill… They tell you to learn it.
But can empathy be turned back on by you? Not likely. Why? Because the reasons it turned off didn’t go away. When I think how to keep it on after I turn it on for you, energetically, I see that the two enemies, you not being able to deal with the ambivalence of what you say and what you feel, can only be dealt with if you don’t identify with your feelings. If you do… you need to turn it off again.
Unless you learn to dis-identify yourself from your feelings, create a slight distance between you and the feelings, you won’t be able to keep empathy on.
The other enemy is cognitive: as long as you think that you need to act compassionate to have compassion, as long as you think you need to take care of someone to have caring, you won’t allow empathy to stay on.
If you think you can and are willing to handle those two enemies and are ready to bring empathy into your life, into your relationships, into your business, then you can ask me to turn empathy on for you. If you don’t succeed the first time, you may succeed the second time.
Life wants you to have it.
I know I have said: no more capacities, but I’ll make an exception with empathy. Without empathy I can’t do the work that I want to do with you: finding your original lie and neutralize it so you can grow. Why? Because without empathy you are unable to get in touch with your own feelings. And without that… no work is possible.
I have tested, the students that do well, all have empathy on, at least a little bit. At least to the degree that they can feel their own feelings.
And without feelings you are cut off from yourself and life… 4
- I am not the first person who connects lack of empathy with violence… Here is a book by famous psychiatrist, Simon Baron-Cohen, Zero degrees of Empathy, for paying subscribers of my subscribers site. I haven’t read it, by the way.
- The psychological issue “double bind” is caused by this, and according to a book I read some 35 years ago, most schizophrenic have had double bind situations with their mother.
- My cats avoided me… as a Forget Thyself person I used to be quite nasty.
- affective empathy is an overkill expression. All empathy is affective… because empathy is the ability to recognize another’s feelings and appreciate them and respect them.My theory is that empathy can only be trained if the empathy capacity is active. 99.99% of humanity has it turned off, and all training will lead to empathy-like behavior, that all comes from the mind, not the feelings. That is not real empathy. On the other hand, if empathy is turned on, people do benefit from training in using empathy to get instant information about others, and to be able to put themselves in the other person’s shoesHere is another weird word combination. Without looking it up, I guess if you feel the other’s state of mind, but you don’t connect it with them… empaths have this, I had it for decades… I call that the unconscious empath… and empath that thinks that all feelings are theirs. In essence, in the real world, that results in actions and speaking that is insensitive, because there is no cognition that the feelings belong to another. Very interesting.