Genuine empathy

I was thinking about the idea that it’s kind of hard for many of us, including myself to feel genuine empathy. A lot of the time, it’s like a construct, a belief that its good to express concern for the suffering of others and we act that out like it’s our real feelings. If that’s happening, it can’t be our real feelings being experienced in regards to what we’re seeing, like if we saw or heard about the news of the recent bombing of innocent civilians – men, woman and children in Gaza… to that we might say that it’s horrible, and after saying that to ourselves and others, then go about and carry on with our lives as if nothing different really happened. So that concern is more like a manufactured type of empathy, manufactured to give others and ourselves a feeling that our response to what is basically unimaginable, is acceptable. It’s acceptable to respond in some form because it’s “good” to have concern, and then it’s OK to then acknowledge that it’s not our responsibility and it’s beyond our influence anyway.

Genuine empathy doesn’t do that. Genuine empathy has to make us act, act in the sense that our life will change, our decisions will change straight away. If we’re not acting in some form, or even if we are acting, say we go to a protest for example but we’re doing it because we’re acting out our need to feel acceptable, kind of an extended version of doing nothing – if it’s like that, if it’s not coming from our hearts, we’re actually making things worse. It’s worse because we don’t have true empathy and will be peddling an agenda based on our own emotional investments.

I believe almost all of us lack genuine empathy most of the time, at this time in human history. Just looking at what we allow to happen, it’s clear we do. If the world, the majority of the world felt empathy in a real sense, if we had a real sensitivity to the feelings others are experiencing, the world would be very different. At some point though, each of us will have to take full ownership of the situation of our own personal insensitivity, and how it’s allowed us to overlook acting from real love. That’s what I feel becoming personally responsible is all about.

Our own capacity to show real love for others, that comes from having real empathy is our own personal healing force, is our gift we have in ourselves to give to the world. If we are holding back that gift, no one else is responsible for that, but us. Every harm we see done to ourselves, self perpetuated, or perpetuated by others, every harm we see done to others, calls for use to activate our love, our gifts. We all have the ability to heal from our hearts, heal ourselves and others, heal eventually the whole world, but we don’t. We mostly choose not to go there because allowing our sensitivity to be switched on, allowing ourselves to really feel things, means we have to feel the hurt that we have as well and we don’t want to do that. All that’s understandable, I understand because I’m limping towards feeling myself too, and most of the time I’m avoiding it, so I know exactly what it’s like and why I want to do this. But the fact remains, I’m choosing moment by moment to let opportunities to love, opportunities to heal, pass by and this is my responsibility and because of that I’ll have to feel this one day, feel it as a real sorry to the world for holding my gifts to the world back. All of us collectively hold back and we create a world that is as it is, and it’s not a good world but a world that many suffer unnecessarily. The thing is we have to deal first with why all this makes us feel numb because it’s our numbness, our lack of feeling that allows violence to occur in the world, to others, and to ourselves.

I’ve heard a really simple way to look at our emotional layers, starting from what’s under feeling this numbness that makes sense to me and it might be helpful to others, so I’ll mention it below. In some way it’s really just getting beyond our numbness that the key to changing things.

Say, with our anger, many of us feel anger and frustration throughout the day but anger is for the most part not a thing we go about letting out. Mostly it’s a seething anger we carry about with us, with rare outbursts. These outbursts aren’t “good” but even our seething anger’s “not good” in most social situations, so we’re shutting that down time and time again too and eventually this has to make us feel more numb overall. But the numbness is not just covering the anger we have, and our anger is there for a reason too. When we’re angered, we’re wanting to regain a sense of power over situations / people that make us feel we’re powerless or that we’re losing our power. When we don’t feel we have power, we feel vulnerable, we feel afraid and so those feelings are driving a lot of that anger. And of course it makes sense we preference a feeling of power over powerlessness, anger over fear. Although, like manufacturing empathy, we manufacture a sense of power with anger because we still have the fear, we’re still crippled by our fears, we are still powerless.

So, overall there’s all this stuff we’re still afraid of like being harmed, hurt, abandoned, unloved / unlovable etc. All those feelings wouldn’t exist though, unless we experienced being harmed / abandoned / unloved / unlovable etc. at some point in our lives beforehand and those first experiences are what appears to initiate these coping feelings we’ve relied on since. So there’s a well of sadness and grief at the base that’s not fully felt yet, because the opportunity / the safe place never existed to fully feel these things, and we had to cope by creating other feelings that were preferable.

So we’d have to unravel, kind of work backwards with our feelings to release them in the opposite way they became compounded, by giving ourselves the opportunity / allowance to do that. You know without expectations and judgements (because those things are what shut us down in the first place). Imagine though the more we allow ourselves to release, the less our emotional investments affect us seeing objective reality (because they’re gone / released). The thing is because we can’t go shutting down emotions selectively and because empathy is a feeling / sensitivity too, it’s likely shut down with all the others. So it’s understandable that the majority of us find it hard to experience real empathy. But I sincerely believe that by slowly allowing ourselves to feel and become sensitive to our own true feelings, genuine empathy can come to the surface, naturally.

4 thoughts on “Genuine empathy

    1. David Wall Post author

      I believe in the future, people will look at what’s happening in Palestine and ask how is it the world stood by for so long and let this happen. They’d look at places like the Congo too, and ask the same thing. It’s kind of like how we watch all those movies like about Nazi Germany and the treatment of the Jew’s and we ask how? in a sort of pseudo disbelief. It’s basically an easy question to answer, we just have to look at ourselves. Many one of the reasons we love these movies is it gives us a false impression that we’re somehow different, we’re somehow better. Anyway, just some reflections not exactly related to your comment Dad.


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