• caedynwheeler

Empathy: Too Little or Too Much?

Day 15

Ah, everyone's favorite thing, regulating emotions. Empathy can be a powerful tool in helping other people, but like everything else, too much or too little can be counterproductive.

Too much

I would venture to say empathy is the main drive for most people helping others, which most of us would say is good. Exercising empathy, helping people, is what gets things done. However, some people will try to compensate for not helping others by putting their empathy in over-drive. They are passionate, yelling about any injustice, but always reluctant to act on fixing said injustice in any meaningful way. With empathy being at this heightened state, it can emotionally drain you because you're always at 100%. Helping people and being good isn't the prerogative anymore, being the MOST virtuous is, which funnily enough makes you less virtuous.

Too little

There's a difference between lacking empathy, and finding pleasure in hurting others. I believe it was Ayn Rand who made the distinction between self-interest and selfishness. Self-interest relates more to self-care. You have to help yourself before you can help anyone else, it's innate. Selfishness does not care about others and sometimes derives pleasure from hurting others to get ahead. Selfishness lacks empathy, and that's what I would consider bad and immoral.

Just Right

Empathy is best exercised in a genuine way. By that, I mean to know yourself, your values, your friends. Do you actually care about a situation? Do you care enough to fix it? On a personal level, people will feel more comfortable confiding in you if they know you'll understand, but also won't go on a rampage against them or on their behalf.

My experience

I used to think I didn't have a capacity for empathy. I later found depression can just make you deeply apathetic. Through years of self-reflection, I've discovered I do have a capacity for empathy. I've come to terms with what my values are, and discovered I'm actually rather good at solving problems. When I understand someone, I think this understanding allows for a unique form of empathy. I'm still working at it, and I always will be. I'm proud of where I am now.

Empathy is best served after self-reflection. It is deeply rooted in human nature. Nothing in our nature is better left unchecked. Understanding is power over your mind. Understand why you care, then go forward and save the world.

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