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I don't know really what to feel or think about this but you don't have to read this but it's sorta connected to how i am feeling

https://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theory_of_mind

The theory of mind is about  'putting yourself in other people's shoes' and trying to see how other people see the world from their perspective. Now for children , theory of mind should sorta start to develop around 2,5 to 4 years old.

But i feel that for myself i've been very disconnected for far too many years. And having far too little understanding of how others feel, act or think.

In fact i am ashamed in the sense that I didn't even think that other people could think or feel even anything at all. I think I was so much ingrained in my own "thinking inside of the box" that, a thought pattern emerged of something like " I can't feel anything they are feeling, so that means they don't feel anything" 

I don't really dare to talk about this in public because of being afraid of being labeled 'too narrow minded'

I wonder to what extend other people might have experienced this, or if you had like a totally different experience, or maybe you had an 'eye opener' yourself, I would like to hear your story if you have one.

 

 

 



 

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4 minutes ago, Xylitol said:

But i feel that for myself i've been very disconnected for far too many years. And having far too little understanding of how others feel, act or think.

I was like that in my teens, into my 20s. I probably could have stayed like that beyond my 20s if I didn't see the error of my ways. But I did see my mistake, and I took steps to correct it. I'm not like that anymore.

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I think in order to have empathy, usually you have to grow up with it from a loving, normal, stable, nurturing family home life. 

I've known people who came from extremely abusive backgrounds and their empathy is non-existent.  They're not compatible and often times afflicted with serious mental disorders for which there is no cure. 

I've noticed some people who lack empathy, weren't raised with empathy or if they were, they became corrupt and tainted due to their life's choices, jobs, people whom they associated with on a regular basis, choice in a partner or spouse who was not of noble, honorable, admirable character.  Some people are influenced negatively and become unempathetic types.  Some people are abused later in life despite their empathetic backgrounds and evolved into a worldly, unkind, rough person in order to survive.  Reasons run the gamut.

As for me, I believe my empathy came from my mother and husband.  My wretched background was from a broken home.  My late father punched my mother's teeth out.  My single parent, widowed mother raised 3 children all by herself.  She never lost her house and never filed for bankruptcy.  She worked 3 jobs 7 days a week to put a roof over my head and food on the table.  She was never on the government dole, no food stamps, welfare nor assistance.  She was a self made lady.  I worked night shift to help support my younger siblings, enrolled in school by day.  Life was very, very hard.  I never want to go back to that miserable life.  I've paid my dues.

My husband came from a normal, very stable home life.  His parents have been happily married forever and his family life was very happy always.  He was a positive influence on me. 

Our church life taught us empathy, serving the disadvantaged in our community and doing good works. 

Empathy is changing the way you think so you feel for others.  My mother said, "Never throw your weight around.  Treat everyone as your equal.  You're not better than anyone else.  Give the same respect to the garbage collector or gardener as you would someone who is an accomplished businessman.  Don't treat others with inferiority and haughtiness.  Show respect." 

Also, my empathy comes from loving my late dog!  I admire those who foster animals, rescue and rehabilitate dogs, cats and other animals.  Those types of people have high empathy whom I greatly admire and respect. 

My church fed the homeless once a month pre-pandemic.  We brought food, a lot of it was homemade and 300 families showed up! 😮 I couldn't believe it.  My friends and I brought homemade food to displaced young people (age 18+) and we fed several hundred young adults who were otherwise homeless.  They often told me that they never had a home cooked meal in their life! 😥 Those were my eye openers.  There's so much I took for granted.  I'm incredibly blessed while others don't have anything.  It is humbling indeed.

 

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1 hour ago, Cherylyn said:

My church fed the homeless once a month pre-pandemic.  We brought food, a lot of it was homemade and 300 families showed up! 😮 I couldn't believe it.  My friends and I brought homemade food to displaced young people (age 18+) and we fed several hundred young adults who were otherwise homeless.  They often told me that they never had a home cooked meal in their life! 😥 Those were my eye openers.  There's so much I took for granted.  I'm incredibly blessed while others don't have anything.  It is humbling indeed.

Our church used to feed and clothe a bunch of impoverished families every week, pre-pandemic.  Helping others forces you to think about life in their shoes.

Whether it's children, adults, or animals, once you step outside yourself, and see the value in helping others less fortunate, I don't think you ever fully go back to the way you were before.  Loving other people and meeting their needs in the moment changes you inside.

Maybe try getting out and volunteering.

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Unfortunately what you are describing is a lack of empathy. That can be present in a variety of neurological, psychiatric and other issues.

Since this is pervasive and long-standing, a physician could accurately asses this and provide a more targeted approach to the type of therapy that could help you not feel this estranged from yourself and other people.

Research "lack of empathy". Then see a physician.

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It's smart and thoughtful of you to consider empathy as a life skill to be learned.

I think you're right about this not being something we're necessarily born with or develop naturally. I believe that most children are naturally self-centered. Empathy is part of a developmental process, and while conscious parents and teachers may help to instill it during childhood, it doesn't necessarily imprint on every kid. 

While I don't view that as something to be ashamed of, I'm with you on being able to identify times in my life where I wish that I had owned the vision to be more considerate of other people.

 

 

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I'm rather low on the empathy scale myself. Not my words there, but from my therapist who has known me for years. However, I have a good understanding of how others think/feel/perceive things. I just don't operate that way. I had a good upbringing with some troubles here and there but I definitely see the world differently and value different things in my life. 

I do believe empathy can be learned. I am not going to call you a sociopath. The ability to tell between right/wrong and not acting in antisocial, harmful ways is not necessarily from a lack of empathy alone. It just means that you are influenced by different things. An empathetic person would say "I'm not going to steal from that person because I would feel terrible knowing I'm hurting that stranger". People without empathy may still not steal but for different reasons, like not wanting to go to jail, not wanting to risk their job/livlihood, etc. 

I do think it is possible to live with lower/no empathy as long as you're aware of it and, ideally, you're working with someone to stay very, very conscious of your actions and deeds. It's hard work. The real problem here, I see, is that you are not able to understand how other people think/feel. This is going to cause you a lot of issues in the future. 

A good therapist could help you work through this. 

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My feelings of empathy ebbs and flows depending on where I'm at in life.  Whenever life is predictable, relatively smooth sailing on all fronts such as stable, steady economics, good health and harmonious relationships (husband, sons, relatives and in-laws), my empathy soars and I knock myself out for everyone.  If all I have to "fret" about is what to have for dinner each day, life is pretty darn good. 

Then whenever life soured and there was extreme stress, suddenly I'm not as empathetic as I was during my blissful days.  I'm so consumed with my troubles that I no longer have an ounce of brain space to spare for others.   I can remain civil, very peaceful, polite, well mannered and kind yet I become extremely passive.  While I'm not mean towards others, I don't do anything for them either.  My time, energy, heart and pocketbook aren't as generous as when I was in a more content, secure mindset.  Also, I no longer have patience for foibles, gaslighting, inappropriate words (verbal and typed), serious mental disorders for which there is no cure, irrevocable character defects, un-fixable flaws and lack of gracious behavior. 

I've noticed that my demeanor always reflects my current life's conditions and situations which is universal. 

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Cherylyn,

That makes a lot of sense that your empathy levels would fluctuate depending on current life circumstances. Reducing one's empathy in times of stress is a very common coping mechanism, both for short-term stress (in your case) as well as long-term (difficult living situations, abuse/trauma, etc.)

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Fudgie,

I agree.  For me, it's about not having energy, time or generous thoughts for others and their problems if my own troubles are overwhelming and unbearable.  I'm in survival mode and all I care about is myself or my immediate loved ones.  No one else matters.  I'm civil towards everyone, no more, no less.  It's my limit and all I'm willing to give of myself.  I don't have anything left in the tank to give.  I'm never generous with doling out money to others if my own life is filled with turmoil.

Then whenever life is rosy, I'm extremely nice, generous, lighthearted and carefree.  I prefer the latter instead of the former!  

 

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52 minutes ago, Cherylyn said:

For me, it's about not having energy, time or generous thoughts for others and their problems if my own troubles are overwhelming and unbearable.  I'm in survival mode and all I care about is myself or my immediate loved ones.  No one else matters.  I'm civil towards everyone, no more, no less. 

I really think you may surprise yourself sometime.  I used to think I was like this, but then we went through something extremely terrifying and traumatic and I surprised myself and my mom by being able to still do so much for other people, without even giving it a second thought, it just came naturally, even though we were going through a literally Hell!  

You never know... sometimes I believe a Higher Power gives us amazing ability to help others even when we're being pummeled from all sides, and in a dangerous way to our mental/emotional/physical health.  Miracles happen....   I don't think I would believe myself capable otherwise.

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Thank you so much everyone for replying, I really appreciate all the effort everyone has put in their writing, and for the insights everyone has given me. For the time being, I need to think very hard about what everyone has said here and try to embed all of your words into my life as I strive to become a better and more understanding person. I still appreciate any more insights of course for those who still want to add something though.

 

Again, thank you all so much.

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6 hours ago, maritalbliss86 said:

I really think you may surprise yourself sometime.  I used to think I was like this, but then we went through something extremely terrifying and traumatic and I surprised myself and my mom by being able to still do so much for other people, without even giving it a second thought, it just came naturally, even though we were going through a literally Hell!  

You never know... sometimes I believe a Higher Power gives us amazing ability to help others even when we're being pummeled from all sides, and in a dangerous way to our mental/emotional/physical health.  Miracles happen....   I don't think I would believe myself capable otherwise.

I admire you, maritalbliss86.  Whenever my life was turned upside down, I simply checked out.  Then when life felt relieved, content and secure again, I resumed being my former nicer , generous self. 

In the past, I regretted my very harsh and tense demeanor towards others during times of tumult.  I've since learned to be more passive instead of reactionary whenever I'm sorely tested.  It has worked wonders with my relatives and in-laws.  It's easier to withdraw instead of engaging with subpar intelligence.  I simply walk away and stay away.  It's less work on my part, so much easier to be in passive mode and highly effective.   

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5 hours ago, Cherylyn said:

In the past, I regretted my very harsh and tense demeanor towards others during times of tumult.  I've since learned to be more passive instead of reactionary whenever I'm sorely tested.  It has worked wonders with my relatives and in-laws.  It's easier to withdraw instead of engaging with subpar intelligence.  I simply walk away and stay away.  It's less work on my part, so much easier to be in passive mode and highly effective.   

Oh that makes perfect sense, I've definitely regretted when I've been overly harsh and reactive in the past (confronting in-laws was one of the only times I've ever really been scary harsh in my life!).  In the past years ago, they brought out a protective Mamma Bear side of me I've never thought could exist!   But I understand you that you have to protect your heart from people who are hurtful.  

To me that's not necessarily not showing, "empathy," it's just withdrawing from emotionally dangerous people, or people who tempt you to really lose it.  I think that's actually WISE to disengage people like that and remain UNemotional.  That way you can step back, breathe, and rationally decide what to do.

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When I am stressed/overwhelmed I double down on my efforts to see things from others' perspectives, reach out to people, do for people.  I think parents play a role and family/caregivers and I think adults can change how they act and react.  Can't blame it all on or give all credit to parents.  My suggestion OP is fake it till you make it -put aside whether you "feel" a certain way.  Walk the walk - do small kindnesses or volunteer or both.  

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10 hours ago, maritalbliss86 said:

Oh that makes perfect sense, I've definitely regretted when I've been overly harsh and reactive in the past (confronting in-laws was one of the only times I've ever really been scary harsh in my life!).  In the past years ago, they brought out a protective Mamma Bear side of me I've never thought could exist!   But I understand you that you have to protect your heart from people who are hurtful.  

To me that's not necessarily not showing, "empathy," it's just withdrawing from emotionally dangerous people, or people who tempt you to really lose it.  I think that's actually WISE to disengage people like that and remain UNemotional.  That way you can step back, breathe, and rationally decide what to do.

You are a good person, maritalbliss86. 

I'm not empathetic whenever I'm overwhelmed and consumed with my stress.  I simply do not care about others and check out.  Even if they need me, I'm nowhere to be found nor heard.  I simply disappear into oblivion and unavailable to local friends, relatives and in-laws.  Sure, I can remain civil at best and do the very bare minimum for diplomacy's sake; no more no less. 

Then once life resumes to my previously normal, content, very satisfactory state of mind, I bounce back and revert to my former empathetic, generous, upbeat, enthusiastic, cheery, giddy self.  I've been this way all my life and there's no faking it, walking the walk, etc.  I do what I do and that's all there is to it. 

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3 minutes ago, Seraphim said:

I have found that my difficult life has made me far more empathetic. 

I can be empathetic during times of trouble.  The only thing is, I don't act upon it.  I don't do anything.  Sure, I can pray for others.  However, I'm extremely passive and it's as far as it goes. 

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7 minutes ago, Cherylyn said:

I can be empathetic during times of trouble.  The only thing is, I don't act upon it.  I don't do anything.  Sure, I can pray for others.  However, I'm extremely passive and it's as far as it goes. 

I am always compelled to actively help. I was taught that having more than others in even an emotional way it is my duty to help. It is my duty to try and understand. My mom demanded no less from me. She always said if I had been that person raised by their parents in the way they were raised I would be that person and by the grace of God I’m not. So always do better and be better and give all that you have to give. 

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4 hours ago, Seraphim said:

I am always compelled to actively help. I was taught that having more than others in even an emotional way it is my duty to help. It is my duty to try and understand. My mom demanded no less from me. She always said if I had been that person raised by their parents in the way they were raised I would be that person and by the grace of God I’m not. So always do better and be better and give all that you have to give. 

I'm glad that you do.  Everyone is different. 

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It's interesting how we are all wired/built differently. I think with age I've become more understanding/less judgemental but less willing to help. Receding inwards has been a coping mechanism for me during difficult times in my life and I did it during the pandemic too. I see so much suffering and I fear that getting more involved will cause my own lifeboat to capsize and then I'll be in the same position.

 

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  • 2 weeks later...
On 2/15/2021 at 9:30 PM, Fudgie said:

I'm rather low on the empathy scale myself. Not my words there, but from my therapist who has known me for years. However, I have a good understanding of how others think/feel/perceive things. I just don't operate that way. I had a good upbringing with some troubles here and there but I definitely see the world differently and value different things in my life. 

I do believe empathy can be learned. I am not going to call you a sociopath. The ability to tell between right/wrong and not acting in antisocial, harmful ways is not necessarily from a lack of empathy alone. It just means that you are influenced by different things. An empathetic person would say "I'm not going to steal from that person because I would feel terrible knowing I'm hurting that stranger". People without empathy may still not steal but for different reasons, like not wanting to go to jail, not wanting to risk their job/livlihood, etc. 

I do think it is possible to live with lower/no empathy as long as you're aware of it and, ideally, you're working with someone to stay very, very conscious of your actions and deeds. It's hard work. The real problem here, I see, is that you are not able to understand how other people think/feel. This is going to cause you a lot of issues in the future. 

A good therapist could help you work through this.

What does it mean when someone hurts you and makes no apologies, has no regret, remorse or in fact has never said they are sorry for causing a hurt feeling? That they feel justified and have no internal compass to express that. Like in kindergarten, we learn. If you hurt someone, you need to say you are sorry as this is not kind. What type of child will refuse from that point in their life until their golden years to never ever apologize for any wrongs? I want to understand. How can I understand how this other person thinks and feels? What exactly are those emotions. Like if I am told I am a foul name and cry, and told cry baby cry and there is never an apology, what exact view of this does there person have. that this is humane treatment and does not require a sense of responsibility to make that person feel better. Grateful for your feedback. 

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5 hours ago, Mel11 said:

What does it mean when someone hurts you and makes no apologies, has no regret, remorse or in fact has never said they are sorry for causing a hurt feeling? That they feel justified and have no internal compass to express that. Like in kindergarten, we learn. If you hurt someone, you need to say you are sorry as this is not kind. What type of child will refuse from that point in their life until their golden years to never ever apologize for any wrongs? I want to understand. How can I understand how this other person thinks and feels? What exactly are those emotions. Like if I am told I am a foul name and cry, and told cry baby cry and there is never an apology, what exact view of this does there person have. that this is humane treatment and does not require a sense of responsibility to make that person feel better. Grateful for your feedback. 

What does it mean?  It means they lack empathy, they're very selfish, only think of themselves, could care less about you or anyone else except themselves.  They are #1 only.  They don't feel guilt, shame nor remorse.  They feel that they're justified and always right.  It's sick.  Never continue to engage with those who are senseless, lack logic and reason because you're just wasting your time and precious energy on them.  People who do whatever they want, say or write whatever they want, don't have a moral compass because they're incapable of it.  It's either their way or the highway.  Take it or leave it.  I say, "Leave it."  Don't tolerate their __________ because they're NOT worth it.

A child or adult who wasn't raised with empathy, can't give what they don't know. 

A child who was raised with empathy and then experienced abuse later including adulthood, becomes numb to the point of not feeling anymore.  Then they think they're only going to look out for themselves as their survival mechanism.  Unfortunately, they become tainted, corrupt and abusive toward others.  Run for the hills! 

They don't have emotions.  It's all about them and only them; never about you nor anyone else.  They're the most important.  They want everything revolving around them. 

When you're called a foul name, often times the person calling you a foul name is insecure and down deep inside they really don't even like themselves that much.  Therefore, it's the "misery loves company" mindset.  They're internally miserable so they'll drag you down with them by calling you foul names, using foul language and they become a viciously cruel ogre.  Forget an apology.  Apologies are never forthcoming in a million years.  They're always right and always in denial.  Gaslighting is also typical.

You'll only feel better when you don't deal with perpetrators anymore and rid them from your life permanently.  Eliminate those who are not good to you, habitually and repeatedly disrespect you.  Don't become their verbal punching bag.  Discard bad people from your life.  Only associate with those who possess integrity, treat you with dignity and know how to behave like honorable, very decent human beings. 

 

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4 hours ago, Cherylyn said:

When you're called a foul name, often times the person calling you a foul name is insecure and down deep inside they really don't even like themselves that much.  Therefore, it's the "misery loves company" mindset.  They're internally miserable so they'll drag you down with them by calling you foul names, using foul language and they become a viciously cruel ogre.

Some people abuse not because of some deep-down self-hatred, but simply because they know it works. These people feel perfectly fine about themselves, and enjoy manipulating other people. If that manipulation means abuse, then they will abuse. If it means lying, then they will lie. Whatever it takes, they will do. They are a different species of human being.

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