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Getting my empathy on

2

Posts

  • WalterWalter Registered User
    edited October 2009
    I have a similar problem although not so extreme. I mostly just don't care about the emotions of people outside of my social circle. It comes from being raised in a culture where minding your own business is considered important. Most people can function like this, they just come off as jerks sometimes. Unfortunately, I am in medical school and its REALLY not helping me in my patient interviews. I have found this article to be extremely helpful. Empathy, like everything else, takes practice.

    http://www.wikihow.com/Cultivate-Compassion-in-Your-Life

    If nothing else, read through the section on using commonalities.

  • YourFatAuntSusanYourFatAuntSusan Registered User
    edited October 2009
    For what it's worth, I feel exactly the same way as the OP.

    If something happens and I can't do anything to control it, I simply forget about it and it doesn't bother me. Basically it boils down to having two options for any given situation. Actively do something to correct it or forget about it.

    I mean, I understand that bad things happen and I understand it makes people upset, but I won't take time out of my day to feel bad about something I cannot control or cannot help correct.

    For example, you hear about national disasters on the news. "What a huge tragedy! 128 people died!" My two options present themselves. Help to forget about it. Since I can't control natural disasters, I forget about it. I don't know those people. Why should I mope about saying, "Oh, how awful!" when in all honesty, I couldn't care less?

    Maybe I'm broken on the inside but I lead a pretty healthy life. I have a good job, a relationship of many years and a solid circle of friends.

    [SIGPIC][/SIGPIC]
  • admanbadmanb the bored genie Seattle, WARegistered User regular
    edited October 2009
    For what it's worth, I feel exactly the same way as the OP.

    If something happens and I can't do anything to control it, I simply forget about it and it doesn't bother me. Basically it boils down to having two options for any given situation. Actively do something to correct it or forget about it.

    I mean, I understand that bad things happen and I understand it makes people upset, but I won't take time out of my day to feel bad about something I cannot control or cannot help correct.

    For example, you hear about national disasters on the news. "What a huge tragedy! 128 people died!" My two options present themselves. Help to forget about it. Since I can't control natural disasters, I forget about it. I don't know those people. Why should I mope about saying, "Oh, how awful!" when in all honesty, I couldn't care less?

    Maybe I'm broken on the inside but I lead a pretty healthy life. I have a good job, a relationship of many years and a solid circle of friends.

    If that happened, and then one of your friends called you, crying, and said that their sister was badly injured in that tragedy and might die, would you be able to understand why they were upset and empathize with them?

    Because that is the difference between what you've described (a rational detachment from distant tragedy) and what the OP described (a complete inability to empathize.)

    Neither of them are what I would consider positive traits, but the negatives of one (Sociopathy) are slightly worse than the negatives of the other (Libertarianism.)

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  • SentrySentry Registered User regular
    edited October 2009
    For what it's worth, I feel exactly the same way as the OP.

    If something happens and I can't do anything to control it, I simply forget about it and it doesn't bother me. Basically it boils down to having two options for any given situation. Actively do something to correct it or forget about it.

    I mean, I understand that bad things happen and I understand it makes people upset, but I won't take time out of my day to feel bad about something I cannot control or cannot help correct.

    For example, you hear about national disasters on the news. "What a huge tragedy! 128 people died!" My two options present themselves. Help to forget about it. Since I can't control natural disasters, I forget about it. I don't know those people. Why should I mope about saying, "Oh, how awful!" when in all honesty, I couldn't care less?

    Maybe I'm broken on the inside but I lead a pretty healthy life. I have a good job, a relationship of many years and a solid circle of friends.

    ... did you read the thread? There's a huge difference between what you are describing, i.e. not caring about other people, which just makes you kind of a dick (actually, a huge dick), and not understanding why a father would care that their child might die.

    In other words, what you describe is not what the OP has described.

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  • psycojesterpsycojester Registered User regular
    edited October 2009
    EliteLamer wrote: »
    Lurk wrote: »
    I am kind of worried that he is indeed in business. That is the worst place for someone with no empathy to be in.

    Why? You can make decisions not based on emotion and only on the fact that you are going to make more money doing something

    The OP MAY have sociopathic tendencies that he should seek a professional diagnosis on based on the information. But you are definitely just a dick who needs a good slap in the face and to be sent outside to socialise with people in the real world.

    [SIGPIC][/SIGPIC]
  • KakodaimonosKakodaimonos Registered User regular
    edited October 2009
    Ok. Just so all of you know, I am seeing a professional. But therapy isn't something you show up to a few sessions of and everything just is better. This has been something my therapist has been telling me I need to work on, but I seem to keep running into a wall beyond just understanding that other people have emotional responses to other things. We both think that this was something that started as an adaption to what I was dealing with when I growing up, so I'd like to think it's something I can at least figure out how to work around.

    I don't have any friends or close relationships with anyone. I've never felt comfortable letting people get that close to me.

  • Mazer RackhamMazer Rackham __BANNED USERS
    edited October 2009
    The fact you made this thread may be a sign you are recovering. You may not give a shit about anyone, but at least you recognize it's not good to not give a shit about anyone.

    Most sociopaths would just continue on not giving a fuck, till they die and get buried someday in a pine box in an unmarked graved.

  • FalloutFallout GIRL'S DAY EVERY DAYRegistered User regular
    edited October 2009
    Chanus wrote: »
    So I guess the short and curlies of this is how do I learn to actually give a shit about other people and not just see them as annoying obstacles or useful resources?

    If this is really how you feel, you should seek professional help.

    If this is how you seriously view other people, you're not in a good place.

    Words that come to mind:

    Sociopath
    Narcissist
    Asperger's

    These are not good things and only one is forgivable.

    Yes, let's judge the man for things that happened to him that affected his development.

    Anyways, if this is a problem for you, OP, definitely get into therapy.

    Pretty much everyone on the planet could benefit from therapy, but if it's a big problem like this it should be a priority.

    edit: Nevermind, didn't read the thread. Good job on seeking help, that can be the hardest part.

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  • PasserbyePasserbye The Mercurially Quixotic Seattle, WARegistered User regular
    edited October 2009
    The fact that you turn it off makes me wonder if you felt emotions at one point (when you were a child, perhaps), then started blocking them out due to something that happened to you. Of course, you also claim they're something you've never had nor felt you needed, so I'm not sure. Either way it's certainly not healthy, I agree with those saying you should seek out professional help, if only for the sake of your coworkers and continued success at work.

  • rickoricko Registered User
    edited October 2009
    I learned long ago you can take any amount of physical punishment that doesn't kill you, but if you let it turn into something emotional, you'll never be able to get away from it. So you just shut it off, dump it, get rid of it.

    err...wtf? care to expand?
    this might start to explain some of your problems.

    and yes, see a qualified person about this.

  • perspexacityperspexacity Registered User
    edited October 2009
    He said he's seeing a professional.

    "I will cut out the part you most desire."
  • KakodaimonosKakodaimonos Registered User regular
    edited October 2009
    ricko wrote: »
    I learned long ago you can take any amount of physical punishment that doesn't kill you, but if you let it turn into something emotional, you'll never be able to get away from it. So you just shut it off, dump it, get rid of it.

    err...wtf? care to expand?
    this might start to explain some of your problems.

    and yes, see a qualified person about this.

    Eh, probably not any worse than stuff other people had to deal with. Just the usual stuff with a shitty family growing up. The usual beatings, burning, choking, stuff like that. And my sister liked going through my pets, at least till my parents quit buying new ones. I learned to deal with it.

  • ScooterScooter Registered User regular
    edited October 2009
    ricko wrote: »
    I learned long ago you can take any amount of physical punishment that doesn't kill you, but if you let it turn into something emotional, you'll never be able to get away from it. So you just shut it off, dump it, get rid of it.

    err...wtf? care to expand?
    this might start to explain some of your problems.

    and yes, see a qualified person about this.

    Eh, probably not any worse than stuff other people had to deal with. Just the usual stuff with a shitty family growing up. The usual beatings, burning, choking, stuff like that. And my sister liked going through my pets, at least till my parents quit buying new ones. I learned to deal with it.

    Other people may have gone through 'worse', but some kids end up drowned in the bathtub, it's not really a good standard to compare yourself to. I notice you used the word 'usual' twice, but it's really not. If you went through that kind of stuff it's not so surprising that you (and apparently your sister) ended up the way you did.

  • WybornWyborn GET EQUIPPED Registered User regular
    edited October 2009
    Ok. Just so all of you know, I am seeing a professional. But therapy isn't something you show up to a few sessions of and everything just is better. This has been something my therapist has been telling me I need to work on, but I seem to keep running into a wall beyond just understanding that other people have emotional responses to other things. We both think that this was something that started as an adaption to what I was dealing with when I growing up, so I'd like to think it's something I can at least figure out how to work around.

    I don't have any friends or close relationships with anyone. I've never felt comfortable letting people get that close to me.
    I think you need to get past that discomfort and be willing to open up to at least one person. The fact that you feel discomfort signals something positive, to me, at least in that it signals a potential for more than just discomfort. You need to be willing to put yourself in a situation or a relationship where another person has the power to hurt your feelings.

    I know that might sound really abstract, and I don't know pants about psychology, but I have a feeling that your breakthrough would be found in learning to be good friends with someone.

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  • ArtreusArtreus Hey kids, want some drugs?Registered User regular
    edited October 2009
    Figgy wrote: »
    So, you don't understand why the guy was upset about his newborn baby's fragile condition, or you don't understand why he can't leave the problem at home when he comes to work?

    The former means you need professional help, but the latter means you're just insensitive.

    Yeah, I don't understand why he was upset. This was a problem that he had no control over and there was absolutely nothing he could do to fix it. So why couldn't he just let it go and deal with what happens as it happens? That's what I find weird about other people. They get so upset and worked up about things that they have no possibility of controlling. Or they get upset and don't do anything to attack the problem. Shit, let it go and deal with the consequences as they happen or smash the obstacles out of your way. Anything else is just being weak and irrational. All he did was spend 6 weeks pissing everyone off over something that eventually turned out ok due to absolutely nothing he did and all he accomplished was he got a reputation that eventually made him leave the company.

    Yea, you're kind of a terrible person. Scratch that, you are a terrible person. Good luck with that. This isn't about empathy and since you think it's fine to be so judgmental you're probably not going to change so there really isn't a point to this thread is there?

    This was kind of a harsh post. Because assuming the guy isn't making this up to get attention and everything he's said is true, he was abused as a kid and that messed up his development big time.

    I'm not a huge fan of calling somebody an asshole for having that happen to them. Stuff going on in your brain has a huge effect on everything in your life. It is why I am always annoyed when somebody says "oh it is just in your head" because your "head" is everything.

    Basically long-term professional help is the only thing to be done here. And he definitely needs to stick with it. The way he is right now is the opposite of good.

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  • NotYouNotYou Registered User regular
    edited October 2009
    I agree, that long term therapy is probably the best thing you can do for yourself

    (to all the people calling him a terrible person for not having empathy, I hope you realize the irony of what you're saying)

  • Burden of ProofBurden of Proof You three boys picked a beautiful hill to die on. Registered User regular
    edited October 2009
    NotYou wrote: »
    I agree, that long term therapy is probably the best thing you can do for yourself

    (to all the people calling him a terrible person for not having empathy, I hope you realize the irony of what you're saying)

    I don't know man, this reminds me on the response you get from every racist when you accuse him of intolerance. "Yeah well, you're intolerant of my beliefs!"

  • KakodaimonosKakodaimonos Registered User regular
    edited October 2009
    Wyborn wrote: »
    Ok. Just so all of you know, I am seeing a professional. But therapy isn't something you show up to a few sessions of and everything just is better. This has been something my therapist has been telling me I need to work on, but I seem to keep running into a wall beyond just understanding that other people have emotional responses to other things. We both think that this was something that started as an adaption to what I was dealing with when I growing up, so I'd like to think it's something I can at least figure out how to work around.

    I don't have any friends or close relationships with anyone. I've never felt comfortable letting people get that close to me.
    I think you need to get past that discomfort and be willing to open up to at least one person. The fact that you feel discomfort signals something positive, to me, at least in that it signals a potential for more than just discomfort. You need to be willing to put yourself in a situation or a relationship where another person has the power to hurt your feelings.

    I know that might sound really abstract, and I don't know pants about psychology, but I have a feeling that your breakthrough would be found in learning to be good friends with someone.

    I don't know. I've found people don't like to hear this stuff. If the conversation turns around to family and stuff, I just like to keep quiet. I don't remember a lot of stuff and what I do remember just gets a really odd reaction. Like the time people were talking about birthdays and started telling stories about the ones the remembered. Well, I remember is the time my sister was mad I got a hamster and she didn't so she took it and made me watch while she pinned it to a corkboard and saw how many pins she could stick into it. And they just looked at me like I had two heads. I really don't like talking to other people beyond a superficial level at all now.

  • Delicious SteveDelicious Steve Registered User
    edited October 2009
    Eh, probably not any worse than stuff other people had to deal with. Just the usual stuff with a shitty family growing up. The usual beatings, burning, choking, stuff like that. And my sister liked going through my pets, at least till my parents quit buying new ones. I learned to deal with it.

    Your parents did these things? I got a belt to my arse only if I was misbehaving, if you just got treated like shit for nothing, that does seem like it could be part of the problem.

    Also going through my pets! she killed your pets? again, not normal.

    You're most likely not telling us 100% of your story, but these two examples right here are things a kid should be extremely upset about, and if you've learnt to stop reacting emotionally to bad situations... there's the root of your problem.

    You should bring up past events similar to this with a Counselor or Therapist.

  • DragonPupDragonPup Registered User regular
    edited October 2009
    Also going through my pets! she killed your pets? again, not normal.

    Not normal? Hell, that's a major red flag for serial killer. I am glad the OP is getting professional help. Good luck with it.

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  • The Crowing OneThe Crowing One Registered User regular
    edited October 2009
    Wyborn wrote: »
    Ok. Just so all of you know, I am seeing a professional. But therapy isn't something you show up to a few sessions of and everything just is better. This has been something my therapist has been telling me I need to work on, but I seem to keep running into a wall beyond just understanding that other people have emotional responses to other things. We both think that this was something that started as an adaption to what I was dealing with when I growing up, so I'd like to think it's something I can at least figure out how to work around.

    I don't have any friends or close relationships with anyone. I've never felt comfortable letting people get that close to me.
    I think you need to get past that discomfort and be willing to open up to at least one person. The fact that you feel discomfort signals something positive, to me, at least in that it signals a potential for more than just discomfort. You need to be willing to put yourself in a situation or a relationship where another person has the power to hurt your feelings.

    I know that might sound really abstract, and I don't know pants about psychology, but I have a feeling that your breakthrough would be found in learning to be good friends with someone.

    I don't know. I've found people don't like to hear this stuff. If the conversation turns around to family and stuff, I just like to keep quiet. I don't remember a lot of stuff and what I do remember just gets a really odd reaction. Like the time people were talking about birthdays and started telling stories about the ones the remembered. Well, I remember is the time my sister was mad I got a hamster and she didn't so she took it and made me watch while she pinned it to a corkboard and saw how many pins she could stick into it. And they just looked at me like I had two heads. I really don't like talking to other people beyond a superficial level at all now.

    Alright, fine.

    If what you're describing is truly how you grew up, it's no surprise that you've been left with a big pile of steaming dookie for your psychological health. See a therapist, etc. There's nothing we can do to really help with that.

    I will say that I empathize with your reactions to other people's problems. I'm not one who really cares about your problems, or that I have any realistic means of making things better. I accept that if your newborn is brought out too early and is in constant danger of death you're going to be a mess. At the same time I understand that you aren't going to be a productive member of a team unless your mind is off your newborn. The trick is not, necessarily, to make yourself all weepy and to feel Jim's pain as if it were in your own chest, but to rationally and calmly find a way to acknowledge other people's suffering while finding a solution to the issue that effects both of you.

    I supervised a young woman awhile back who was in the midst of a pretty nasty battle against alcoholism. She got pass after pass for showing up intoxicated. Often we'd dock her pay and send her home. We understood that she was fighting, and her work was really very good aside from her overt problems. That didn't mean that we bent over backward to make things as easy as possible for her. It is easy to mistake empathy for something subjective, as if we, ourselves, should be able to feel the suffering of others. This really isn't the case.

    In my case (and I've dealt with similar) Jim's baby being in bad shape doesn't pull at my heartstrings, yet I do have to understand that he's in a bad spot. What you need to remember is that we all get into "bad places" from time to time, and that we all rebound and recover. That isn't to say that the response to Jim should be "suck it up, either she'll live or die!" but to calmly present a solution that meets both party's needs. In the "Jim" example, I believe that you actually approached the situation in a rather logical way: "Either get your work up to par or take time off." I would have probably said about the same.

    To begin, you don't have to have much more than an understanding of why another person feels the way they do. For Jim, you have to rationally understand that he's scared shitless of his kid dying. This doesn't effect you aside from his work, so that's your frame of reference. "Jim is in a bad spot and therefore his work output has dropped" is far from "Jim's output has dropped".

    You already showed a small hint of empathy by realizing that Jim needed to take some time off. If you didn't realize that you would have, probably, had a different conversation.

    Keep with the therapy, and look into the "steps" that others have posted, as well.

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  • CognisseurCognisseur Registered User
    edited October 2009
    Also, you should find out what kind of orientation your therapist is, and look into some different ones to see which ones appeal to you. They're very different and good at different things.

    In your case, and I say this rarely, I recommend a psychodynamic therapist.

  • ShawnaseeShawnasee Registered User regular
    edited October 2009
    The OP's first two or three posts had me thinking 'troll' but I'm off that wagon now.

    How long have you been going to the therapist?
    What are you guys working on? Getting through your past? That's going to take a while all things considered.

    I feel for you...and this is why:

    When you relayed the story of your sister torturing/killing your hamster, I put myself into your shoes and tried to imagine what it might feel like. I felt terror/confusion/disgust/rage.

    I understand, now, seeing how you lived through that kind of abuse that at some point, you just stopped caring...or showing that you cared.

    There are three replies in this thread I think you should pay attention to:
    Get therapy?

    check - good on you, mate! It's not easy to seek help, let alone, know you need to.
    become interested in other people. Think about them. Analyze them. What makes them tick. Try to imagine yourself in their position, and what you would do if you were them, but also what they are doing and their motivations behind it.

    -this is already hard for you to do, but I have to believe that at some point you can see, even from a practical standpoint, what that person might be feeling.
    Empathy for the socially inept:

    1. Analyze the situation:

    People will invariably start bitching about their problems. Listen to them for keywords like family members, tragedies, and any other assorted drama you might find on the jerry springer show.

    2. Compare:

    Compare that person's problem to something you've read or watched on tv. Tv is better because it's badly written and you get stuff like, "Jims mom died and that made him sad" instead of "...and then, as if his chest had been a mortar, he burst his hot heart’s shell upon it." Lets face it, you need some amount of emapthy in order to understand what's going on in that last one.

    3. return a value that isn't null:

    When they're done talking, say "Yeah, that must have made you feel _____" where the blank is some emotion someone else felt in a similar situation.
    If you don't know, the awesome thing about empathy is you can just ask: "Well how does that make you feel?" You might get a look of "are you fucking stupid?" in some situations, but generally, people will tell you because they like to bitch about their problems.

    So, as an example:

    "Jim, your performance at work has been slipping these past few weeks."
    "yeah, sorry, I have a lot on my plate right now. My wife just had a baby but it turns out he might have baby-aids and we're waiting for the tests to come back.
    "Yeah, that must be scary. You can take some time off if you need to."

    Or

    "How do you feel about that?"
    "Are you fucking serious? I'm fucking terrified, this little guy's been kicking around in my wife's stomach for nine months and has only been out for a week and already he might be gone!"
    "Oh. Yeah. That must be scary. You can take some time off if you need to."

    (as you can probably tell, asking people how they feel is a great way to gather data for your database of stimuli and reactions)

    Now, the bolded parts are those things that cause emotions in human beings. You have to relate them to certain emotions and then guess at how people are feeling. It's like a game.

    Some pitfalls to avoid:
    Don't parse the very first emotion-causing stimulus and ignore everything else. You might think that Jim is happy because he had a baby, and he probably is, but that's not the issue here. Remember that good emotions in people usually make them work better and bad emotions make them work worse. Usually. Also keep in mind that one stimulus can cause a wide variety of emotions and combinations of stimuli may cause different and unexpected emotions.

    So there you have it: a beginners guide on how to seem like you're not an asshole when you're actually a cold, heartless robot.

    This is good stuff.

    Good luck.

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  • CognisseurCognisseur Registered User
    edited October 2009
    Shawnasee wrote: »
    Empathy for the socially inept:

    1. Analyze the situation:

    People will invariably start bitching about their problems. Listen to them for keywords like family members, tragedies, and any other assorted drama you might find on the jerry springer show.

    2. Compare:

    Compare that person's problem to something you've read or watched on tv. Tv is better because it's badly written and you get stuff like, "Jims mom died and that made him sad" instead of "...and then, as if his chest had been a mortar, he burst his hot heart’s shell upon it." Lets face it, you need some amount of emapthy in order to understand what's going on in that last one.

    3. return a value that isn't null:

    When they're done talking, say "Yeah, that must have made you feel _____" where the blank is some emotion someone else felt in a similar situation.
    If you don't know, the awesome thing about empathy is you can just ask: "Well how does that make you feel?" You might get a look of "are you fucking stupid?" in some situations, but generally, people will tell you because they like to bitch about their problems.

    So, as an example:

    "Jim, your performance at work has been slipping these past few weeks."
    "yeah, sorry, I have a lot on my plate right now. My wife just had a baby but it turns out he might have baby-aids and we're waiting for the tests to come back.
    "Yeah, that must be scary. You can take some time off if you need to."

    Or

    "How do you feel about that?"
    "Are you fucking serious? I'm fucking terrified, this little guy's been kicking around in my wife's stomach for nine months and has only been out for a week and already he might be gone!"
    "Oh. Yeah. That must be scary. You can take some time off if you need to."

    (as you can probably tell, asking people how they feel is a great way to gather data for your database of stimuli and reactions)

    Now, the bolded parts are those things that cause emotions in human beings. You have to relate them to certain emotions and then guess at how people are feeling. It's like a game.

    Some pitfalls to avoid:
    Don't parse the very first emotion-causing stimulus and ignore everything else. You might think that Jim is happy because he had a baby, and he probably is, but that's not the issue here. Remember that good emotions in people usually make them work better and bad emotions make them work worse. Usually. Also keep in mind that one stimulus can cause a wide variety of emotions and combinations of stimuli may cause different and unexpected emotions.

    So there you have it: a beginners guide on how to seem like you're not an asshole when you're actually a cold, heartless robot.

    This is good stuff.

    Good luck.

    Eh... I looked at this guide and saw it as more of an Asperger's Guide to Empathy. It teaches empathy from the standpoint of "you just didn't happen to develop this ability, here's a functional approach to faking it".

    But from what the OP has said, this isn't like that. OP is just seriously seriously messed up and requires many sessions of therapy for a long time. The point is that he did know how to empathize, he was probably a reasonably good child once upon a time. He blocked his ability to feel emotion to stress in order to deal with that sort of brutality and trauma at home. That means the innate ability is still there, it's just not very well developed and, more importantly, heavily heavily blocked.

    The key here isn't to just pave over psychological damage and go "well teach you how to fake it" but rather to uncover all the crap that's gone on in his life and get to the very core of it until, having worked through past trauma, he's able to start developing a sense of empathy again. But I do emphasize that first the trauma has to be worked through and then real empathy needs to be worked on, rather than confusing the whole thing by starting with fake-empathy.

  • WybornWyborn GET EQUIPPED Registered User regular
    edited October 2009
    Wyborn wrote: »
    Ok. Just so all of you know, I am seeing a professional. But therapy isn't something you show up to a few sessions of and everything just is better. This has been something my therapist has been telling me I need to work on, but I seem to keep running into a wall beyond just understanding that other people have emotional responses to other things. We both think that this was something that started as an adaption to what I was dealing with when I growing up, so I'd like to think it's something I can at least figure out how to work around.

    I don't have any friends or close relationships with anyone. I've never felt comfortable letting people get that close to me.
    I think you need to get past that discomfort and be willing to open up to at least one person. The fact that you feel discomfort signals something positive, to me, at least in that it signals a potential for more than just discomfort. You need to be willing to put yourself in a situation or a relationship where another person has the power to hurt your feelings.

    I know that might sound really abstract, and I don't know pants about psychology, but I have a feeling that your breakthrough would be found in learning to be good friends with someone.

    I don't know. I've found people don't like to hear this stuff. If the conversation turns around to family and stuff, I just like to keep quiet. I don't remember a lot of stuff and what I do remember just gets a really odd reaction. Like the time people were talking about birthdays and started telling stories about the ones the remembered. Well, I remember is the time my sister was mad I got a hamster and she didn't so she took it and made me watch while she pinned it to a corkboard and saw how many pins she could stick into it. And they just looked at me like I had two heads. I really don't like talking to other people beyond a superficial level at all now.
    Hey, that's pretty screwed up and I'm sure it scarred you in pretty intense ways, but at least it suggests that this was a reaction to something and not something that was inborn.

    As to the problem of telling those stories? You just have to learn about what kind of stories you can and can't tell. It may just be easier not to share thos stories at all - or, when prompted, "I had pretty shitty birthdays because I come from an abusive background." They may be uncomfortable when they hear that, but people will (try to) understand.

    Accepting that your past is full of experiences that other people would find absolutely horrifying is just one of the tricks of the trade, I guess? It shouldn't stop you from forming connections.

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  • ArtreusArtreus Hey kids, want some drugs?Registered User regular
    edited October 2009
    NotYou wrote: »
    I agree, that long term therapy is probably the best thing you can do for yourself

    (to all the people calling him a terrible person for not having empathy, I hope you realize the irony of what you're saying)

    I don't know man, this reminds me on the response you get from every racist when you accuse him of intolerance. "Yeah well, you're intolerant of my beliefs!"

    No not really. It is like yelling at someone who is dyslexic for not being able to read well.

    Kind of.

    Dude is broken and needs to get fixed.

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  • SammyFSammyF Registered User regular
    edited October 2009
    Cognisseur wrote: »

    Eh... I looked at this guide and saw it as more of an Asperger's Guide to Empathy. It teaches empathy from the standpoint of "you just didn't happen to develop this ability, here's a functional approach to faking it".

    But from what the OP has said, this isn't like that. OP is just seriously seriously messed up and requires many sessions of therapy for a long time. The point is that he did know how to empathize, he was probably a reasonably good child once upon a time. He blocked his ability to feel emotion to stress in order to deal with that sort of brutality and trauma at home. That means the innate ability is still there, it's just not very well developed and, more importantly, heavily heavily blocked.

    The key here isn't to just pave over psychological damage and go "well teach you how to fake it" but rather to uncover all the crap that's gone on in his life and get to the very core of it until, having worked through past trauma, he's able to start developing a sense of empathy again. But I do emphasize that first the trauma has to be worked through and then real empathy needs to be worked on, rather than confusing the whole thing by starting with fake-empathy.

    ...Yeah, there is a serious problem here. It seems like this is incredibly unlikely to be Asperger's; for one thing, people with Asperger's don't usually post on forums asking for help on how to fake it because they don't actually realize what they're missing. No one with Asperger's self-diagnoses as being abnormal.

    Sociopaths, on the other hand, do.

    On the bright side! You're asking for help. That's pretty awesome. BE AS HONEST AS POSSIBLE WITH YOUR THERAPIST. Do not try and fake your way through therapy. Many people with varying degrees of sociopathology will endeavour to "fake it" during therapy because they see it as a means to an end. Remember that you need to actually improve your mental health -- having a "professional" declare you well by itself doesn't count.

  • CognisseurCognisseur Registered User
    edited October 2009
    Artreus wrote: »
    NotYou wrote: »
    I agree, that long term therapy is probably the best thing you can do for yourself

    (to all the people calling him a terrible person for not having empathy, I hope you realize the irony of what you're saying)

    I don't know man, this reminds me on the response you get from every racist when you accuse him of intolerance. "Yeah well, you're intolerant of my beliefs!"

    No not really. It is like yelling at someone who is dyslexic for not being able to read well.

    Kind of.

    Dude is broken and needs to get fixed.

    It's not even kind of. It's far far past that point.

    At least with dyslexia, there's a level of distance in that there are often both biological and environmental factors so you can be like "well, I don't understand what his problem is because I wasn't born with a brain that had difficulty processing ______".

    But here? Every one of you would turn out equally messed up as OP if you grew up like that. There's no personal choices being made at the age of 5 about whether or not to enact defense mechanisms. His reaction and subsequent problems are the absolute norm, and honestly, pretty much only option. The only difference between him and you is that perhaps you wouldn't have the self-awareness or balls to go back to your past and deal with it. Plenty of people have personalities which are just the embodiment of their psychologically damaged past but are unwilling to deal with it.

    That said, given the full circumstances that came out on page 3, I imagine plenty of the posters would retract their earlier comments. For every 1 person with an actual seriously messed up background leading to serious psychological damage, there are 20 middle-class White boys with perfectly fine backgrounds posting about how they think they have Aspergers or they're sociopaths when in reality they're just mal-adjusted unpopular nerds who haven't gotten the whole social skills thing together yet so they try to displace it onto various disorders. And in those 20 instances, calling the person a dick is pretty much accurate and just what they need-- to be told to stop blaming other entities for their own lack of development.

  • ShawnaseeShawnasee Registered User regular
    edited October 2009
    Cognisseur wrote: »
    [
    Eh... I looked at this guide and saw it as more of an Asperger's Guide to Empathy. It teaches empathy from the standpoint of "you just didn't happen to develop this ability, here's a functional approach to faking it".

    But from what the OP has said, this isn't like that. OP is just seriously seriously messed up and requires many sessions of therapy for a long time. The point is that he did know how to empathize, he was probably a reasonably good child once upon a time. He blocked his ability to feel emotion to stress in order to deal with that sort of brutality and trauma at home. That means the innate ability is still there, it's just not very well developed and, more importantly, heavily heavily blocked.

    The key here isn't to just pave over psychological damage and go "well teach you how to fake it" but rather to uncover all the crap that's gone on in his life and get to the very core of it until, having worked through past trauma, he's able to start developing a sense of empathy again. But I do emphasize that first the trauma has to be worked through and then real empathy needs to be worked on, rather than confusing the whole thing by starting with fake-empathy.

    It teaches empathy from the standpoint of "it doesn't matter, here's a functional approach to faking it".
    or
    It teaches empathy from the standpoint of "here's a functional approach to faking it until you can start developing a sense of empathy again so you don't look like a total human douche when your next employees baby might die".

    Is it better for him to go about his business being unempathetic for the years of therapy this is going to take or fake it to some degree until then?


    We can empathize with the OP because he has given us a small peek into his childhood but I doubt his subordinates are going to be understanding or empathetic because they don't know the intimate details and nor should they. Some level of empathy, fake or not, may or may not be needed here but I can't see where it would hurt the OP.

    I agree with (limed).

    The OP sounds very intelligent and I doubt he will be confused with the fake-empathy that he uses now (if he chooses to) and the real-empathy he rediscovers later on.

    And I hope know one here thinks I was advocating faking anything in his therapy sessions.

    Chanus wrote: »

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  • SammyFSammyF Registered User regular
    edited October 2009
    Shawnasee wrote: »

    And I hope know one here thinks I was advocating faking anything in his therapy sessions.


    In case that was somehow a leap off of my post -- no, I didn't think that. I mentioned the possibility of "faking" in therapy because it's an incredibly common defense mechanism utilized by all manner of clients, and particularly among those who exhibit some of the same opinions and behaviors as the OP. Depending on which schema of social/emotional development you happen to believe in, Trust versus Mistrust is one of the earliest (if not the earliest) values we learn, and from what the OP's written here, I would expect him to have some serious trust issues with...well, everyone. He's already expressed an opinion in favor of superficiality over letting people get close (although, problematically, he relates it as a social issue -- he doesn't focus on how the interaction makes him feel, and actually, if you're paying attention, he doesn't focus on how other people feel, necessarily -- the language he uses isn't about the Other's emotional response, it's about whether or not the Other likes the social interaction).

    I'm not sure why it's important that Cognisseur's proverbial 20 maladjusted White boys be White with a capital W (in other words, you might want to take the socio-economic background noise to Debate and Discourse) but be that as it may -- the 20 mal-adjusted youths who have delayed social development at least know how they feel about being mal-adjusted and developmentally delayed. They feel angry or sad. The OP hasn't really signalled to me that he's capable yet of identifying how he feels about these things, which is actually probably the step he needs to work on here.

    EDIT: My wife wants me to ask how old you are, and what sort of professional you're seeing -- are you pursuing psychodynamic therapy, or cognitive behavioral therapy, or...?

  • KakodaimonosKakodaimonos Registered User regular
    edited October 2009
    All of this was my sister. The most my parents ever did was try to spend as little time as possible around us. I've spent years trying to keep everything together. I started drinking myself to sleep in high school. That helped for quite a few years. I moved on to drinking and fighting all through college and my early-late 20's. About 6 years ago, I quit binge drinking and cleaned up. I was always a sonofabitch. I always avoided people because I don't understand why people have these emotional responses. The most I've ever felt was just a pure, distilled rage. At everything and everyone. I learned to control that over the years and quitting the binge drinking helped. I kinda limped along for a few more years and then it everything just started getting weird. I'd lose entire weekends. I'd remember shit so horrible that I knew it wasn't imagining it because it was so fucked up. So, I ended up going to a psychiatrist for the depersonalization episodes. That was a mix of EMDR therapy and cognitive therapy. After that, I was referred to a therapist with an "ecletic" approach who specializes in this sort of stuff.

    I don't know, I always have this idea in the back of my head that I could've ended this all sooner if I had been able to cut everything off sooner.
    Spoiler:

    I don't know, maybe something will change or I'll get "better". Some days seem easier than others. I guess I'll keep trying.

  • WybornWyborn GET EQUIPPED Registered User regular
    edited October 2009
    Is that something you've told your therapist, too? I know that seems like a really obvious question, but I can't help asking.

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  • CognisseurCognisseur Registered User
    edited October 2009
    Also, kudos on the lack of murder. Good decision there.

    By the way, as much hatred as you experience for your sister, here's an unsettling thought: she probably isn't actually possessed by demons. There isn't some easy "oh shes an evil person" answer for her no more than "hes a dick" is an adequate explanation for your lack of empathy. The shit you've described her doing is terrifying and horrifying to watch, but I can't even begin to understand what was going on in her brain to make her do that. Maybe it's purely biological and her brain runs on crazy, but my bet would be she's endured some pretty horrifying stuff too... and happened to turn to much much more horrifying ways of dealing with it than just depersonalizing.

  • WybornWyborn GET EQUIPPED Registered User regular
    edited October 2009
    Cognisseur wrote: »
    Also, kudos on the lack of murder. Good decision there.

    By the way, as much hatred as you experience for your sister, here's an unsettling thought: she probably isn't actually possessed by demons. There isn't some easy "oh shes an evil person" answer for her no more than "hes a dick" is an adequate explanation for your lack of empathy. The shit you've described her doing is terrifying and horrifying to watch, but I can't even begin to understand what was going on in her brain to make her do that. Maybe it's purely biological and her brain runs on crazy, but my bet would be she's endured some pretty horrifying stuff too... and happened to turn to much much more horrifying ways of dealing with it than just depersonalizing.
    I think his sister's impetus in committing these acts isn't nearly as important, in this context, as the fact of the acts themselves. It would be one thing if she were the concern here, but she isn't so much as the way he's dealing with the fallout of her actions... might be?

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  • SliverSliver Registered User
    edited October 2009
    Cognisseur wrote: »
    Also, kudos on the lack of murder. Good decision there.

    By the way, as much hatred as you experience for your sister, here's an unsettling thought: she probably isn't actually possessed by demons. There isn't some easy "oh shes an evil person" answer for her no more than "hes a dick" is an adequate explanation for your lack of empathy. The shit you've described her doing is terrifying and horrifying to watch, but I can't even begin to understand what was going on in her brain to make her do that. Maybe it's purely biological and her brain runs on crazy, but my bet would be she's endured some pretty horrifying stuff too... and happened to turn to much much more horrifying ways of dealing with it than just depersonalizing.

    His sister sounds like the psychopath.

    Tangent: How do you tell the difference between psychopathy and alexithymia?

  • KakodaimonosKakodaimonos Registered User regular
    edited October 2009
    She's actually a full blown paranoid schizophrenic. She's been in and out of institutions now for quite a few years.

  • ShawnaseeShawnasee Registered User regular
    edited October 2009
    Keep with it, Kako, keep with it.
    You are so on the right road...so keep on truckin.

    Chanus wrote: »

    Your wang is a better man than you.
  • SammyFSammyF Registered User regular
    edited October 2009
    Hmm. Yeah, so you're close enough to ticking off enough boxes that someone might be able to diagnose you as having Antisocial Personality Disorder, as long as there aren't any underlying causes (schizophrenia or mania -- you have a family history, judging by your sister).

    So, here's some good news I thought I'd share because I couldn't help noticing that you chose as your handle the ancient Greek word for "Evil Demon." Whether by accident or design -- dude, you're not evil, and you're not possessed.

    1. APD is uncommon, but not obscenely so. Many people cope with this disorder through therapy over time.

    2. It actually does tend to get better as time goes by for the vast majority of cases. It's worst when you're a late teen / young adult. No one really knows why (maybe it's a biological change, maybe it's simply that you put enough "good stuff" between where you are in your life and your troubled childhood) but by the time an APD sufferer has hit 40, they're likely to have seen noticeable improvement. There aren't any quick fixes, I'm afraid, but that's not your fault or your therapist's fault; it takes between 15 and 20 years for a child to develop socially and emotionally towards maturity. These things take time for everyone.

    3.a You're likely to have had a lot of people tell you that you're a "bad person" (and not just on this forum) because of the criminal stigma attached with APD. While it's true that a very sizeable percentage of habitual violent criminals exhibit signs of APD, not everyone with APD becomes a criminal, much as not every sociopath ends up becoming a serial killer or a serial rapist.

    3.b I obviously don't know you from Adam, but I'd guess it's unlikely that you're going to be a danger to yourself or others as long as you're committed to seeing professional help. You're already taking control and seizing the initiative in your life, just through the act of seeing a counselor. Many violent tendencies are the result of people who feel like violence is the only way to assert control. Meanwhile, I'm assuming you've gathered that acting out on a violent impulse isn't a viable long term solution to any of your problems. It would NOT have solved any of your problems if you'd killed your sister, for instance; removing your sister from the equation in that way only presents new problems. Likewise, the new problems presented by violence are always less preferable than your current problems if you stop to think it through, which I'm sure you've realized.

  • SarcastroSarcastro Registered User
    edited October 2009
    I'm not sure what the OP is going for here.

    Do you actually want to connect with other people, or do you just want to be veiwed favorably by others?

    For the record, I don't think there's anything wrong with you. Obviously you can feel, you just have a shitload of practice in burying those feelings. Other people don't. The circumstances which gave you that practice are relatively unique, and so not many people are going to instinctively appreciate that background. There might be a few, but they'll be exceptionally rare.

    There's no point in getting upset with people because they lack practice. Sure, you've been facing your feelings and ditching the inconvienient ones for years- suffice to say you may very well be an expert by now. Like all kinds of expertise, when it comes to dealing with those who have less skill, you can be a douchey primadonna, or you can become a facilitator.

    Take Jim for example. Handled incorrectly, that's a social powder keg. But you weren't neccessarily wrong in your opinion that he shouldn't worry about the things that aren't in his control. In fact, that idea, that you are only responsible for the things you have power over, can be a very healthy, de-stressing attitude to take. One could have, for example, given Jim a sense of control over his work, when other things in life are out of control, and gently pushed a 'sink into your work' ideology. Jim gets something tangible to work with, you get better performance- its win-win.

    It's tempting to say that your instincts or your lifestyle or your persona is 'wrong'. Personally, I don't see things in this way. I see a very specific psychological skillset, one that is only obtained through dealing with extremely stressful and personally challenging things. Hard decisions, decisions requiring personal sacrifice and self-altered perspective. Most people do not have the life experiences that demand those actions and decisions. Certainly not as children, and only a few chance encounters as adults. The 'inability' to relate easily is simply a byproduct of having a history that is mostly unshared by those around you.

    That being said, there are things that all human beings have in common. In a workplace, you have a shared experience being where you are. In light conversation, the past is irrelavent, there is only now and the very near future. Use those shared experiences to build connections. Coping with differences often means expanding on what you have in common. If that means never talking about your past socially, then thats what it means. You will eventually meet people who can handle it.

    In the meantime, my advice is to stay away from viewing your skills and the skills of others as 'right or wrong' or 'strong and weak'. They are what they are- tools. They provide and accomplish certain things. Jim's worry, for example, may make him feel like a good husband or father, and allow him to relate to his wife; your instinctive objectivity may allow you to act decisively when others are still busy coping with a recent change.

    Instead of thinking 'your feelings are pointless', try and see the bigger picture: Everything has a purpose, a reason for it to exist. Feelings, rationality, stress, rainbow baboon-asses; all of these things may seem unique and out of place at times, but they all have a function and evolved according to specific circumstances and situations. When you can discern the purpose, the function becomes predictable and useful. And that's growth. Discovering and learning new tools to use in daily life.

    Keep seeing your pro. Your own tools are razor sharp, honed over a lifetime, and can do as much damage as good. You can see by many of the posts so far that people are generally concerned about the danger they pose. I'll tell you this, that the very same measure is the amount of good they can do when used well. In the end, people will connect with you if they see those tools used for thier benefit. And in return, you will connect with them.

    It's a long road from here to there, step carefully and you could do great things. Rough start, but you can take it in a positive direction if you choose to.

    Edcrab wrote: »
    "See," said Lucifer, "God's an asshole."
  • darkmayodarkmayo Registered User regular
    edited October 2009
    Sarcastro wrote: »

    I see a very specific psychological skillset

    One that the CIA would like to use, are you doing your part, if not would you like to know more?

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