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The empathy "DUH!!!" moment

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The empathy "DUH!!!" moment

Postby masquerade » Wed Jun 29, 2011 9:47 pm

I have never been an organised person. I don't know if this deficit is connected with my HPD, or if I am maybe a little ADHD or something, or if it is something that is just a quirk. I run two salons, and am good at the customer care side of things and relate well to my staff, but hopeless at managing the business side of things, and usually have to enlist outside help. My home is clean and tidy, but my papers are all stuffed in drawers and in disarray. I put off things like doing the accounts and writing letters until the eleventh hour. I had just muddled along in this way for quite some time.

I have been in therapy for a year now and progressing well, and those who read my posts have noticed this. There is one thing that has recently struck me and that is how my disorganisation AFFECTS OTHERS. If I am late dealing with an order (I sell a small range of cosmetics to customers) I do not usually stop to think of the domino effect that my lateness can have. Recently I have been thinking of the effects that my actions have on others, and I have been more aware of how certain behaviours that I have can be perceived by others. This in turn, has helped me to at least begin to try to be more organised and I am noticing that my personal integrity has improved as a result of this. It occurred to me today that all Cluster B's are part of a spectrum of antisocial disorder. I had previously viewed antisocial personality disorder as being an extreme sort of behaviour that borders on being downright evil, and am now realising that defecting on payments, acting in Macheavelian ways in general and withholding information from others are all behaviours that fall in this spectrum, and that not thinking of the consequences of negative actions is actually a form of acting without remorse, and so is general irresponsibility. I have a relative who gets into debt, only calls when she wants to borrow money, lies to her family and manipulates them and creates dramas to get her own way. Her behaviour is extreme, but the less extreme forms of this type of behaviour can also be called antisocial. It is all part of a spectrum, with ASPD being at the extreme end, followed by NPD, BPD and HPD in that order. They key to beating all of these disorders is EMPATHY and taking RESPONSIBILITY for one's actions. When one does this with sincerity, remorse follows. Most of the Cluster B's have had awful upbringings and life traumas and whilst these can explain the personality disorders developing, and therapy can help the person to come to terms with things and begin to heal , the person has to ultimately take personal responsibility for themselves and realise the consequences of their behaviour. The person may cry tears of apparent remorse, and feel as if they emotionally mean it, but these will only be tears of guilt (which is different to remorse, and very damaging) unless they genuinely put themselves in the shoes of the people they have hurt, without dramatic sentimentality, they cannot and will not change.
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Re: The empathy "DUH!!!" moment

Postby okherewego212 » Wed Jun 29, 2011 10:02 pm

Mask wrote:They key to beating all of these disorders is EMPATHY and taking RESPONSIBILITY for one's actions.


Wow, you have come along way. You sound like Scarlett!!

Will you marry me! lol
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Re: The empathy "DUH!!!" moment

Postby katana » Wed Jun 29, 2011 10:11 pm

Masquerade, THANK YOU for this post!

Putting things aside like emotional pain & dissociation, I STILL have a history of being incredibly disorganised.

I don't have bad handwriting, or problems with co-ordination. I can sit still if I need to. I can concentrate on things without trouble unless I'm feeling anxious/stressed etc at the time. I was a top grade student at school... but have always had huge problems with disorganisation, acting responsibly etc. I put stuff off til the last minute and had to use stress to motivate myself cause I had only negative factors preventing me from doing stuff and nothing positive (empathy) to point towards doing it. Even simple responsibility towards yourself has a component of empathy cause empathy is what gives life genuine emotional meaning (genuine motivation). without it there is mostly just apathy, a sense something is "missing" and/or whatever other emotions you can run on (anger, anxiety, etc) which is one reason i used to make myself "manic" on these emotions.

Now, I struggle with the negative factors, (emotional pain, underlying death wish, lol) but am still a lot more (inconsistently) responsible than I was. I say inconsistently cause my problems don't really help. The last few days when ive been plunged into issues which have left me feeling like hell, I do my best to try to be responsible ...just I'm not very good at it cause I'm struggling with my mental health. But at least now I've met the big problem at the bottom of it face to face.

I don't think my empathy is as developed or as good as most people's yet, I'm guessing its about as good as a healthy child's, - some way to go still, but much better than not having any at all!

So I relate to that completely.

I thought BPDs are (on *average*) more empathic than HPDs?

Also about taking responsibility for your own actions, it might work that way round with HPD, but believe me if you have something at the NPD/AsPD end of the empathy problem scale, there are things you need to fix deep down inside before you will really have normal empathy, and since guilt is a function of empathy, you won't feel guilt until you learn empathy. Seeing the consequences of your own actions is not enough, only hard work in therapy will get you there.
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Re: The empathy "DUH!!!" moment

Postby t2011 » Wed Jun 29, 2011 10:15 pm

masquerade wrote:It is all part of a spectrum, with ASPD being at the extreme end, followed by NPD, BPD and HPD in that order. They key to beating all of these disorders is EMPATHY and taking RESPONSIBILITY for one's actions. When one does this with sincerity, remorse follows.

...

The person may cry tears of apparent remorse, and feel as if they emotionally mean it, but these will only be tears of guilt (which is different to remorse, and very damaging) unless they genuinely put themselves in the shoes of the people they have hurt, without dramatic sentimentality, they cannot and will not change.


Wow, what an awesome post. I wish Hs could realize <i>empathy</i> is the key. Treating others like we want to be treated is the basis for everything. For an H, it's the way to get real attention, not extorted attention (which leads to the non feeling hurt, and the H not understanding, and the cycle continuing).

I can especially relate to the bolded part. I've talked to my friend about her apparent lack of empathy a few years ago. Since then, she goes more out of her way to try and prove she feels things for others. But, it's not the same. It's like she knows she should feel something, and can make herself feel something. But, it's more of an emotion, not a genuine feeling of what that person feels.

Her examples tend to be about people she's not involved with. Like, a story about a woman losing her house. My friend will say "I can understand what that must feel like, losing her home and her pets, and living on the street with no posessions... it makes me cry." But, all that is about material things. And, it's just an emotion she can conjure up about an event she's not an actor in. It's like she's trying, but doesn't understand what empathy is. Truly feeling how your actions affect another person. True, unashamed, deep remorse for causing a person to feel something you wouldn't want to feel. To be the sole reason for that. Not that the other person lost material things -- but that they felt hurt, betrayed, disappointed, etc.
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Re: The empathy "DUH!!!" moment

Postby katana » Wed Jun 29, 2011 10:54 pm

t2011 wrote:
masquerade wrote:The person may cry tears of apparent remorse, and feel as if they emotionally mean it, but these will only be tears of guilt (which is different to remorse, and very damaging) unless they genuinely put themselves in the shoes of the people they have hurt, without dramatic sentimentality, they cannot and will not change.


...Her examples tend to be about people she's not involved with. Like, a story about a woman losing her house. My friend will say "I can understand what that must feel like, losing her home and her pets, and living on the street with no posessions... it makes me cry." But, all that is about material things. And, it's just an emotion she can conjure up about an event she's not an actor in. It's like she's trying, but doesn't understand what empathy is. Truly feeling how your actions affect another person. True, unashamed, deep remorse for causing a person to feel something you wouldn't want to feel. To be the sole reason for that. Not that the other person lost material things -- but that they felt hurt, betrayed, disappointed, etc.


That's a really good distinction. I'd put it slightly differently, "True, unashamed, deep remorse for causing a person to feel something you wouldn't want them to feel." - you know it feels bad cause it would make you feel that way, so that's how it works but consciously it just jumps straight to that you are sorry that you have caused them that pain and wish they didn't have to be suffering that.

I think for most cluster Bs, one of the things that gets you when you first start experiencing empathy is that you don't have all the right reference points. (and even for people who have BPD and not other cluster Bs who experience a greater degree of empathy there is still a problem with reference points cause the experiences can be completely different.)

I remember reading things people had said and thinking, "yeah, well I don't want you to be hurt, but I don't get it cause I wouldn't give a damn if that happened I'd just - " lol.there is a lot of learning involved too.
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Re: The empathy "DUH!!!" moment

Postby xdude » Thu Jun 30, 2011 3:56 pm

I'll say WOW as well.

You know I worked with mentally ill criminals for many years and I never did fully comprehend how someone could be so lacking in empathy, but I accepted it intellectually. However empathy is also not a black or white matter. Different people are empathetic to different degrees. The sociopaths are extreme cases, and even among NONs, the average person's ability to consider the effect their actions have on others (and to think in terms of 'If you did this to me it would hurt me so I will avoid hurting you'; aka The Golden Rule) varies.

I also always found it hard to comprehend the 'but I don't get it cause I wouldn't give a damn if that happened I'd just -' thinking but when actually put in the same position, almost invariably those who lack empathy are hurt no different than anyone else.

I'm still trying to get my head around it, but I look back on when I was a little child and realize I had limited empathy for others. Empathy is learned over time. We learn to feel guilty, remorse, painful feelings that we want to avoid, so avoid paths that would lead to those feelings, but I guess one way of coping for someone who lacks empathy is to do as they wish, and turn off the feelings of remorse as well, so there is seemingly no personal cost. They get what they want from others, and lacking any remorse/guilt later (or the ability to bury it so deep), there is really no reason not to do so short of a tangible consequence (e.g., jail, others leave them, etc.)

Anyway I agree with the thoughts written in this thread that learning empathy is a big key in over coming cluster B disorders, but I did have one related thought.

I think my BPD mother had a kind of empathy, but it was twisted. She had empathy for others but had a way of making it about her. For example, perhaps she'd see some news report about some tragedy. That could lead to empathy, however it was really more about her crying (or something more bizarre, like thinking some person she barely knew could be romantically involved with her and crying over that), which in turn lead to everyone else walking on egg shells around her, which lead to her being hurt that others weren't fawning over her, etc. She was rarely moved to actually do something tangible to make a difference (more often then not the opposite, a princess doesn't get her hands dirty directly, her job was done with sitting there and crying), so while it appeared to be empathy on the surface, when it came to her own family, she could be obliviously awful about hurting the people closest to her (or demanding so much of them that nobody could keep up), while apparently empathetic over things that didn't entirely add up.

Empathy really can be about others though. To treat others as we would wish to be treated, which in turn makes the world a better place to live for all of us. As you wrote, even simple things, like trying to get someone's package out on time (because we know we'd not like to receive our packages late) is practical empathy that makes the world a better place to live.
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Re: The empathy "DUH!!!" moment

Postby katana » Sat Jul 02, 2011 8:16 pm

I'm not sure i see it quite that way so much, but maybe as someone who has learned empathy as an adult, i feel differently - maybe that is how it works for children.

empathy comes first and you don't want to hurt others cause of that empathy - guilt is the result of learning to recognise that you are hurting others through empathy, and you feel bad *because you don't want to hurt them* because of empathy. Guilt is like a compass that tells you when you've done something wrong. You don't listen to it cause its painful, its painful cause you are registering that you have done something you can see is wrong *and* you have empathy. Empathy causes the pain - its like all other pain - pain tells you when you are hurting yourself or someone is hurting you, guilt is just like pain that tells you when you are hurting others. Its a function of empathy more than a training tool. I reckon society chooses to see it that way cause its very focussed on behaviour. yes, it is prosocial, but *empathy* is prosocial and directly causes people to want to not hurt each other. guilt is an extended pain signal. You avoid actions that are causing *their pain*, not *your pain*.

xdude wrote:I'm still trying to get my head around it, but I look back on when I was a little child and realize I had limited empathy for others. Empathy is learned over time. We learn to feel guilty, remorse, painful feelings that we want to avoid, so avoid paths that would lead to those feelings, but I guess one way of coping for someone who lacks empathy is to do as they wish, and turn off the feelings of remorse as well, so there is seemingly no personal cost. They get what they want from others, and lacking any remorse/guilt later (or the ability to bury it so deep), there is really no reason not to do so short of a tangible consequence (e.g., jail, others leave them, etc.)


I don't see how someone without empathy can have feelings of remorse. ? I did some things I felt bad about later, but at the time i couldn't even comprehend how I was supposed to feel bad about them or why. There was nothing to be shut away, (i think parts of me that were dissociated and had empathy have only been around for the last few years.) it was like when I was able to feel empathy, it really was like a little lightbulb going on, and then horror at stuff that i'd done in the past - and then a lot of cognitive dissonance that led to denial and eventually pain. Over time my *vulnerability* had been switched off, shoved away, put back there in parts of me that would occasionally break through, so i thought no one could hurt me cause i didn't feel it normally I was capable of being hurt but not feeling other people's pain cause there was just this relational barrier where i didn't understand a connection/sameness/relation between me and others emotionally. (selective empathy barrier of identity?) To me "switching off remorse" sounds like someone who is trying to shut off their empathy or who is afraid of it, or of other people, or just fails to see stuff cause they are only focussed on themself but doesn't actually lack empathy. I understand pushing feelings away. I have a lot of pain and sadness that i've been trying hard to push away for the last few days. I don't want it to hit me cause i don't know what to do with it.(but its going to any moment now isn't it LOL) But I don't see how someone can have remorse to push away when they lack empathy? Please explain.
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Re: The empathy "DUH!!!" moment

Postby xdude » Mon Jul 04, 2011 7:27 pm

katana wrote:I don't see how someone without empathy can have feelings of remorse. ? I did some things I felt bad about later, but at the time i couldn't even comprehend how I was supposed to feel bad about them or why.


Maybe you learned it backwards then. I think most kids start out relatively unaware of others feelings. Their parents teach them ABC is right, XYZ is wrong; they are praised/rewarded for right, punished (yes including told to feel guilty) for what they do wrong. That gives them early control over their own behavior (behavioral training). Later they develop the ability to predict actions that will harm others and avoid the guilt/remorse before they do harm. Perhaps later still they learn to think in terms of the Golden Rule, to put themselves in others mental shoes and get that 'if such and such happened to me i'd feel like X" and project that others must feel that way too. There is a degree of human concern for others required of course, and I don't know how people learn that. Perhaps because they have been treated kindly and appreciate the value of that vs treating others heartlessly.
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Re: The empathy "DUH!!!" moment

Postby realitycheque » Mon Jul 04, 2011 8:09 pm

Lack of (emotional) empathy is associated with pre-frontal cortex problems. In the most extreme case for Cluster Bs -- AsPD -- Dr. Amen has stated that there is a lower brain density with antisocials which can be correlated to their "I don't care about anybody else" mentality. However, I'm unsure as to the source of the AsPD density measurement, if by non-destructive spectral analysis or by post-mortem gravimetric.

Classic ADHD also is associated with pre-frontal cortex problems, and there are variations of ADHD that can be attributed to abnormal activity in different parts of the brain.

BPD is trickier, because it seems to have elements of obsessive-compulsiveness (overfocus) as well, that cause a see-saw effect of biochemical imbalances. I believe some HPDers have this duality. OCD/OCPD has what I refer to as intellectual empathy, the inability to cognitively understand another's point of view. It is common for OCPDers to constantly worry about bad things happening (except to them) when reading bad event/catastrophe occurring to someone else. SO from the outside it appears there is empathy, but it's really internal fear.

My current theory is that people maladapt in different ways (various PDs) to these lowered empathies caused by physical factors in the brain (nature). The PDs seem to be heavily influenced by negative childhood experiences (insufficient nurture), whereas there are "pure" forms of disorders (bipolar, OCD, ADHD) that aren't complicated by lack of nurture.
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