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Does the false self have empathy?

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Does the false self have empathy?

Postby SelfSerf » Mon Aug 31, 2020 9:37 pm

So is the one holding the true self captive capable of having reflexive empathy? Cognitivw empathy, yea, but that is cols empathy.

Having fallen into collapse and into a near-alternating psychotic state, my defences are running buckwild and am really not sure of my state of mind anymore but I recently experienced something akin to it but couldn’t really say with 100% certainty. Situation was thus: at work this guy that I first was obtuse with (because his hiring threatened my position) and I took a covertly hostile demeanor (could call it passive aggressive), divulged to me after I asked about his siblings that his sister had dies in a car crash and I felt some sort of contraction inside. It was of course kind of short-lived and also I did not really know how to properly respond (or really see whether me asking put him in real despair but I expressed the stereotypical “I am sorry, I didn’t know.” and concurrently felt some sentiment after saying it.

Now this I imagine could be either a part of the fabrication (self-deception in the guise of the false self), but on the other hand empathy is actually also a learned response that is possible to become more adept at. It’s just that at this point in time I am not sure that would be high on my priority list, i.e. being so in touch with my own suffering atm and absorbed by that, or instead that my own loss (core trauma of my mother’s loss) simply makes me capable of grasping that simple truth of the world and actually makes me capable of commiserating (?) anyhow.
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Re: Does the false self have empathy?

Postby Akuma » Wed Sep 02, 2020 11:05 am

SelfSerf wrote:So is the one holding the true self captive capable of having reflexive empathy? Cognitivw empathy, yea, but that is cols empathy.

Having fallen into collapse and into a near-alternating psychotic state, my defences are running buckwild and am really not sure of my state of mind anymore but I recently experienced something akin to it but couldn’t really say with 100% certainty. Situation was thus: at work this guy that I first was obtuse with (because his hiring threatened my position) and I took a covertly hostile demeanor (could call it passive aggressive), divulged to me after I asked about his siblings that his sister had dies in a car crash and I felt some sort of contraction inside. It was of course kind of short-lived and also I did not really know how to properly respond (or really see whether me asking put him in real despair but I expressed the stereotypical “I am sorry, I didn’t know.” and concurrently felt some sentiment after saying it.

Now this I imagine could be either a part of the fabrication (self-deception in the guise of the false self), but on the other hand empathy is actually also a learned response that is possible to become more adept at. It’s just that at this point in time I am not sure that would be high on my priority list, i.e. being so in touch with my own suffering atm and absorbed by that, or instead that my own loss (core trauma of my mother’s loss) simply makes me capable of grasping that simple truth of the world and actually makes me capable of commiserating (?) anyhow.


I would classify empathy more into the realm of mentalization and not think of such abstracts as true/false self.
But there is such a thing as emotional contagion. In German we have this weird dichotomy between "Mitgefühl" vs "Mitleid", which had been a topic in therapy a while ago. "Mitleid" (Co-Suffering) I would say is the same thing as emotional contagion, it shows that some internal feelings gets triggered in you, you feel an emotion, might be overwhelmed by it. It can be caused for example by being in a bad way yourself, or by having small ego-boundaries... AProphet comes to mind and his constant idea that he was "telepathically" feeling other peoples feelings. It can also be caused by other people [subconsciously] trying to make you feel a certain way though, as in projective identification.
"Mitgefühl" (Co-Feeling) is in contrast an ability where you investigate anothers state in a more complete sense, based on knowledge and curiosity and you are not overwhelmed by "their" (read your own) emotions. In Kleinian terms Mitleid is more a part-object thing, Mitgefühl is more a whole-object thing, where you realte to the person as an adult and you might feel bad for them, but you are also having enough distance to be helpful. A caricature of a contaged (?) therapist would be a therapist for example who hears your story and then starts sobbing uncontrollably. Aside from being evry unprofessional it also shows that he has a very all/nothin state now and he is being overwhelmed by something that is not clearly yours and not clearly his. If that makes sense.
Mitgefühl is a outcome of a lessening of narcissism and strengthening or accurate mentalization capacity I feel.
So maybe if you are uncertain if its emotional contagion or empathy, you could try to see how clearly your conscious/unconscious boundaries to that other person have been in that situation and how much you felt of their emotions were in you and vice versa. Also if you have the required knowledge to know if he was actually suffering for example, or if that was just your idea.
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Re: Does the false self have empathy?

Postby Philonoe » Sat Sep 05, 2020 10:29 am

Akuma thank you for that explanation.
Interesting that those words have no translation in english

Selfserf in my experience being moved by someone's suffer depends much on your own experience of suffer. It sort of resonates with you. For instance i witness disabled person offering seat to disabled person. Probably because they know what it is.
When you talk about contradictions: i think it's very present in everybody. This person is threatening for your job then you begins to know him better. I have experienced that in new jobs. i remember a colleague who welcomed me very aggressively. Later we enjoyed working together for long time.
Sometimes contradictory feelings coexists. For me It's a little like taste. When you eat lots of tastes coexist. Sometimes you even can't name them.
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Re: Does the false self have empathy?

Postby ViniStonemoss » Sun Sep 06, 2020 5:32 pm

Philonoe wrote:Akuma thank you for that explanation.


Are you for real, Philonoe :lol: ?

There are many ways to relate to people:

1) you may quite literally feel their feelings because you experienced them, a manner of relating through reminiscence and association
2) you may mirror people's feelings to validate them without having experienced them
3) you may understand, as a logical calculation or deduction, what they are going through

All of the methods above have strengths and downsides: in terms of appraising the situation accurately, in terms of responding accurately... They all require some adjusting: as someone grows healthier, they also develop an ability to mix and match.

But Number 1 remains, by far, the most accurate and shortest way to get through to someone's pain and motivation, because that's literally what it was designed for!!

Basically what Akuma is saying above is that number 1 is not a valid expression of empathy. He is denigrating one of the major point of entry into relating to one another because he has, admittedly, little access to it. It's not only offensive for a majority of people, providing you see through the mumbo jumbo, but also alarmingly wrong.
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Re: Does the false self have empathy?

Postby Philonoe » Thu Sep 17, 2020 3:06 am

ViniStonemoss,

Yes i find that comment interesting. There are different themes involved in the discussion.
One is the ability to "feel" when someone lives something. it can be related to your own experience like we said. it can be related to your own state of mind. for instance i can totally miss someone's feelings in case i'm myself preoccupied. i become very selfcentered and sort of don't see people or people's needs.

What i find interesting is to relate it to boundaries. if i have no good internal boundaries i become fragile with other's feelings. Some people can't listen to other's feelings because they become too involved or depressed.
If i have no good external boundaries i can project own feeling on the person for instance.
in both cases there are no two persons in the room. in one case i disappear. in one case they disappear.
that doesn't mean that i don't feel.
Boundaries make possible to relate to someone. accept they exist, they have feelings, some of them i perceive or share, some of them i don't.
People who are able to listen and to relate - be therapists or not - are very precious. they make dialog possible.

So yes Akuma's post opens interesting directions it seems to me
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Re: Does the false self have empathy?

Postby ViniStonemoss » Thu Sep 17, 2020 3:29 pm

The theme itself is interesting, but that's as far as I can go.

Going back to Self Serf's post, which is supposed to be the focus, remember? So going back to Self Serf's original post, it sounds like Self Serf experienced a genuine moment, if only fleeting, of consideration or empathy for someone else. Something worth celebrating more than anything.

Now, I don't know, in this post, where one can find a hint that this could constitute emotional contagion. In fact, Self Serf is being forward, explaining that, because of is unwitting current state of self-absorption ("my own suffering", "absorbed by that", "my own loss"...), they may struggle to take in people's feelings. Either you possess such bad boundaries that you let anyone and anything affect you, or you stand like a fortress in regard to other people's suffering, it can't be both.

With this in mind, the whole emotional contagion tirade seems bizarre. At the very best, it's a rather passive aggressive jab, taking away the focus from the original question.

If you are concerned with poor boundaries, perhaps an area to investigate is how you may contribute to supporting negative or destructive behaviors? If you seek figures to enable? Perhaps you could remind yourself, and I mean that in the kindest way possible, that narcissism is a drug, and that by supporting a projected image instead of the person behind, you come closer to being a figurative dealer supplying the drug than to helping them.

I'm otherwise always happy to discuss the issue of boundaries, since I have extensive experience in that regard.
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Re: Does the false self have empathy?

Postby Akuma » Thu Sep 17, 2020 6:37 pm

Maybe this is a good moment to relate the story that triggered the discussion with my therapist that I summarized above.

Basically there was a series that I am watching which essentially talks about abuse and the family dynamics that come with that and the attempt of the people to get out of it.
So theres this moment where one of the characters that I like very much is depressed. A girl who was in love with him for a long while has just admitted to him that she realized she really never loved him but she needed someone she can pity and who had it worse than her; and he told her that he will never love her, and never love anyone for that matter anyways. So he comes home and doesnt speak and doesnt eat. So the other main protagonist is wondering what to do when one of the younger guys comes running to her saying "You know he is feeling down but that doesnt mean we have to, right? Right? Lets do something fun!" And they both walk off to have fun outside.
I was perplexed, because I couldnt react that way, I immediately feel bad when he is feeling bad, I see someone I like very much suffering and my impulse is to go after him, to not eat either, to not be able to "do something fun", probably I would just want to sit there in silence but if I actually went out, I would probably feel guilty all of the time.
Of course the problem is that if I go after him, that is not necessarily what he wants, and even if he wants it, its not necessarily what he needs; his current situatioon is a moment in his development and might be necessary; at the very least one has to clarify and to be able to accept the result. On the other hand side, the little guy is right; theres no need to feel bad because the othe rperson is feelign bad. And just like that weird girl, I might not really act out of love, but out of pity, maybe even out of fear. This is also what incited the inspection of the difference between Mitleid and Mitgefühl in my session with my therapist and I think this is what triggers Vini here, because really realizing another person is seperate is a pretty big step, and one that cant be gotten to by narcissistic means and which doesnt just spontaenously develop out of nowhere; realizing other people have hidden thoughts you will never know, feelings you will never have access to, that of course you cannot feel others feelings is a scary thing and not without reason this shift is called "depressive position" in Kleinian terms.
And I think in a way this relates also very well to the question of SelfSerf about the False Self in a way. When the True Self (staying with Winnicott) is the untainted aliveness of the biological organism and the False Self is the hindrances to that aliveness implanted by our parents. And in a way that lack of boundaries, as Philonoe calls it, that necessity to be "there" for others is such a False Self aspect. My caregivers for example brought me up in a way where it was not always clear that they were seperate, and in I learned to be constantly wary of their feelings and their states, feeling responsible for their inner world, feeling unable to just let them be and "do something fun" a lot of the times, I would think. And I think in a way SelfSerf is still in the same position. I remember "just going away" (both from certain people in his family and certain inner states) and having fun is something that he struggled with tremendously. Its really the same theme and I fidn it much more relevant, than a short-term "constriction", if only to try putting it into context.
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Re: Does the false self have empathy?

Postby ViniStonemoss » Thu Sep 17, 2020 9:11 pm

Akuma wrote:This is also what incited the inspection of the difference between Mitleid and Mitgefühl in my session with my therapist and I think this is what triggers Vini here


What is it that triggered me? It's not clear...

As I wrote, the reason why I take issue with your comment is because it glorifies "logicizing" feelings by caricaturing to extremes emotional empathy. But overlooking your feelings altogether on your way to rationalizing them is the most pressing danger that people with NPD face.

Akuma wrote:So theres this moment where one of the characters that I like very much is depressed. A girl who was in love with him for a long while has just admitted to him that she realized she really never loved him but she needed someone she can pity and who had it worse than her; and he told her that he will never love her, and never love anyone for that matter anyways. So he comes home and doesnt speak and doesnt eat. So the other main protagonist is wondering what to do when one of the younger guys comes running to her saying "You know he is feeling down but that doesnt mean we have to, right? Right? Lets do something fun!" And they both walk off to have fun outside.


I could not agree more but I never called this into question.

Akuma wrote: My caregivers for example brought me up in a way where it was not always clear that they were seperate, and in I learned to be constantly wary of their feelings and their states, feeling responsible for their inner world, feeling unable to just let them be and "do something fun" a lot of the times, I would think.


This ^ is not consistent with what I know about you...

And I think in a way SelfSerf is still in the same position. I remember "just going away" (both from certain people in his family and certain inner states) and having fun is something that he struggled with tremendously. Its really the same theme and I fidn it much more relevant, than a short-term "constriction", if only to try putting it into context.


I think people here are more likely to be counter-dependent than co-dependent. Not that it's impossible to find both in a single person, but NPD's core issue is counterdepency.
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Re: Does the false self have empathy?

Postby Philonoe » Sat Sep 26, 2020 12:42 pm

Hi,

I find this thread very interesting.

Akuma wrote:My caregivers for example brought me up in a way where it was not always clear that they were seperate, and in I learned to be constantly wary of their feelings and their states, feeling responsible for their inner world, feeling unable to just let them be and "do something fun" a lot of the times, I would think.

I very much relate with that

Akuma wrote:realizing other people have hidden thoughts you will never know, feelings you will never have access to, that of course you cannot feel others feelings is a scary thing and not without reason this shift is called "depressive position" in Kleinian terms.

Is that what they call "the depressive position"? So it would be necessary step to accept that other people exist

ViniStemoss wrote:What is it that triggered me? It's not clear...

As I wrote, the reason why I take issue with your comment is because it glorifies "logicizing" feelings by caricaturing to extremes emotional empathy. But overlooking your feelings altogether on your way to rationalizing them is the most pressing danger that people with NPD face.

I think that the psychological/psychoanalysis talk can be triggering because it sort of implies that they can read inside people - which is false and terrifying. It has to do with boundaries like we talked. Each one need own boundaries and own space, where others are not supposed to enter. Even therapists.
That doesn't mean that they can not study human soul in general. Just that your soul is yours.


In the discussion, i thing the "separate" part is very important. It's particularly important for parent i think. If your parent isn't separate from you, he'll think he can read you, he'll be triggered by your autonomy, he'll be triggered by your existence. How can you develop yourself in such world?
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