I bring this up because whenever this topic comes up on the forum, I see people saying what strongly empathetic beings they are. And I hope every time I read responses to get something meaty and substantial about what people are experiencing, triggers, reactions, how the cope, and nothing.
For my job, I work with that delve deeply into situations and topics that trigger these responses and people aren't saying I'm empathetic because I watch a movie and I cry or it scares me. People are saying I'm a social worker and I've been assigned a case load that's breaking me in half, and I have to make home visits and I see the squalor and dysfunction that surrounds families and I'm afraid to drop a case because the one I drop may be the one where I get a call someone is hospitalized or dead.
The weight of the situations are just different to me. I've wondered are highly empathetic people more likely to go towards these intense caring professions or away from them. I wonder what type of person puts themselves through the wringer like this every day and still can say they love what they do. I wonder why turnover is so high. I wonder does detachment make them better at what they do or less inclined to care.
I don't want you to construe what I'm asking as needling. I purposely didn't quote anyone so that no one person would feel like I was directing my comment at them. Yeah, it is hard when people use personal anecdotes as proof because basically that ties your hands from asking any further questions because they feel attacked for relating experiences if you have a differing opinion. What can you do? Just smile and agree a person is what they say they are? I ask to understand, not to trivialize. I can make all types of claims and assertions about myself and they don't have to be true. I think when you question things like this, it's often perceived as questioning a person's goodness and everybody thinks they're basically a good person. I say this neutrally so once again, I'm not trying to attack what you experience.It helps that they cannot feel every little twitch of their patients. I am useless in those situations because I faint when I see blood, for example. And most people find my reactions to movies and real life situations over sensitive and abnormal. So yes, I'd say extreme empathy is a neurological disorder.
I can't help feeling a bit set up when someone asks a question and I offer anecdotal or personal experience for what it's worth, and it's turned around as if to say I'm bragging, or that experience I offer is trivialized all to hell.
I can watch pretty intense movies and feel OK, blood and guts don't bother me, I'm not particularly squeamish. But if I am those things, do I become empathetic? If I can look at something unflinchingly, does that mean I'm unmoved? Is empathy directly related to how big of a basket case you become in high stress/emotional situations or if you maintain functionality are you not particularly empathetic? Because that's what some people are offering up as proof as their empathy: that they can't be in the presence of something disturbing or they go into meltdown.
Empathy is just as much about positive emotion as negative...are people just as inclined to feel the happiness and joy of others or is it specifically negative and painful emotion?