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Thread: Extreme empaths

  1. #71
    darkened dreams labyrinthine's Avatar
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    This thread has made me think about the question of empathetic responses to movies. The underlying question in my mind has to do with the fact that the emotions and physical pains are fake in that context. An accurate empathy would absorb the underlying artificiality of it along with the superficial expression if it were accurate and direct empathy.

    Most people place the context of movie as a distinct category from real life. They can eat popcorn and watch suffering, but when confronted with suffering in reality their reaction is much more involved. Those times that I have had a strong response to violence in a movie is based on the assumption that it is a representation of something that has at some point been reality. It is a symbol of the real. When there is a strong reaction, it isn't my version of eating popcorn suggesting a complete melt-down in reality, but rather a lack of distinction between the two.

    I was also wondering about the issue of conflict. How would someone with strong empathy relate to conflict? Would they tend to identify with the other person readily enough to be on their side as much as their own? Would the negative emotions conflict instills in others be a de-motivator to initiate or sustain conflict? Or would they reflect it back and match the level of conflict with which they are presented?
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    Quote Originally Posted by ConstantlyImagining View Post
    Whenever I watch any movie which involves the characters emotionally suffering or are about to be really embarrassed I actually have to stop watching the scene; I become stressed out and my heart rate increases and I want the scene to just be over.

    Also in everyday life anytime anyone around me is upset or angry, I become nauseas, my stomach has a "sinking" feeling, my heart rate increases I become and really jittery. Whenever I walk pass someone and I just feel a vibe that something is bothering them I become really anxious as well
    This, no nausea feeling though

  3. #73
    4x9 cascadeco's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ajblaise View Post
    But I have a feeling this kind of intense empathy might be an INFx "Highly Sensitive Person" type thing. Rather than an Fi vs. Fe thing.
    I tend to think it's more HSP than anything, which means it isn't really type-related.
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  4. #74
    Senior Member Tiltyred's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by proteanmix View Post
    No, this helps them do their work, it motivates them to continue doing their work. Being immune and unmoved is a symptom of burnout, not a precipitating factor that moves things along.
    There is a range between those two extremes, and somewhere along that range you are able to be effective. Extremely high empathy does not contribute to being effective. It gets in the way. I tend to think that concern for social good might help social workers do their jobs, rather than feeling the feelings of every person they counsel.

    Quote Originally Posted by proteanmix View Post
    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.
    Right, because the topic was not ďhow do you cope with an emotionally demanding job in which you are overworked and underpaid.Ē That would be an entirely different thread.

    Quote Originally Posted by proteanmix View Post
    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.
    That has nothing to do with empathy. That is all about burnout and feeling overly responsible and possibly self-congratulatory. Not that you donít deserve it. But whatís in that comment is ďI do, and you sit around and enjoy the luxury of your feelings. If you were so empathic, you would get up off your ass and work like I do. Since you donít, I donít believe you have empathy.Ē

    Quote Originally Posted by proteanmix View Post
    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.
    Do you really? Because this sounds like posturing to me. Of course the weight of reacting to a person in a movie and reacting to a person in trouble in real life when you are a social worker is two different things. I think you have to get to a level that youíre comfortable with, and if you canít stay at that level but head toward either extreme, you may suffer lack of effectiveness.



    Quote Originally Posted by proteanmix View Post
    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?
    That would be refreshing, yes. Why not? Why would anyone lie about such a thing? This is like coming on the Enneagram forum and telling 4s that what they feel is no different from what everybody else feels. Well Ö if youíre called weird all your life, there might be a reason -- which is that youíre waaay out there on the bell curve in some respects Ö and actually what you feel is NOT what everybody else feels. It may have some things in common, but it is not the same. Isnít it all about respecting differences? So where is the respect?

    Quote Originally Posted by proteanmix View Post
    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.
    Youíre confusing doing and being, and itís a critical distinction. It appears to me that in your book, you donít get to claim empathy unless you are doing something about it, being a teacher or social worker or some such. Everybody else is probably lying, either purposely for effect, or because they donít know enough about themselves to tell the truth. I donít see it as questioning my goodness, because youíre not in a position to evaluate whether or not I or anyone else here is a good person, whatever that means. But I donít think that people describe physical reactions to other people so their audience will think they are good people, and the accusation is really jaded.

    Quote Originally Posted by proteanmix View Post
    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.
    Yes, and what about it? Teaching burnt me out in 2 years. I could not be a nurse or a social worker. Whether or not I am able to act on my empathy or feel I must act on my empathy is different from challenging whether or not I have it.

  5. #75
    Senior Member Saslou's Avatar
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    Interesting thread.

    I believe i do empathy (and compassion) well, especially regarding the job i do. I get the amazing opportunity to meet people from all walks of life and i do hear some terrifying stories resulting in great courage. The down side is though that it can become incredibly draining.

    I don't think it has anything to do with type .. Possibly it could be a learned behaviour over time. Hmmm
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  6. #76
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    It's not just a type or function thing. I think it's bull to say you are extremely empathetic JUST because you use Fi. Some of the worst projectors of other's feelings are Fi users (extremely bad empathy, imo) but some of the most empathetic people are Fi users. It goes for other types also.

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    Tenured roisterer SolitaryWalker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pitseleh View Post
    It's not just a type or function thing. I think it's bull to say you are extremely empathetic JUST because you use Fi.
    Thank you! Finally a sensible reply to the OP.

    Quote Originally Posted by Pitseleh View Post
    Some of the worst projectors of other's feelings are Fi users (extremely bad empathy, imo) but some of the most empathetic people are Fi users. It goes for other types also.
    That is also true, there are many reasons why a person is or is not empathetic, some functions contribute to development of compassion, yet others less so, however, it must be noted that one's temperament is but one factor that contributes to developing his level of empathy. Idiosyncrasies of his or her personality, current social environment, upbringing, professional occupation, hobbies etc also influence how empathetic he is. That seems rather intuitive and obvious, anyone who claims that a person's type solely determines the nature of his or her personality qualities such as empathy is disregarding this simple truism.
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  8. #78
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    Re OP: I am not sure that empathetic as in experiencing the emotions of those you are around as if they were your own or having strong viseral/emotional reactions to the reactions of others always equates to "empathy" as in the way a nurse or good mother or good friend practices empathy. I think these are really two different things. They may or may not work together.

  9. #79
    Plumage and Moult proteanmix's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tiltyred View Post
    There is a range between those two extremes, and somewhere along that range you are able to be effective. Extremely high empathy does not contribute to being effective. It gets in the way. I tend to think that concern for social good might help social workers do their jobs, rather than feeling the feelings of every person they counsel.
    Why wouldn't that be an ability that makes them better at what they do? It really does seem to me that you see deep empathy as a burden, rather than a help. Your experiences with empathy is that it's incapacitating, which is not necessarily true at all. You can still deeply empathize and develop coping mechanisms and strategies to not loose your mind in the process.

    That has nothing to do with empathy. That is all about burnout and feeling overly responsible and possibly self-congratulatory. Not that you donít deserve it. But whatís in that comment is ďI do, and you sit around and enjoy the luxury of your feelings. If you were so empathic, you would get up off your ass and work like I do. Since you donít, I donít believe you have empathy.Ē
    This has everything to do with empathy. How did they get burned out? There are studies on people in the caring professions being burned out from overempathizing.
    Stressed Health Workers Fight 'Compassion Fatigue' - Mental Health Disorders on MedicineNet.com
    How Compassion Fatigue Can Overwhelm Charity Workers -- and What to Do About It - Career Ideas & Advice - The Chronicle of Philanthropy- Connecting the nonprofit world with news, jobs, and ideas
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    And you are correct in your assessment of what's implicit in my thoughts on the matter only I'd take off the "like I do" part. I do feel like it's a luxury to sit and wallow in deep wells of empathy and be totally paralyzed by feeling. What's the next move? I do have more respect for people who empathize as deeply and STILL can help others and not be sucked in a vortex of their feelings. If this is channeled in a constructive way, deep (I'm not going to say extreme because it looks like that's a disorder) empathizers are uniquely positioned to be of great good. I think at some point you've got to move past that. Being frozen in empathy...yes it is useless.

    Do you really? Because this sounds like posturing to me. Of course the weight of reacting to a person in a movie and reacting to a person in trouble in real life when you are a social worker is two different things. I think you have to get to a level that youíre comfortable with, and if you canít stay at that level but head toward either extreme, you may suffer lack of effectiveness.
    No posturing here. I have not made any claims about how deeply empathetic I am. I wouldn't even begin to know to assess that within myself and I would feel a little arrogant in doing so. I admit, when I read people saying how empathetic they are, I have a nagging thought in my head thinking is this person's perception of themselves accurate because I would think if I felt like I was extremely empathetic am I seeing myself clearly.

    Like I said, questioning this offends people. Empathy has a cluster of associations with it and 95% of them are positive: emotionally intelligent, compassionate, kind, understanding, charitable. So when people say this about themselves I do interpret it as shorthand for saying they are those things. I'm not saying I believe they're not, but I don't necessarily believe they are either. No one is going to say I'm highly empathetic and the cruelest bitch you've ever had the misfortune of meeting. Psychologically, that's oil and water but those are flipsides of the same coin.

    Youíre confusing doing and being, and itís a critical distinction.
    Doing and being. Being leads to doing, but I can see how that's not the case for everyone. When I have strong feelings for a cause, I don't just sit deeply feeling it and not get up and do something although not everyone is like me. I have rarely seen people who have a heart towards something and feel compelled to that area totally ignore that feeling without it pulling it them back some way.

    It appears to me that in your book, you donít get to claim empathy unless you are doing something about it, being a teacher or social worker or some such. Everybody else is probably lying, either purposely for effect, or because they donít know enough about themselves to tell the truth. I donít see it as questioning my goodness, because youíre not in a position to evaluate whether or not I or anyone else here is a good person, whatever that means. But I donít think that people describe physical reactions to other people so their audience will think they are good people, and the accusation is really jaded.
    No that's untrue. You for example, didn't say you were just regular old run of the mill empathetic, which article said that all humans are hardwired to be. Your first post describes reactions similar to those described in the article as extreme empathy. I commented that's considered an neurological disorder and even asked if this is what people are claiming they have. Then I noticed a few other people were saying they were extreme empaths because they can't stand gore and blood. That's not extreme empathy. I don't think the people in the article are making anything up, nor do I think they're lying. If you're referring to the some of the comments made in this thread as examples of extreme empathy, yes I do question those because it seems to me people don't understand what it is in the first place by confusing reactions from sources designed to make them react in such a way, i.e. scary movies. On top of that, some people wanted to make this into a type thing which further compounds my skepticism of their understanding empathy or extreme empathy.

    Yes, and what about it? Teaching burnt me out in 2 years. I could not be a nurse or a social worker. Whether or not I am able to act on my empathy or feel I must act on my empathy is different from challenging whether or not I have it.
    Why am I not allowed to challenge people's claims of empathy? It's not some untouchable attribute I can't question. You put yourself out there to say you're extremely empathetic and I'm supposed to say "OK I BELIEVE YOU!" I also question expression of empathy...if someone doesn't have an extreme physical reaction or become incapacitated are they not as empathetic? The trend in the thread was that people were describing physiological reactions. If there's an absence of those reactions is there a perception they're not as empathetic? The standard that's being put forth here is that empathy is accompanied by a physical reaction and that's not necessarily the case, which is what I'm mainly questioning.
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  10. #80
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    I don't understand why you can't just let people talk about their feelings without implying that they might be deluded.

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