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Thread: Extreme empaths

  1. #81
    Plumage and Moult proteanmix's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tiltyred View Post
    I don't understand why you can't just let people talk about their feelings without implying that they might be deluded.
    You're good. I come across looking like a meanie for asking what makes you an empathizer. Just agree and all will be well.

    Quote Originally Posted by Lohengrin View Post
    How so?
    One of these friends works with Adult Protective Services. Physically she says she gets is tension headaches, fatigue, and sleep disturbances. Another one works for the Veteran's Administration as a program manager. Physically same thing and she believes she's depressed. The third works in the domestic violence division in our local district court.

    When I talk to them, they emphasize their mental and emotional reactions over their physical reactions. The body will react to stress regardless. I'm not trivializing physical reactions, I'm just saying that for myself and my little friend group, we're more prone to emphasize and analyze the psychological components.

    Demeanor and personality changes are more grave of course. More effort to lighten their mood, they say they can't relax and just have a good time, conversations are dominated by darker subjects. Two of them work with adults so there's anxiety about aging and dying. Worry about losing their ability to see the best in people since they see so many monsters. I especially relate to one of them saying that they can't be around optimistic people because they fear they will contaminate them. We all feel prematurely aged mentally. Not really able to connect with those in our peer group. We all say we are more prone to doubt people motives so there's the feeling of being negative and pessimistic towards others which brings shame at the loss of faith in humanity. Also isolating behaviors, not really knowing what to talk with other people about since so much of their minds are dominated by what they do...feeling a need to put up a facade of happiness so as not to drag other people down. We all feel like we're too serious and berate ourselves for not being able to just lighten up. On the positive side, you can tell when there are good weeks, when a situation resolves as well as it can or nothing especially bad happens because their demeanor changes...more smiling, sillier conversations, less frantic emails and texts, lol.

    Recently my friend who works with APS told me of a elderly woman who as left at a local hospital because of severe burns to her hands. It was suspected that her caretaker son burned her so she could get admitted to the hospital and he could have respite. This is from me asking "How was your day?" That comment lead to a conversation about family dynamics and human nature, hospice care, elder care, health care reform, just anything.

    I identify with many of their feelings. The most I'll register physically is queasiness and unease in my belly, no other odd sensations. I don't know if I should call this empathy or not.
    Last edited by proteanmix; 03-17-2010 at 08:29 PM. Reason: merged posts
    Relationships have normal ebbs and flows. They do not automatically get better and better when the participants learn more and more about each other. Instead, the participants have to work through the tensions of the relationship (the dialectic) while they learn and group themselves and a parties in a relationships. At times the relationships is very open and sharing. Other time, one or both parties to the relationship need their space, or have other concerns, and the relationship is less open. The theory posits that these cycles occur throughout the life of the relationship as the persons try to balance their needs for privacy and open relationship.
    Interpersonal Communication Theories and Concepts
    Social Penetration Theory 1
    Social Penetration Theory 2
    Social Penetration Theory 3

  2. #82
    Senior Member sculpting's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by proteanmix View Post
    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.
    protean I would suggest standardizing a definition at least for our purposes here-the below are used interchangabley but much of the confusion may lie in not being explicit-

    Empathy-the mirroring of the other person via physiological symptoms that mimic theirs (Fi methinks?)
    Sympathy-A strong sense of caring and sadness at the thought of another person pain, but not an acute mirrored pain response. A sense of wanting to help in some way (fe methinks?)

    Feel free to modify those defs of course-just a starting point based on the physiological perception.

    I am highly empathic. I am highly unsympathetic and even selfish in who I choose to spend energy helping. The INFJs are the Fe folks who I have seen most often say they feel the mirrored pain. Most other Fe users will feel strong sympathy unless the person is exceptionally close to them-perhaps a sign that Fi does really live within us all, just hidden under massive protective layers. If correct-your quesiness-that might be tendrils of Fi getting stirred around. I'd suggest the INFJs may be able to tap into Fi much more directly than other fe users, thus their description of "empathy" may actually be a combination of the above definitions of empathy and sympathy.

    Again to Toonia's point-empathy in itself is just biology. What you do with that response may be much worse than someone who just feels sympathy alone. Empathy isnt a "good" thing alone.

    To a point I saw an ENTP make recently-out of pure empathy I may give a homeless person change as in that moment I feel his pain literally. But perhaps a more sympathetic, yet productive Fe approach would be to not give them change, and instead work with the community to modify the social structure in a way to enhance opportunities for all of the homeless.

    Just my 2 cents though.

  3. #83
    Senior Member sculpting's Avatar
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    the story of the burned lady?

    If I allow myself to "feel"-

    my throat constricts, my eyes close, tension spreads all across my back and chest. I draw my hands closer to my body almost to protect them and my skin tingles. I can even feel flushes across my hands-not quite pain, but a rememberance of pain-pain I have never felt.

    I then can start to feel subtle waves of lonliness and despair-as I Ne assume the women may feel these things, thus Fi seems to mirror them. I back correlate to my experiences being ill, to how I felt, to my past, layer that upon her mirrored feelings. Yeah that cascades like crazy within about 30 seconds. I quell them quickly as that crap would make you crazy if you felt it all day long.

  4. #84
    Plumage and Moult proteanmix's Avatar
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    Happy, OK I'm on wikipedia. Here's a copy + paste of their definitions of empathy.
    Empathy is an ability with many different definitions. They cover a broad spectrum, ranging from feeling a concern for other people that creates a desire to help them, experiencing emotions that match another person's emotions, knowing what the other person is thinking or feeling, to blurring the line between self and other. Below is a list of various definitions of what empathy means:
    1. Daniel Batson: A motivation oriented towards the other.[6]
    2. D. M. Berger: The capacity to know emotionally what another is experiencing from within the frame of reference of that other person, the capacity to sample the feelings of another or to put oneself in another's shoes.[7]
    3. Jean Decety: A sense of similarity in feelings experienced by the self and the other, without confusion between the two individuals.[8][9]
    4. Nancy Eisenberg: An affective response that stems from the apprehension or comprehension of another's emotional state or condition, and that is similar to what the other person is feeling or would be expected to feel.[10]
    5. R. R. Greenson: To empathize means to share, to experience the feelings of another person.[11]
    6. Alvin Goldman: The ability to put oneself into the mental shoes of another person to understand her emotions and feelings.[12]
    7. Martin Hoffman: An affective response more appropriate to another's situation than one's own.[13]
    8. William Ickes: A complex form of psychological inference in which observation, memory, knowledge, and reasoning are combined to yield insights into the thoughts and feelings of others.[14]
    9. Heinz Kohut: Empathy is the capacity to think and feel oneself into the inner life of another person.[15]
    10. Carl Rogers: To perceive the internal frame of reference of another with accuracy and with the emotional components and meanings which pertain thereto as if one were the person, but without ever losing the "as if" condition. Thus, it means to sense the hurt or the pleasure of another as he senses it and to perceive the causes thereof as he perceives them, but without ever losing the recognition that it is as if I were hurt or pleased and so forth.[16]
    11. Roy Schafer: Empathy involves the inner experience of sharing in and comprehending the momentary psychological state of another person.[17]
    12. Wynn Schwartz: We recognize others as empathic when we feel that they have accurately acted on or somehow acknowledged in stated or unstated fashion our values or motivations, our knowledge, and our skills or competence, but especially as they appear to recognize the significance of our actions in a manner that we can tolerate their being recognized.[18]
    13. Edith Stein: Empathy is the experience of foreign consciousness in general.[19]
    14. Simon Baron-Cohen (2003): Empathy is about spontaneously and naturally tuning into the other person's thoughts and feelings, whatever these might be [...]There are two major elements to empathy. The first is the cognitive component: Understanding the others feelings and the ability to take their perspective [...] the second element to empathy is the affective component. This is an observers appropriate emotional response to another person's emotional state.[20]
    15. Khen Lampert (2005): "[Empathy] is what happens to us when we leave our own bodies...and find ourselves either momentarily or for a longer period of time in the mind of the other. We observe reality through her eyes, feel her emotions, share in her pain.."[21]


    Since empathy involves understanding the emotional states of other people, the way it is characterized is derivative of the way emotions themselves are characterized. If, for example, emotions are taken to be centrally characterized by bodily feelings, then grasping the bodily feelings of another will be central to empathy. On the other hand, if emotions are more centrally characterized by a combination of beliefs and desires, then grasping these beliefs and desires will be more essential to empathy. The ability to imagine oneself as another person is a sophisticated imaginative process. However the basic capacity to recognize emotions is probably innate and may be achieved unconsciously. Yet it can be trained, and achieved with various degrees of intensity or accuracy.

    The human capacity to recognize the bodily feelings of another is related to one's imitative capacities, and seems to be grounded in the innate capacity to associate the bodily movements and facial expressions one sees in another with the proprioceptive feelings of producing those corresponding movements or expressions oneself. Humans also seem to make the same immediate connection between the tone of voice and other vocal expressions and inner feeling. See neurological basis below.
    Of those 15 definitions, NONE/ZERO make reference to physical sensation as a major component of empathy. The only reference to physical sensations is what I bolded above and that's an if/then scenario. Also (and I'm not just going by wikipedia, google "empathy" and see what pops up) empathy is a skill that can be learned. I guess that's something good for us non-Fi users since we're naturally handicapped in that area.

    The OP referers to people who have extreme physical reactions as extreme empaths and that's a neurological disorder. What I am taking issue with is people are conflating physical reactions as the defining feature of empathy.

    All of them do refer to an affective and psychological component. Affective is:
    • relating to, resulting from, or influenced by the emotions; Emotional; emotionally charged
    • the ability or tendency to experience (positive or negative) feelings, and to react to them
    • causing emotion or feeling


    I totally reject people's claims that physical sensations are a defining feature of empathy. I basically liken people's claims that there needs to be a physical sensation to accompany empathy to if you don't shed tears, you're not really sad, hurt, or in pain.

    Please don't make this a conversation about Fi. If you really need Fi to be the empathy function cling to your beliefs as misguided as they are.

    And if I must "feel" for the burned lady here I go: my son left me, why would he do this to me, what did I do to him, what's going on in his head, what's going to happen to me. I echo your feelings of despair and loneliness. There is no physical pain for me, I feel nothing in my body.
    Relationships have normal ebbs and flows. They do not automatically get better and better when the participants learn more and more about each other. Instead, the participants have to work through the tensions of the relationship (the dialectic) while they learn and group themselves and a parties in a relationships. At times the relationships is very open and sharing. Other time, one or both parties to the relationship need their space, or have other concerns, and the relationship is less open. The theory posits that these cycles occur throughout the life of the relationship as the persons try to balance their needs for privacy and open relationship.
    Interpersonal Communication Theories and Concepts
    Social Penetration Theory 1
    Social Penetration Theory 2
    Social Penetration Theory 3

  5. #85
    a scream in a vortex nanook's Avatar
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    empathy could be related to Fi and that would still not mean that Fi users have better or more empathy. for other types there may be the additional* burden of listening to the voice of their empathy, which would (hypothetically) reside in the realm of their shadow Fi, or be shaped by it. (*additional to the quality factor aka "better of more"). a function is shaping spirit. if you are in control of your Fi, and if empathy is an entity in the realm of the influence of Fi, then you can malform your empathy.

    (and for the selective reader of the thread: i have previously pointed out how Fe has its own brand(ing) of empathy, or to put it differently the functions shape and access the information of empathy in different ways)

  6. #86
    Senior Member sculpting's Avatar
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    oh hey, sorry to piss you off, didnt mean too-just trying to straighten out confusion. I really dont have any emotive stake in this discussion at all-just intellectual interesting to me given my weird Fi-ness. I dont care if Fe users are called empathic or if my defs are incorrect, no biggie either way for me.

    Hmm, maybe the better place would be to step back from the term empathy altogether or break it down based on the defs into more detailed types of empathy. I like understanding the Fe/Fi split and how we may "feel" for the other in very different ways, both very legit, but I dont have a stake in semantics, just understanding. You really care about people, no matter what it is actually called.

    EDIT-Oh hey but can we agree the weird physiological pain mirror crap is likely Fi? Although I'd love to hear if there actually are a bunch of Fe folks doing it who havent spoken up yet, outside of the INFJs.

    Oh, is this a bad time to say I just read the OP? Interesting article. *Shamefully Ne-exits thread*

  7. #87
    Senior Member Qre:us's Avatar
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    I do not believe it's related to type, as it's a...disorder (what the OP is describing). This also reminds me a bit of psychosomatic disorders.

    A thought occured to me, regarding these mirror neurons. I believe that this disorder of extreme empathy lies on the spectrum of psychopathy (less severe being: antisocial personality disorder). Too much/too little activation of said neurons, thus, at opposite ends.

    Evolutionary speaking, there's a reason for empathy in humans (evolutionary psychology). Too much empathy, and/or, too little, got passed on, as rare but occuring traits, because each did/does have their benefits.

    Most healthy individuals should make up the central tendency of this normal distribution, with extreme empaths and psychopaths lying on either ends.

    Taking this idea, I did some google searches, and it seems that this idea is already being explored.

    Psychopathy and the mirror neuron system: preliminary findings from a non-psychiatric sample.
    Fecteau S, Pascual-Leone A, Thoret H.

    Recent advances in social neuroscience suggest a link between empathy and the mirror neuron system (MNS). Impaired empathy is one of the core diagnostic features of psychopathic personality disorder. In the present study, we investigated whether psychopathic personality traits in a non-psychiatric sample were related to MNS function. Healthy participants viewed short videos known to activate the sensorimotor MNS for pain (a needle penetrating a human hand) while transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS)-induced motor evoked potentials (MEP) were recorded as a measure of motor cortex excitability. Individual psychopathic personality traits were assessed using the Psychopathic Personality Inventory (PPI) and correlated with the MEP findings. Consistent with previous data, observation of the painful stimulus was associated with a significant reduction in the amplitude of the TMS-induced MEP. Interestingly, the level of corticospinal excitability modulation was positively correlated with individual scores on the coldheartedness subscale of the PPI, such that individuals with the greatest MEP reduction were the ones scoring highest on the coldheartedness measure. These data suggest the existence of a functional link between 'motor empathy' and psychopathy.
    Psychopathy and the mirror neuron system: prelimin... [Psychiatry Res. 2008] - PubMed result

  8. #88
    Minister of Propagandhi ajblaise's Avatar
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    So a lot of people are saying they don't think this is type related. But do any of you think an ESTJ is just as likely to have this than an INFP or INFJ is?

    There are correlations, it seems. And do they mean nothing?

    Quote Originally Posted by cascadeco View Post
    I tend to think it's more HSP than anything, which means it isn't really type-related.
    There's an HSP and introversion connection, right? Much of the characteristics of HSP read just like strong introversion.

    Quote Originally Posted by Morgan Le Fay View Post
    I don't think it's purely a Fe/Fi thing. Empathizing with emotional states does seem to be characteristic of NFs, but I have always been strongly empathic as far as physical states go, eg. pain and trauma, which is what the article seems to be about. The link with mirror neurons is interesting.
    There are other INTXs I know who have this too. The physical state thing I'm thinking could be felt by all INs potentially, and ISs.

    Quote Originally Posted by Qre:us View Post
    I do not believe it's related to type, as it's a...disorder (what the OP is describing). This also reminds me a bit of psychosomatic disorders.

    A thought occured to me, regarding these mirror neurons. I believe that this disorder of extreme empathy lies on the spectrum of psychopathy (less severe being: antisocial personality disorder). Too much/too little activation of said neurons, thus, at opposite ends.

    Evolutionary speaking, there's a reason for empathy in humans (evolutionary psychology). Too much empathy, and/or, too little, got passed on, as rare but occuring traits, because each did/does have their benefits.

    Most healthy individuals should make up the central tendency of this normal distribution, with extreme empaths and psychopaths lying on either ends.

    Taking this idea, I did some google searches, and it seems that this idea is already being explored.



    Psychopathy and the mirror neuron system: prelimin... [Psychiatry Res. 2008] - PubMed result
    I agree with this. The mirror neuron theories seem to be pretty solid. I don't necessarily want to look at the extreme empath condition as a disorder though. What if someone with this condition is some kind of artist that draws their life inspiration from this? Or for whatever reason, they draw some worth from high mirror neuron activity.

    Neuron activity seems to control much, if not all, of what our moods are. And much of our personality. And think those theories make some uncomfortable, especially total free-will proponents.

  9. #89
    Senior Member Qre:us's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ajblaise View Post
    So a lot of people are saying they don't think this is type related. But do any of you think an ESTJ is just as likely to have this than an INFP or INFJ is?
    Yup!

    There are correlations, it seems. And do they mean nothing?
    Correlation, where? You mean, in this thread?

    I don't necessarily want to look at the extreme empath condition as a disorder though.
    Why not?

    What if someone with this condition is some kind of artist that draws their life inspiration from this? Or for whatever reason, they draw some worth from high mirror neuron activity.
    Same thing can happen to those suffering from low mirror neuron activation. As I mentioned earlier, both traits (leading to: extreme empathy, psychopathy) have their benefits, hence why it survived through evolution, but, that doesn't necessarily negate them as predisposition for disorders, in modern terminology - meaning, most broadly, significat limitation to functioning in daily life and living, in society.

    Those who have very low mirror neuron activation, in human clans, were the risk-takers. The ones who led the hunt, the frontlines in battles over territories. They "took" the burden of risk of possible death, or other hazards, that most of the other clan members would not...because they have low threshold for excitation and emotions. Thus, needing a bigger *bang* to gain the same level most healthy "normal" individuals would be able to attain, within the clan, though a much lesser *bang*. That's a benefit. In today's society, we see that positive nurturing of those suffering from low neuron activation are e.g., stuntmens, or doing other high-risk jobs. With a negative nurturing environment, very likely these individuals would/could become entrenched in the holds of antiosocial personality disorder, or more severely, psychopathy.

    Btw, clarifications: Not saying that all stuntmens or others doing high-risk jobs are suffering from a predisposition of antisocial personality disorder or psychopathy. Also, not saying that an individual who has high mirror neuron activation has a disorder, it's how it's mediated in social life, that counts as a disorder.

    Thus, that doesn't make psychopathy or antisocial personal disorder any less of a disorder. Just like, extreme empathy any less of a disorder. Bottom line: Manifestation counts.

    Neuron activity seems to control much, if not all, of what our moods are.
    Agreed.

    And much of our personality.
    How so?

    And think those theories make some uncomfortable, especially total free-will proponents.
    I don't think this is a relevant consideration.

  10. #90
    Minister of Propagandhi ajblaise's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Qre:us View Post
    Yup!
    Bulllllshit.

    I'm empathizing that you feel that that's not true.

    Quote Originally Posted by Qre:us View Post
    Why not?
    A mental disorder means the condition is causing continual distress and impairs functioning.

    But a stuntman with low neuron mirroring might not be suffering from their condition, just like an artist with high neuron mirroring might have found a way to thrive.


    Quote Originally Posted by Qre:us View Post
    Same thing can happen to those suffering from low mirror neuron activation. As I mentioned earlier, both traits (leading to: extreme empathy, psychopathy) have their benefits, hence why it survived through evolution, but, that doesn't necessarily negate them as predisposition for disorders, in modern terminology - meaning, most broadly, significat limitation to functioning in daily life and living, in society.

    Those who have very low mirror neuron activation, in human clans, were the risk-takers. The ones who led the hunt, the frontlines in battles over territories. They "took" the burden of risk of possible death, or other hazards, that most of the other clan members would not...because they have low threshold for excitation and emotions. Thus, needing a bigger *bang* to gain the same level most healthy "normal" individuals would be able to attain, within the clan, though a much lesser *bang*. That's a benefit. In today's society, we see that positive nurturing of those suffering from low neuron activation are e.g., stuntmens, or doing other high-risk jobs. With a negative nurturing environment, very likely these individuals would/could become entrenched in the holds of antiosocial personality disorder, or more severely, psychopathy.

    Btw, clarifications: Not saying that all stuntmens or others doing high-risk jobs are suffering from a predisposition of antisocial personality disorder or psychopathy. Also, not saying that an individual who has high mirror neuron activation has a disorder, it's how it's mediated in social life, that counts as a disorder.

    Thus, that doesn't make psychopathy or antisocial personal disorder any less of a disorder. Just like, extreme empathy any less of a disorder. Bottom line: Manifestation counts.
    Not all are dysfunctional, is the point. Even if they might be the exception to the rule.

    So if they thrive, sometimes even at the conditions credit, is it still a disorder?

    Quote Originally Posted by Qre:us View Post
    How so?
    Mood is part of personality. And if we jack up the neurotransmitter serotonin, their personality characteristics and behavior is going to change.

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