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  1. #1
    metamorphosing Flâneuse's Avatar
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    Default Is the ability to feel empathy and compassion fixed by adulthood?

    By "empathy", I mean the ability to pick up on another's feelings and vicariously experience them yourself.

    I know that someone's experiences as a child have a huge effect on their development (or lack thereof) of the capacity to emotionally connect with others and feel compassion in response to suffering. By adulthood, when our brains no longer have the same degree of plasticity, are traits like empathy and compassion pretty much set?

    My guess: It's possible for a person to moderately improve their ability to empathize, but it's difficult, and for many, unlikely to actually happen. The deeply-ingrained emotional barriers that prevent someone from letting others' feelings affect them don't come down as easily as they went up. People do change their behavior all the time, but it seems so much more difficult to alter how you emotionally respond.

    But, I'm not sure, so I'm asking you to share your opinions.

  2. #2
    Unapologetic being Evolving Transparency's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by underwaterthing View Post
    By "empathy", I mean the ability to pick up on another's feelings and vicariously experience them yourself.

    I know that someone's experiences as a child have a huge effect on their development (or lack thereof) of the capacity to emotionally connect with others and feel compassion in response to suffering. By adulthood, when our brains no longer have the same degree of plasticity, are traits like empathy and compassion pretty much set?

    My guess: It's possible for a person to moderately improve their ability to empathize, but it's difficult, and for many, unlikely to actually happen. The deeply-ingrained emotional barriers that prevent someone from letting others' feelings affect them don't come down as easily as they went up. People do change their behavior all the time, but it seems so much more difficult to alter how you emotionally respond.

    But, I'm not sure, so I'm asking you to share your opinions.
    We can make new neural connections in our brains everyday. I don't think that suddenly stops at a certain age...

    But if it does then I'm fucked. Especially with empathy.

    I think people that dont have much of it like me, can only learn and practice it to certain extent. Meaning I'm most likely not going to be up to speed in that department as much as others, even as I age or practice more. But I do think it can be continually improved. Just that the start points are different for everyone.
    "Once the game is over, the Pawn and the King go back into the same box"

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  3. #3
    Senior Member prplchknz's Avatar
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    Funny you should say this. Well not really, Just interesting. I told someone I decided to be interested in an aspect of their life. and they go "you can't decide to be interested you either are or you aren't" but I think because I have a hard time with stuff like that, I can learn by making that choice.
    In no likes experiment.

    that is all

    i dunno what else to say so

  4. #4
    metamorphosing Flâneuse's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by prplchknz View Post
    Funny you should say this. Well not really, Just interesting. I told someone I decided to be interested in an aspect of their life. and they go "you can't decide to be interested you either are or you aren't" but I think because I have a hard time with stuff like that, I can learn by making that choice.
    Yeah, I've experienced similar things - situations where I was accused of not caring about something important or of being emotionally distant. In some cases it was actually true, even though I wanted to care and empathize. But just through the act of behaving in a caring way, I found it easier to actually begin to care more.

    I think that a lot of individuals who seem incapable of compassion aren't truly; they're actually just refusing to care, they simply don't even want to try.

    I guess all of up have lapses in empathy and compassion, but that doesn't make us bad people - it's when we stop trying to be compassionate people who do the right thing.

  5. #5
    Analytical Dreamer Coriolis's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Urarienev View Post
    We can make new neural connections in our brains everyday. I don't think that suddenly stops at a certain age...

    But if it does then I'm fucked. Especially with empathy.

    I think people that dont have much of it like me, can only learn and practice it to certain extent. Meaning I'm most likely not going to be up to speed in that department as much as others, even as I age or practice more. But I do think it can be continually improved. Just that the start points are different for everyone.
    I don't know how much adults can improve with this. I am much better at knowing what someone is feeling in a given situation than actually feeling it, just based on past experiences. Say I have known several people who have experienced the death of a parent, and told me something about it. I can put this together and make at least some basic assumptions about the next person I meet who is in a similar situation. I do realize that people are different and experience even common events differently, so I don't put that much stock in even these assumptions. I prefer the person tell me what they are feeling if they consider it important that I know.
    I've been called a criminal, a terrorist, and a threat to the known universe. But everything you were told is a lie. The truth is, they've taken our freedom, our home, and our future. The time has come for all humanity to take a stand...

  6. #6
    Unapologetic being Evolving Transparency's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Coriolis View Post
    I don't know how much adults can improve with this. I am much better at knowing what someone is feeling in a given situation than actually feeling it, just based on past experiences. Say I have known several people who have experienced the death of a parent, and told me something about it. I can put this together and make at least some basic assumptions about the next person I meet who is in a similar situation. I do realize that people are different and experience even common events differently, so I don't put that much stock in even these assumptions. I prefer the person tell me what they are feeling if they consider it important that I know.
    Can we define adult?

    Is that someone over the age of 25?

    I really don't believe in the saying "you can't teach an old dog new tricks."

    If that's so, then I don't know how humans or any animal for that matter, has survived this long.

    We don't adapt to this empathetic behavior because it's not necessary for our survival.

    From my own experience, I know what you mean. I mostly don't know exactly what someone else is feeling unless they tell me, and even then, who knows.

    That is because I predominantly try to understand the thought process behind everyone's reactions and feelings. But thought process is no good in this kind of situation.

    Now before I continue...I'd prefer not to have a rebuttal about just the details and specifics of the "systems" I'm about to explain. Please try to keep the most open definition to the words I'm using. Cause I don't care what it's called, I'd just like you to try to grasp the overall concept with me, as I am still learning myself...and nothing is scientific or proven. It's just what I have gathered from talking with Fe users.

    Feelings are a completely different system than thoughts. The two systems are linked...but they do not provide you with the same feedback. People have a way of communicating purely by feelings. With no words involved. I believe this system can be so foreign to someone that has Te that we can't even pick it up on our radar. (At least for me it was.) People emote though. There is a general knowledge about feelings that Te just doesn't have. And all it takes is someone being more aware of that system. Just being aware can make you notice it in others. (For me I can only do it in very short jags. I am not able to stay in that realm for long.) But the bottom line I'm getting at is that there is no age limit for awareness. I just don't believe that can be true.

    The only thing is, that I would think that for some people, the ability to stay aware diminishes when very old age creeps up...cause the mind can go at that point....but I didn't think we were talking about that.
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  7. #7
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    I guess if it doesn't come naturally, maybe you could try and put yourself in their shoes. Try and think how you would feel in their situation.

  8. #8
    The Green Jolly Robin H.
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    no one really knows what empathy is for sure or how it is felt. All we know is we have overwhelming feelings when we see others suffer but still very few of us would trade places with that person.

    Many times empathy is confused for compassion and heart but many cold people make greater choices with regards to compassion than empathy.

    So empathy is really a set of many things we all classify together since we have no names for them.
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  9. #9
    filling some space UnitOfPopulation's Avatar
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    I thought to have lacking the ability to feel empathy by the age 15. It continued to the year 20. I suspected the chance for empathy had ended (and would never occur) by the year 22 when a life-changing event changed it for me. I was close to death - by standards that I know today would have most usually resulted in death in 80% of the cases. I quickly made a mental list of things I would miss if I were to die that die. Feeling empathy was maybe third or fourth item on that list. I quickly developed some of it. I'm not the most empathical person to this day, but I do feel empathy and I act on it.

    So for me, it was not fixed by adulthood.
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  10. #10
    good, hot, fresh, fly ~ laterlazer's Avatar
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    Question: Is it possible to feel empathy but not sympathy?

    Asking cos I remember I used to say I was capable of feeling empathy quite easily but I didn't consider myself sympathetic. But thinking about it now, I'm not sure if it's possible to do one without the other.

    As for OP's question, I really don't think it's fixed by adulthood, like you said probably more difficult to change, but not fixed.

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