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  1. #1
    Lay the coin on my tongue SilkRoad's Avatar
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    Default NFs and...sympathetic imagination?

    This isn't necessarily an NF-specific topic, so I'd certainly like to hear any comments. I think it's probably something we're especially prone to though.

    I find myself extremely affected by disasters, terrible acts like the Norwegian massacre this weekend, tragic news stories and so on. I can't stop myself from crying when confronted with people's grief, but more than that, I have a tendency to vividly imagine "what it must have like to be there". I have felt like that while watching the news this weekend and reading or hearing about people watching their friends being shot before their eyes; reading about the recovery of the Air France black box, the last ten minutes of that flight, feeling a tiny echo of the fear those people went through, wondering whether (as some stories suggested) they escaped the knowledge that the plane was plummeting to disaster, or not.

    I visited Auschwitz a few years ago and though I cried while I was there, I think I went into a little bit of shock too. In the days and weeks after I had a hard time stopping thinking about it and kept crying whenever I did. I had a particularly hard time with the memory of the piles of suitcases recovered from victims because they all had names and addresses on them, and each name and address made me imagine that individual life - then multiply its tragic and evil loss by millions. I still well up when I think about or talk about visiting that place.

    I do believe that the media exacerbates this kind of thing by its focus on tragic and shocking details, and I find it hard to look away from tragic news stories. Sometimes I realise that I've taken in too much and it's affecting me too much. My parents (who live far away, but I talk to them about once a week by phone) have realised that this affects me badly and I think they worry about that particularly as I live alone. When I started talking with them yesterday about the tragedy in Norway, they very quickly said "try not to dwell on it too much and try not to take in too much of the news - it's not good for you". Not that they want me to put my head in the sand or stop acknowledging the evil in the world, but they know it has a very unsettling effect on me.

    This may not be so type-related, perhaps I am just highly sensitive in this area. I do find it hard to not leap straight to that vivid imagining of terrible events, almost as though I'm there or was there. It's also worse if I feel some sort of connection, even if it is kind of nebulous. I'm half Scandinavian, though not Norwegian, and have been to Oslo, and it just seems both easier and harder to imagine, if you know what I mean. Or with the plane disaster, I have a fear of flying phobia and even turbulence really does bad things to me.
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  2. #2
    Senior Member Forever_Jung's Avatar
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    Full disclosure don't judge me

    When something horrible happens and people are devastated I tend to resist feelings of sympathy. I don't do it consciously, but it's like I go dead when something like that happens, and I am sort of irritated at the people who are upset, maybe because they're making me feel like a selfish dick for not crying about it. I have a sympathetic imagination, but towards things that most don't normally feel bad about, or at least don't pay as much attention too. I feel like a hipster of sympathy, when everyone is sympathizing, I tend to go in the opposite direction (Pfft this tsunami has gone totally mainstream), and when people aren't aware of some obscure sorrow, I become EXTREMELY moved by it and try to bring attention to the problem. I don't do it on purpose though, I wish I was a better person, but I can't seem to make myself weep for all the injustices of the world.

  3. #3
    Lay the coin on my tongue SilkRoad's Avatar
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    ^Not judging, don't worry. My young INFP friend is a bit like that, I think. She was irritated by everyone being sad over Amy Winehouse's death. In a way I have sympathy for her feeling that way, because it was one self-destructive celebrity. But I don't really feel the "oh, everyone is upset about this, why should I be??" thing.

    I don't expect everything to affect me equally though. You don't always know what it will be. Sometimes I have this sort of Western guilt. I know that I'm more affected by a bomb in a European city that kills 50 than by a bomb in Pakistan or Iraq that kills 100. And I feel kind of ashamed about that sometimes. I know that it's more sadly "expected" to happen in such countries (because it happens a lot due to the political situation, because it's a war zone, or whatever) but that doesn't change the fact that every single human life is precious and equal. Then again, I don't want to be overwhelmed by sadness at everything, it is just too exhausting.

    I can understand the feeling that "obscure sorrows" should get more attention, for sure.
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    Senior Member Eckhart's Avatar
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    I find myself being not very sensitive to those things, a bit similar to Forever_Jung. I don't know why that is, it just doesn't touch me directly as some other things, and I ask myself sometimes why that is. Surely I find such acts terrible, but I don't really FEEL it like other people seem to do (although sometimes I feel SOME people are acting it somewhat, especially politicians). I don't make "inappropriate" comments about it though either, I rather don't talk much about it at all.

  5. #5
    Post Human Post Qlip's Avatar
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    I'm with FJ. I have this feeling that if I feel bad for those people involved in whatever horrible thing then by fairness I must empathize with everybody who is suffering and has suffered. The idea is overwhelming.

  6. #6
    4x9 cascadeco's Avatar
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    I.. think I'm a little different. Man, I'm feeling awfully weird of late. Sigh.

    I tend not to react too strongly to tragedies.. on a world level. I'm not impacted emotionally, in any lingering way. When I hear of things, I immediately think how horrible it is, and momentarily might have a 'urrg, people can suck' feeling, but I have never been one to dwell on them; specifically because there's not a thing I can do about it, or tragedies will always occur at some point in the future, and we'll never reach a point where pain/tragedy is non-existent. I think I immediately go into a more detached space..kind of a 'such is life/human nature' thing.. just noting that there are people in this world who totally suck and who do atrocious/horrendous things. And there always have been and always will be. And.. I suppose I stop there.

    I will say though that I also don't watch the tv at all -- tv news stations bother me intensely. I just get so angry/annoyed at what is reported, how it is reported, what people treat as a really big deal when it isn't a big deal at all, and other things like that. I find the method of reporting very.. horrible in many ways. I can't stomach it. It turns certain events into spectacles which would be better kept private, or rehashes true tragedies which shouldn't be rehashed in depth.
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  7. #7
    Diving into Ni-space Crescent Fresh's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cascadeco View Post
    I.. think I'm a little different. Man, I'm feeling awfully weird of late. Sigh.

    I tend not to react too strongly to tragedies.. on a world level. I'm not impacted emotionally, in any lingering way. When I hear of things, I immediately think how horrible it is, and momentarily might have a 'urrg, people can suck' feeling, but I have never been one to dwell on them; specifically because there's not a thing I can do about it, or tragedies will always occur at some point in the future, and we'll never reach a point where pain/tragedy is non-existent. I think I immediately go into a more detached space..kind of a 'such is life/human nature' thing.. just noting that there are people in this world who totally suck and who do atrocious/horrendous things. And there always have been and always will be. And.. I suppose I stop there.

    Same here. Actually I rarely cry. Even if I do, it has to do with myself more. And never cry in public. Those horrible things have always affected me but only momentarily. Perhaps that's the reason why I have stopped subscribing TVs eversince I was a freshman (seriously).

    That being said, I do have a vast sympathetic imgaination only when somethings is close to me, proximity wise. For example, whenever I bumped into homeless people, cats and dogs, I quickly try to imagine what could've happened to them. I've even experienced seeing this old homeless women (probably in her 60s) and had a cosmic connection to her as soon as our eyes met. I suddenly felt this overwhelming feeling that we could've been related in pastlife, something weird like that. And it boders me emotionally. I even had a little talk with her and she even told me that I reminded her of someone who she couldn't remember. I just said "Are you hungry? Do you need any food?" (I had a few buns with me) without telling her about those weird cosmic connection that rambling inside my mind. It's really creepy.

    When it comes to homeless (or abandoned) pets, I almost immediately kneel down and just look at them. And 90% of the time they ended up following me behind! This often resulted me to buy foods from grocery store and fed them. I even cried really terribly when I bumped into a cat who got injured on the street (probably knocked by a car) and called SPCA. I can hear its breathing and groaning so intensely. But after I keep talking to the cat, basically asking him/her to stay strong and that the rescue worker will be going to arrive soon, amazingly the cat stops groaning and just breathing slowly and calmly. (I really have a soft-spot for animals)

    Most of my friends think I was a nut-case but I really think part of it has to do with my sympathetic imagination, as I always try to attach a background story of some tragic happenings on top of my head.

  8. #8
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    When looking at a mass pain like the holocaust, 9/11, or what just happened in Norway... I tend to shut down and not feel anything. It's not that I am unsympathetic, it's that it is overwhelming to feel that much pain for so many people at one time. I think about the horror and aloneness and fear they must have been feeling. I think about them as children growing up and smiling and falling off their bikes. I think about these people falling in love and having children of their own. I think about all of the lives that are connected.

    Like I am continually astonished by how many people have been affected, and how much my life has changed just from my mom passing away last year. Yes, she was my mom so she was important. But the interconnectivity between her and my dad, and me, and her siblings, and her friends, and my friends, etc... And the world didn't even stop to notice her passing like it does with this tragedy in Norway. So the enormity of those changes multiplied by 100 people or 10000 or 6 million.... just overloads me and I can't deal with it all.

    In one on one chats with close friends, I surprise myself by how much I feel when they talk about something painful in their lives. Maybe it's my way of trying to let people know that no matter how alone they may think they are in this world, I at least feel what they are feeling and I am there for them and maybe for a little while they aren't alone.

  9. #9
    Senior Member Santosha's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Forever_Jung View Post
    Full disclosure don't judge me

    When something horrible happens and people are devastated I tend to resist feelings of sympathy. I don't do it consciously, but it's like I go dead when something like that happens, and I am sort of irritated at the people who are upset, maybe because they're making me feel like a selfish dick for not crying about it. I have a sympathetic imagination, but towards things that most don't normally feel bad about, or at least don't pay as much attention too. I feel like a hipster of sympathy, when everyone is sympathizing, I tend to go in the opposite direction (Pfft this tsunami has gone totally mainstream), and when people aren't aware of some obscure sorrow, I become EXTREMELY moved by it and try to bring attention to the problem. I don't do it on purpose though, I wish I was a better person, but I can't seem to make myself weep for all the injustices of the world.
    Wow.. Ditto here! Love your anaology of the "sympathetic hipster"! The above really sums up what I seem to do, for the same reasons I seem to do it. I've always just considered it a balancing mechanism.. and it comes up in more than just sympathy circumstances. Like I sometimes feel that it is my place to ensure all sides are considered. Anytime I sense a great weight in one direction.. I will try to emphasize other aspects.. it's as though I feel like sometimes the truth will be lost in blind following (no matter how passionate or right it feels?) Ofcourse with large scale disasters, tsunami, earthquake, japan.. it's not like I don't find them deserving of sympathey.. more like I sense that enough people back it for it to no longer be a huge concern to me. I also wonder if it has something to do with ENFP's needing to make a project or cause "their own"? I dunno if that makes any sense.. but ya.

    Edit: After further consideration.. I tend to wonder if this is something to be found in FI.. a weighing up of priority, if you will. THe large scale event doesn't often hit home enough for me to become passionate.. because everyone else is supporting. My unique efforts are not as neccessary.. but the other day at Walgreens I saw this dark skinned man walk in with a backpack on him.. and the cashier refused to allow him in the store with it, told him he had to drop it with her.. which may have been allright if that was "just the policy".. but then there was a few white kids in the store with backpacks on them that were not advised of said policy. So this is one tiny event that hit my Fi HARD.. because a whole line of people are standing there clearly observing what I must have been.. a targeting.. and no one says or does a dam thing.. just stands there with a stupid look on their faces. The guy didn't speak english well enough to argue with the cashier, he was entirely confused (probably because he was looking at other people in the store with packs on them?) and I felt COMPELLED to point it out to the cashier. I told her "you can't really enforce that policy unless you enforce it for everyone. You have 3 other people in your store with packs on them.. so you'd have to either tell them to come drop their packs too, or what your doing is highly questionable and offensive." She dropped the argument. *Fi victory dance*
    Last edited by Santosha; 07-25-2011 at 12:19 PM. Reason: yes another bloviation
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  10. #10
    4x9 cascadeco's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Crescent Fresh View Post
    That being said, I do have a vast sympathetic imgaination only when somethings is close to me, proximity wise.
    Yeah, I can definitely be more disturbed by individuals right in my path, and then my mind gets going. Actually you're reminded me of something that just happened last week. I was staying at a little hotel, sitting out on the balcony one afternoon, and saw a group of about 10 teenage women walk through the courtyard, chatting, seemingly happy/fine, but they were clearly of some sort of religious sect .. mennonite? I don't know. All dressed in solid cotton dresses, looking like they were from an early 20th century workhouse or someting, with bandanas covering their hair. And honestly? It really unsettled me.. I was just thinking... are they happy? Did they have a choice? Is it ok if they're happy even if they're ignorant and don't know anything better? Is that not ok? And other such things.

    And, I'll have sympathetic pangs if I'm sitting on a bus and I see someone walk on who just looks... totally unhappy / I imagine what it would like to be them.

    Definitely relate to what you say about animals, too. The physical pain many of the neglected/mistreated animals must be feelings just gives me the chills.... I feel so bad for them. Just imagine if the same physical ailments were allowed in humans... can you imagine? I mean, the same physical pains CAN occur in humans who are abused or who are starving/facing horrible disease. But.. uggh. It's just hard to watch. I'm very likely to stop in my tracks on a street if I see an animal like that, and I'll start talking to it. Or out in nature if I see an injured animal... but out in nature, that's just the reality of being alive. That physical pain is real and true. It's death out there, and lots and lots of pain. And life, of course, and beauty. We, as people though, have sheltered ourselves and taken away many of the biological pain realities of being alive...at least those of us in privileged, modernized countries.. so when those things do happen,or we are in situations where we are in similar boats to the rest of the organisms on the planet, we.... well, it's harder to stomach. To be reminded of the harshness of many aspects of mortality.

    (uh.. sorry. Seriously didn't intend to tangent on that)

    I will say though that the human/large-scale international sorts of atrocities that chill me to the bone, and greatly sadden/perplex me if I think about it too much, are things/conditions such as you find in the Congo region. That sort of thing..that chaos/prolific cultural violence is... horrid.
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