Empathy

I’ve been away from blogging a few days while I worked on my draft for my M.Sc. project. That got submitted, so I am a bit happy with that. I thought though I’d take the time today to discuss one aspect of me that both helps and hinders me.

I am a very empathetic person. Think world’s nicest guy. I’m a bit of a cartoon character I suppose. I try and phrase things politely. (Though I am not always successful). My emails always begin Dear … rather than “Hey whatzup!” Even my text and instant messaging conversations have a surprisingly lack of l33t.

That doesn’t stop me from giggling at the lol cat bible.

I’ve blogged about my emotions before when I was going through a rough patch. They are quite strong and I think the illness has made them stronger. And one of the strongest emotions I have is empathy.

I react to how other people are feeling. Maybe I can’t entirely put myself in their shoes, but if someone explains how something makes them feel, I can kinda go along for the emotional journey. For better and for worse, it is a big part of me because making someone’s day by doing something randomly nice for them can make my day. I know this because it is how I sometimes need a break to go my way and can see how it would be the same for others.

If I had to say which of my traits helped me the most with my illness at the time of a breakdown it is my empathy. Even if I am experiencing high paranoia or massive negative symptoms and feel distant and mistrustful of my fellow human beings, my empathy has always let me be reached, even if my mind is trapped in a cold, dark, painful and lonely place.

The one down side is that often my empathy can become overwhelming if my mind is racing. I can feel other people’s intense emotions and start see-sawing because of them. Perhaps the most trouble I have is that it does create a certain vulnerability for me. I can see how something affects someone else and thus I can (sometimes) feel how they are hurt. Or failing that, if it is pointed out to me that I was hurtful, I can then see it.

The problem can come when faced with people who just aren’t as empathetic. It can be a big blind spot for me because I feel this way and “shouldn’t everyone think like I think?” I have gotten hurt as a result of this, mostly by making the mistake of placing individuals who didn’t fundamentally understand me in a position of trust. Oh well, I do my best to learn from my mistakes.

I do know that not everyone is like me and people think differently than others. I do think that, even though I may have to struggle with the consequences, my empathy is something that has given me many blessings in my life. I hope it has made a difference in others’ lives as well

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About Neil

I happen to have paranoid schizophrenia. But that is only a small part of who I am. I define me, not my illness. I always try and choose hope and choose to be a better person, though like all people, I have more than a few failures. Some have been rather spectacular.
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One Response to Empathy

  1. Pingback: Personal Responsibility | Perspectives on Living with a Mental Illness

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