Monday, May 23, 2011

Just a Happiness Ponder... are we really empathetic?

I wonder... is it wrong to feel good after helping someone?   Taking pride in the act of helping seems kind of sinful and selfish.  Funny;  thinking about it that way seems so wrong, but did you know it's actually very addictive.  I suppose the idea that you can only truly experience joy/bliss/happiness if you have the opposite experience to compare it too, seems to make sense .  Otherwise how do you quantify pleasure or joy? 

We are a very empathetic culture, are we not?  If someone needs help, we help. We are so full of "how are you's? and "can I help?"  Of course we do it so guarded, we make sure we don't actually experience their pain.  Who the hell like pain.  All day today I was feeling pain in my arm (the one that got smashed on the side walk), let me tell you... Pain sucks.  So then again I guess us Canadian's aren't as empathetic as we once thought we were.  (yes this is a conscious stream of thought) I can't seem to be able to sleep unless I've unloaded some of this crap off my chest.   We really don't like to open ourselves up to feeling other people's pain.  Sure sympathy is easy, it's also very fake.  Anyone can sympathize.  I once had a teacher who taught me the words "I can appreciate how you feel"...  for example I can appreciate that your house is on fire, I'm sorry you must be upset.  I can say these words without for one second actually meaning them or feeling any of the pain the other person is feeling. 
empathy the power of entering into another’s personality and imaginatively experiencing his feelings
empathy - understanding and entering into another's feelings

I have come to a terrible conclusion that not many of "us" are actually capable of empathy, which is very unfortunate really.  I think that is one of the many differences that separate us from lower primates.  

Imagine... the possibility that both people in a relationship were actually able to empathize with each other???  How much money would be saved on therapy.  Ha... it would actually mean to stop being so selfish for once!  I guess that's not easy either, when you are feeling hurt/threatened/under attack it's hard to put your own drama and feelings aside and try to "enter into another's personality and imaginatively experiencing his feelings".. Ha ha...

So what is the result?  You GET the other person that much better.  But the work isn't done here, now that you get them, grow and fix.  You can't change the other person in a relationship!  Stop trying... you'll die trying.  You can only change yourself! You can only change your own perception of that person's crap.  We can only experience happiness when we've learned to perceive it, meaning we can only experience pleasure/bliss and all those good things, when we realize that "IT" is better than all the other crappy stuff. 


  1. We have close to 7 billion people in our tribe, so we put up these walls that we wouldn't have had back when we were a small family of hunter-gatherers. Other great apes only need to be concerned with their family groups, so empathy is easier for them. The problem is that we can't deeply feel the suffering of every human, so we make trade offs. We only care about our family, our close friends, etc. In the end we keep ourselves from being empathetic enough. Not sure what the solution is, or even if there is one.