Limits of your empathy

I think I don't have so called "a big heart".
I mean, a big heart should have room for a lot of love, right?
But my capacity for empathy is definitely limited.
Dealing with my family, managing our conflicts, doing some support online is close to this limit - now my aunt called in late night, probably drunk, poor, lonely lady stuck in her tiny apartament on the lockdown, just wanted some real human contact...

When my husband today spotted another fish falling to a disease our Hellena snails apparently brought to the tank, I told him to care for the fish on his own, I just can't squeeze any more caring out of myself :(
So, he isolated the fish, hoping the disease wouldn't spread any further.

Anyone hit their limits of empathy hard?

Comments

  • Statest16Statest16 Citizen, Mentor
    Everyone has there own capacity for empathy and different people approach empathy from a different perspective.

    People empathize with the experiences they can relate to and struggle to have sympathy for people with alien experiences.

    I don't know if there is an absolute empathy limit but more personal and situational.

    The crime victim has empathy for the other crime victim's.The person who made a mistake when they were young and went to prison,will have empathy for the criminal,feeling he came from hard times.And feeling the crime victim is likely rich and can just buy a new TV anyway.
  • BenderBender Citizen
    Everybody's capacity for empathy is limited. (Just my personal observation, but it seems to me that people who offer sympathy to everybody and everything usually do so in a very shallow way and their words aren't supported by actions).

    And being on the spectrum will come with added difficulties, particularly if one also has poor emotional awareness. What works for me is literally "budgeting" my emotional resources and prioritising where and how I spend them. Depending on my time and stress levels, sometimes my "budget" gets tighter. I do still feel guilty about it sometimes.

    Statest16 said:

    People empathize with the experiences they can relate to and struggle to have sympathy for people with alien experiences.


    This is generally the case, although empathy can be cultivated. Maybe a better word for that would be compassion?
  • verityverity Administrator, Citizen
    Empathy is highly selective in the "wild" anyway. Otherwise there would have been no Hiroshima. When an adult is crying on a train and maybe looks little bit drunk and emotional, most of the other passengers actually look the away avoiding eye contact. This is not necessarily becuase they have no similar experience but becuase they realise there are risks attached and the help they could offer is limited within the time frame and lacking profession experience. They may even get taken advantage of too, and their have their own family an fronds to think about. I actual did engage with such a person once, but now I can understand from the other passengers perspective to. You are not away is a good position to help.

    If empathy is about relating to people them it makes that the degree to which group are relatible or not would have influence on how empathetic the relationship are between them. Human are still tribal.

    If you are aware your empathy is limited then you are an empathic person by nature, as it is a resorce that you have to conserve. If you were truly anti-social then you would think nothing of taking advantage of people.

    It is posited than these emotions can be overwhelming, when stressed it can be a burden to take on when you have your own crosses to bare.

    I think the way empathy is thought of and described is different from what it is in practice. The idea of putting yourself in other people shoes, I don't think this can be demonstrated becuase it is not falsifiable. Instead I think of it in a relativistic way, I use this analogy: A colour blind person might not be able to determine the difference between red an green, however when two people can identify red, they have a relative experience they can relate to, but that doesn't mean the perceive red in the same way.

    Now, it might be that we do perceive red almost identically, and being able to detect red might be and evolutionary adaptation to identity ripe fruit. However the point remains, it is not really that people are able to put themselves into other people's shoes, it is they perceive themselves as having shared experience. This is largely down to reliability again.
  • AmityAmity Administrator, Citizen
    Have I hit the limits of my empathy? Definately at times, its meant that I've had to become more attuned to my personal boundaries.

    I mean we all have limits to our abilities and thats perfectly normal, knowing what they are and accepting them can be more so the challenge.
    Also I think our limits change depending on the energy accounting method.

  • magpiemagpie Citizen
    Thanks.
    I've been raised in an ideology of, you know, being good-hearted and stuff.
    But it's not hard for me to encounter limits of this approach.
    One of them is my own emotional capacity. It's limited. At some point, there is no more love or sympathy in my heart, you hit an empty bottom of a drained well and you need to wait for it to refill.
  • I still find the spoons analogy helpful when confronting this issue. Being good hearted, etc., is good. And there are only so many spoons. 

    What happens to me is I twist it around to: If I don't do this for X, then I am not good hearted person. 

    This was a good reminder to me, too. Thank you magpie. 
  • HylianHylian Citizen, Mentor
    I can be a relatively empathetic person, but I can hit my limits very easily. I have a very limited amount of emotional energy and I have to take breaks very often from trying to sympathize with people. I've learned to not force myself when I can avoid it as it will just exhaust my resources further, and make my ability to empathize and sympathize much more restricted when I recover.
  • magpiemagpie Citizen
    I wish I had power to respond more kindly to more people.
    I see people writing about struggle and I find myself depleted of any capacity for support.
    I'm sorry for this. I'm glad others have the power 🌼
  • BenderBender Citizen
    ^
    Rest, you need to refill the tank.
  • AmityAmity Administrator, Citizen
    magpie said:
    I wish I had power to respond more kindly to more people.
    I see people writing about struggle and I find myself depleted of any capacity for support.
    I'm sorry for this. I'm glad others have the power 🌼

    I find that I become too direct when I'm very low on energy.
    Thinking through the cognitive empathy piece is near impossible.
    Really need others to help me understand in these situations.
  • magpiemagpie Citizen
    That might be an autistic trait - cognitive empathy goes through analytical parts of the mind, but these tend to get tired.
    As I remember, Tony Attwood described "female-type" AS saying "imagine doing Math problems all your waking time".
  • BenderBender Citizen
    Amity said:
    magpie said:
    I wish I had power to respond more kindly to more people.
    I see people writing about struggle and I find myself depleted of any capacity for support.
    I'm sorry for this. I'm glad others have the power 🌼

    I find that I become too direct when I'm very low on energy.
    Thinking through the cognitive empathy piece is near impossible.
    Really need others to help me understand in these situations.
    I become very blunt when stressed or tired. 

    It's easier online because I don't have to react spontaneously and I already make a deliberate effort to be as diplomatic as I can since written communication can be pretty tone-deaf.

    The bluntness is strictly related to my brain not being able to censor or reformulate things and has nothing to do with lack of empathy or being malicious.

    I get away with it here, but in conflict-adverse cultures like the one I was born into, it would cost me a lot.
  • TemTem Citizen
    It is healthy to be aware of your empathy limits, a sign of personal growth and part of self care. 

    Those beliefs we absorb from our social experiences can be in great conflict with how we actually feel. Especially if they come from our main care givers e.g. mother or father.

    I must be this or should do that are not notions we are born with but learnt from other peoples' behaviour towards us. 

    As an adult we are allowed to chose our own ways and beliefs. To follow our own personal feelings and trust our own experiences. 

    I am so glad this is a thread and subject here. 
    Thanks.


  • BenderBender Citizen
    Tem said:
    It is healthy to be aware of your empathy limits, a sign of personal growth and part of self care. 

    Those beliefs we absorb from our social experiences can be in great conflict with how we actually feel. Especially if they come from our main care givers e.g. mother or father.

    I must be this or should do that are not notions we are born with but learnt from other peoples' behaviour towards us. 

    As an adult we are allowed to chose our own ways and beliefs. To follow our own personal feelings and trust our own experiences. 


    Short, to the point, and so, so true!
  • Good to see you Tem. 

    Your point about being adult and able to make these decisions for ourselves is a good one. 
Sign In or Register to comment.