Politics Magazine

Empahy and the Lack of It

Posted on the 08 November 2013 by Calvinthedog

First of all, what is empathy?

Empathy is the ability to share in another person’s emotions. The capability to be happy because someone else is happy, sad because they are sad, and so on. It is closely linked to love and compassion. Guilt, too, comes from the ability of a character to put themselves in the shoes of someone they’ve hurt. In other words, if you feel guilty at all, then you are an empathetic person de facto. Empathetic people are sometimes referred to as empaths.

Many persons are deficient in empathy. In my work with OCD patients, it is common to come across an OCD’er who is worried that they lack empathy. This is most common in the Harm theme of Harm OCD, where persons often feel that they are losing their empathy, that they do not care anymore, that they do not value human lives, that they no longer feel love, etc. Although it is controversial what exactly is going on here, I doubt if the OCD’er is really lacking empathy, doesn’t care, doesn’t value human life, no longer feels love, etc. This is because the OCD’er is deeply and profoundly upset by what feels like the loss of empathy and the change into a cold, heartless monster.

The truth is that folks who lack empathy, do not care, do not value the lives of others, do not feel love, etc. as a general rule are not the slightest bit bothered by the fact that they feel this way. They like to feel this way. They do not want to feel empathetic, do not want to care, do not wish to value others’ lives, do not wish to feel love, etc. I have dealt with quite a few folks like this, and believe me, they are happy as clams being ruthless motherfuckers. If you are worried about your “lack of empathy” then in all probability, you are actually quite an empathetic person. Only an empath would be pained by the appearance of the loss of such an emotion.

The person who is deficient in empathy is an interesting character. One type is evaluated below:

These characters may feel fear, but not the fear of others, regardless of the situation. This kind of guy can walk calmly through a crazed mob. For good or ill, these folks are not susceptible to social panic. The reason is that these people generally do not care what people think of them.

This is where we differentiate between a sociopath and a narcissist.

A sociopath could literally care less what you or anyone else thinks of him as your opinion has no importance.

A narcissist deeply needs the love, respect and worship of others and will do anything to get praise or accolades.

Granted many narcissists are rather sociopathic and obviously the sociopath is the ultimate narcissist. The sociopath is, to himself, literally the only person in the world or at least the only one who matters. The world does not just revolve around him; the world is him.

There is a very nasty type called the malignant narcissist or the narcissistic sociopath. They are often capable of great violence. They differ from sociopaths by their extreme vanity and conceitedness and in particular by their need to be respected and admired by others. These types do indeed care what others think. Notable malignant narcissists include Ted Bundy and Jeffrey MacDonald, the physician who killed his family.

Note that a character who lacks empathy can still be perfectly capable of cognitive empathy; that is, the ability to recognize and identify an emotion – they might not be able to share in somebody’s happiness or sadness, but they have learned well enough what happiness or sadness look like, and coupled with the lack of remorse this tends to result in a ruthlessly effective Manipulative Bastard.

These people are sometimes aware that others are bothered by what looks like their lack of empathy. In order to put on a good face and fool people into thinking that they care, they put on a display of empathy and try to mirror another’s happiness, sadness or whatever. But this is all fake, a show, a game, an act. The real feelings are just not there.

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