Health Magazine

The Sympathy Effect

By Cass
Hi All,
So this was the original post meant for yesterday and one that I promised that I would explain. The sympathy effect is something that we will all come across at some point in our chronic illness journey, because sympathy is a natural human emotion that everyone gives out and needs to feel from time to time. That is the great side of our nature, the ability to have sympathy and empathy for others suffering. 99% of the time the sympathy we are given is honest and true, giving us some mental strength in order to carry on. However I have recently been through what I have aptly named "the sympathy effect" and I shall explain what this means.
The Sympathy Effect
My sympathy effect began purely because of this blog; don't worry I wont be stopping talking, writing and raising the profile of chronic illness here on the blog. However it is a side effect that I simply never saw coming.
Here is the story....
Now, when I started this blog I realised that some people out there would think I was simply vying for sympathy...trust me that couldn't be farther from the truth....however I was aware that people may view what I say in the way. It is a sad truth that some people believe sympathy has to be somehow "earned" and you shouldn't ask for it. Personally I believe the opposite, I believe if someone is obviously in pain, telling me they are in pain or reaching out to me, then they are in need of some love and comfort.
The Sympathy Effect
Since starting this blog I have had some great feedback from family and friends who simply did not know I was fighting the way I do. Then you get the messages, for which I have had three so far, that have quite frankly accused me of pushing for sympathy and one went as far as to say I can't be that ill because I still work. Now, firstly I will say that I have not taken these comments to heart, I was prepared for some people to not understand the integral point of sharing my journey. In fact I actually feel very sad for the people that cannot understand the difference between raising awareness and looking for sympathy. I mean if that was the case I would be here every day explaining how I feel and how hard it is.....which is the one thing I never do online or in my life.
So what has changed people to not understanding the difference between sympathy, empathy and human nature?
I don't know what has caused some people to feel suspicious about giving out sympathy to others, or understanding that empathy is a very different entity altogether. At what point did societies view on giving out love and attention to others, selflessly, change? It appears to me that sometimes we are expected to work for sympathy. Your need for it has to be visible for others to see, we need to act a certain way and we should NEVER ask for it. I have always been under the impression that you should help others, without judgement, whatever the reason for it is. I have lived my life on the understanding that a kind word costs nothing....and I wont change this.
The Sympathy Effect
Now, this is only the first part of what I call the sympathy effect. The accusation or being made to feel guilty for wanting to talk about your disease. This is the cause that leads to the effect.....which is as such......
If people believe that you are writing a blog, doing a charity run or anything that raises the awareness of a disease, just so that you can get sympathy you will not only be damaging the persons confidence, you may hinder their personal progress of doing something great. The purpose of this blog for example is to reach out to others to let them know they are not alone, to raise the profile of lupus and to ultimately tell the truth. Now I am a strong person and can take the knock backs, but when people question your motives or make you feel guilty you are hindering that persons plight and making them feel like their fight is not a tough one.
The effects of simply not understanding that someone needs to be able to speak openly and honestly can be devastating. The moral of the story is this........Think before you speak, consider the effects of your actions and imagine walking in that persons shoes.......honestly, how long would you last?

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