Friday 11 July 2014

Do you have empathy?

No, not really. Even if two people experience the same thing at the same time, both will react differently, this is because people are individuals and what affects one person and leads to shaping their future can easily be dismissed by another who sees the event as just something that happened and moves on, others may be unable to move on and because others don’t suffer or aren’t affected it doesn’t mean one should be dismissed.

Hubby and I have been talking about this a lot recently, many due to the fact I struggle to say ‘emphasize’.

One of the things we get fed up with, being an expat, is that the rest of the world seem to think that because the sun shines, everything is ok with us, what possible problems could we have? Having no children at home, me not having to work, sun, pool, fabulous scenery, experiences and I’ll not go into the details, but life here in South Africa is just ‘normal’ to us. I mean yesterday I mopped the bathroom floor and put 2 loads of washing on, but you don’t want to hear about that really.

A few months ago I was in a building that was held up at gunpoint, although I wasn’t in the room, I was next to it, blissfully unaware that anything out of the norm was occurring, my reaction shocked me. I was uncontrollable; I shook and was unable to drive home for nearly 3 hours. I spent the rest of the afternoon with a friend until hubby came home, as I couldn’t cope with the thought of being on my own. But that was nothing compared to the person who had a gun held at their head, for the 2nd time in 2 weeks.

After the first robbery I thought I’d expressed my sincere thoughts, I thought I understood what they’d been through, I imagined how I would have felt and therefore I had emphasized. After the 2nd robbery and once I’d recovered from the ‘there for the grace of god go I’ I emphasized with them again, because this time it was more real to me …. or was it? I still don’t think I got it right. Some of the staff were back to work the following day, some were off for a fortnight, another had yet another experience when robbers broke into her home a few weeks later, this time she was physically hurt as well as emotionally but was back at work the following day.

The difficulty with empathy is that having empathy often leaves the person you are emphasizing with feeling like they should’ve reacted/responded differently. When someone emphasizes with you, for example they understand what it’s like to pack and move home to a new place and you say to them, but you haven’t moved 6000 miles away from everything and everyone you know it just belittles their experience/situation and they don’t bother emphasizing again, they just that think you’re belittling their experience, but you’re not, you’re just trying to say it was different for you, therefore in conclusion I don’t think anyone has empathy.

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