Four Days Without Blogging; Being Lazy Bones; More on Empathy, Actually a Whole Lot More on Empathy; Final Lap; Pictures of New Friends Made Yesterday

The following conversation took place between my Computer Guru Chris and myself.

Me: Almost a record! I have not blogged for four days. I hope you are proud!! Plans for coming to London at the end of May are becoming more solidified. You may get to meet the Prince. – the guy that evolved from the frog. Hope you and Clare will be about!

He:Well done lazy bones. Yes I think we should be around ! Xx

Me: Slave driver!

So things are changing but all is well. I have made plans to go to Grandson’s wedding in Las Vegas and he is very happy to have his G.Ma there. Laughingly told him that I was going to give him away – why is it that someone gives the bride away but not the groom? How very sexist! My goodness, what shall I wear? Black I guess, to match the groom. Hahahaha. I can see Grandson laugh when he sees this. We correspond daily on Instagram which is a better vehicle for correspondence than email, in my humble opinion. So in order of importance there is Instagram, then email, then blog and then Facebook. One cannot reach me through the blog so it is a one way street but most people have my email address and could contact me through that. No one does these days but due to the glories of Instagram I do not mind.

What is rather left hanging is the issue and the study on empathy – we shall wrap that up. NPR Health’s topic was Does Empathy Have a Dark Side? The article begins: “Empathy allows us to experience the perspective of others – to put ourselves in their shoes. Only good things can come from that, right? Not necessarily, according to author Fritz Breithaupt, author of The Dark Sides of Empathy. He observes that some negative things – including helicopter parenting, and even terrorism – can come from identifying too strongly with others.”

Scientific testing completed in April of 2015 showed that I suffered from too much empathy which led to all kinds of problems – depression, bad marriages and poor friend choices being three indica. I was told to curtail my empathy and given tools to do so. Recent testing and recent behaviour and life choices revealed that I have developed the ability to do so. One prime example was the night in King’s County Jail – if I would have empathized with the screaming, terrified people in adjoining cells I would have gone mad. But I did not and was able to escape somewhat unscathed – well except for bruising and cuts from the handcuffs which were jerked by the goon guards. Believe me I did not empathize with them – well I did a little, what horrible lives they lead but believe me I do not feel sorry for them.

Perhaps this is the moment to define empathy and to differentiate it from sympathy. “People often confuse the words empathy and sympathy. Empathy means ‘the ability to understand and share the feelings of another’ (as in both authors have the skill to make you feel empathy with their heroines), whereas sympathy means ‘feelings of pity and sorrow for someone else’s misfortune’ (as in they had great sympathy for the flood victims). “

I suppose having too much sympathy could also get one in trouble and does actually through the media. One can feel too much sympathy for people in far off lands when there is nothing one can do to help. I suppose send money but the money could do more good near home and there is compelling need near home – weather it be Vancouver or San Francisco.

The article reveals more. “Empathy is a riddle,” Breithaupt says. While it can enrich our lives, Breithaupt says our ability to identify with others’ feelings can also fuel polarization, sparK violence and motivate dysfunctional behaviour in relationships, like helicopter parenting.

“Empathy is a riddle,” Breithaupt says. While it can enrich our lives, Breithaupt says our ability to identify with others’ feelings can also fuel polarization, spark violence and motivate dysfunctional behaviour in relationships, like helicopter parenting.” While it was once thought that empathy was in one place in the brain it has subsequently been shown that it is everywhere. Imaging studies showed that we use every part of the brain both for our own actions, our own feelings, but also for the observation of other people. So basically the whole brain does empathy.” That changes a lot of things. It shows us that empathy affects all our thinking. It’s with us every moment.

I think that means that empathy is so important to us that it’s something we can’t neglect. Yes, we’re biologically primed for it, but we also have to cultivate it, and cultivation is something that can [be a] lifelong learning task. It never ends.

But this, for me, was one of the most important to learn. “People assume that empathy is good because it is good for the recipient of empathy — I’m actually skeptical about this.

Empathy might be a little bit more selfish than many people assume. The empathizer feels less alone, they share experiences, they learn something. So we should ask for whom is [empathy] good? It’s actually the empathizer in most cases.”

And there is something quite horrible called “vampiristic empathy” “Vampiristic empathy is a form of empathy where people want to manipulate the people they empathize with so that they can, through them, experience the world in such a way that they really enjoy it.

An extreme case of this is helicopter parenting. Helicopter parents are constantly trying to steer their kids in the directions they think are the right directions. Of course they want the best for their children. Very understandable; I have kids and I want what’s best for them too.

But I think there’s something else seeping in. There’s this sort of living along with the kids, imagining how it must be like to have a life that’s marked by successes, where obstacles disappear and life can be enjoyed. But that also means that the parents are co-experiencing that life, so they start taking over … they basically want to use the child almost as a pawn.

In a sense, extreme helicopter parents are robbing their kids of a selfhood so that they can basically project their own self into these kids.”

So it is all rather fascinating, particularly in light of some recent events in my life. I took the right course, did not empathize and thus allowed growth on the part of the individual.

This blog was written in the breakfast room of my hotel. There was this absolutely darling little boy breakfasting with his mother. I commented on his shirt which said Final Lap. He lives in Melbourne and I said I had a friend who was in law school in Melbourne.

He: I am in kindergarten!

Me: Well you have to start somewhere.

He is only four and he can count to 600. We are going to have breakfast tomorrow together and he is going to count for me. I cannot wait! We are friends, we really like each other. Who could not like a cute little boy who can count to 600?

The photos are the friends I made yesterday. Two exceedingly well dressed cousins, a group of women from Viet Nam, a bellman employed for thirty years and a handsome young man from London. What a day!

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