LOSS OF EMPATHY – Empathy is when we feel with another person, even if we haven’t experienced the event that caused their feeling; we can imagine how they might feel in that situation. For a “they” to exist, we must see them as distinct from “me”. Empathy requires us to understand ourselves as differentiated from others; self-absorption and denial of differences make that differentiation nearly impossible. As a result, we lose empathy for others.
So far along the Path to Disconnection we’ve met a few of our well-meaning but not very helpful fellow travelers, Anxiety, Self-absorption, and Objection to Difference. We’ve seen that together they can have us longing for connection while at the same time pushing away the very people with whom we could connect. Tragic, isn’t it? Well, not to be glib, but it really kind of is. Many of us spend our entire lives looking for, but never experiencing, true connection when most of the time the opportunity to connect is right in front of us.
Let’s look now at what happens when we “listen” to this troublesome trio.
In our self-absorption and inability to tolerate others being different from ourselves, we lose sight of the truth that, to connect in a healthy, meaningful way – the way that we are subconsciously longing for – we MUST be different from other human beings. More accurately, we must see ourselves as differentiated from others, which by nature means that we are different, and therefore differences are to be expected and embraced.
To consider this in very simplistic terms, think about Lego pieces or jigsaw puzzles. Each piece is different from the piece(s) that it needs to connect with. Two identical puzzle pieces aren’t going to fit, and the Lego’s raised points need to fit into a different Lego’s recessed points.
According to the Oxford Dictionary, connection is defined as a relationship in which a person, thing, or idea is linked or associated with something else. (Hint: else=different!) When we’re self-focused and unable to accept that others are actually supposed to be different from us, and we’re busy trying to force them to be or think just like us, it is impossible to connect! It’s impossible to empathize with them, which is the cornerstone of connecting. Once we lose the ability to empathize, to feel with others, and imagine what it’s like to go through what they’ve gone through, we are one step closer to the unsatisfying end of our Path to Disconnection – the Objectification of Others.
In our next message, we’ll unpack what objectification means and how it undermines all our relationships and keeps us in an endless loop of disconnection.