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~ Certified Transpersonal Hypnotherapist ; Past experiences: Dream Analysis /10 Years Experience ~ Psychotherapist / Gestalt, Jungian, Zen, Reality and Energy Therapies /10 Years Experience ~ EMDR~ Men and Their Journey: the neuroscience of the male brain, and the implications in sexuality, education and relationship ~ Women: Their Transformation and Empowerment ~ ATOD (Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drugs) / 21 years experience ~ Ordained Interfaith Minister & Official Celebrant ~ Social Justice Advocate ~ Child and Human Rights Advocate ~ Spiritual Guide and Intuitive ~ Certified Reiki Practitioner ~ Mediation / Conflict Resolution • “Intentional Love” Parenting Strategy Groups ~ Parenting Workshops ~ Coaching for parents of Indigo, Crystal, and Rainbow Children ~ International Training: Israel & England ~ Critical Incident Stress Debriefing ~ Post-911 and Post-Katrina volunteer

BSW - UNC Greensboro

MSW - UNC Chapel Hill

"An Unending Love"

This blog and video is devoted and dedicated to my daughter, my grand daughters, and my grand son. They are hearts of my heart. Our connection through many lives..... is utterly infinite.




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The degree of our enlightenment is the degree of passion that we will have for the whole world." ~The Greystone Mandala


~The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.

Winston Churchill


TECHNOLOGY..........

In “Conversations with God”, by Neale Donald Walsch, there is a warning. I think of it as the Atlantis passage, and I've quoted it a few times before. "As I have said, this isn't the first time your civilization has been at this brink," God tells Walsch. "I want to repeat this, because it is vital that you hear this. Once before on your planet, the technology you developed was far greater than your ability to use it responsibly. You are approaching the same point in human history again. It is vitally important that you understand this. Your present technology is threatening to outstrip your ability to use it wisely. Your society is on the verge of becoming a product of your technology rather than your technology being a product of your society. When a society becomes a product of its own technology, it destroys itself."

Sunday, February 12, 2017

"Do You Have Empathy for People Who Don't? Should You?" / Leon Seltzer, Ph.D. / Psychology Today

Do You Have Empathy for People Who Don't? Should You?
geralt, empathy/Pixabay Free Illustrations
Source: geralt, empathy/Pixabay Free Illustrations
Appreciating empathic individuals is easy. They’re caring and more than willing to listen and respond positively to your wants and needs. Neuroscientists view the highly empathic as having an extremely active mirror neuron system, which enables them to be remarkably receptive—both cognitively and emotionally. For they’re gifted in vicariously thinking and feeling what you do. And with this highly developed ability to identify with another’s experience, their actions tend to be kind, thoughtful, and pro-social. Compassionate, even altruistic, they’re among the most dependable of friends—especially when you’re in distress and need someone to turn a sympathetic ear toward you.On the contrary, appreciating, and getting along with, individuals who demonstrate a notable lack of empathy can be unusually challenging. And empathizing with them even more so. They’re not people who (knowingly, at least) you'd want to get too close to—even if they’d permit you to (!). They don’t—and in many respects, can’t —“get” you or truly care about you. So if you’re looking to feel truly understood or emotional supported, you’ll come up empty with them.
To advance their own agenda, some unempathic individuals are good at faking empathy (e.g., narcissists and sociopaths). But if you can recognize that such “fellow-feeling” is spurious, you’re obviously much better off staying away from them. For you certainly have a right to protect yourself from their manipulations. And those who lack empathy, in their unwillingness or inability to put themselves in your shoes, really don’t have your own interests in mind (or heart). “Objectifying” you as potential prey, they’re more likely to exploit you to address their own generally egoistical needs.
Descriptors typically employed to characterize the unempathic include insensitiveselfish or self-centereddetached or distantuncaring and unconcernedcoldaloofexploitativecondescending and (at least for some of them) downright contemptuous. And that’s hardly what you’d want in a friend or associate—and certainly not in a mate. For in their emotional unavailability they can make you feel frustratingly, and hurtfully, alone. In terms of their whole life stance, as opposed to being pro-social, they’re much more commonly anti-social.
What Makes Some People Lack Empathy
Yet before hastening to dismiss—or damn (!)—those seriously lacking in empathy, there’s a lot more to be consider. And that’s the origins of those who have in fact been labeled as having an Empathy Deficit Disorder. In short, because of many factors—such as, their genetics or biology, how they were parented, the environment they grew up in, and the various “accidental” forces that shaped their development—they may have been deprived of what all the rest of us take for granted. So, especially after delving into my characterizations below, though you may still not want to befriend them, it would actually be rather callous or insensitive to blame or censor them (i.e., “There but for the grace of God go I”).
Consider also that these empathy-challenged individuals might suffer as much, or more, from what they lack as you yourself might in your so-irksome dealings with them. And consider, too, this caveat by James Earl Adams III, who rightfully observes that saying someone lacks empathy “does not [necessarily] mean they are predatory. It does not mean they are irresponsible. It does not mean they are sadistic. Do not be persuaded into demonizing such people" (“What Do People Who Lack Empathy Act Like?” Quora, March 15, 2014).
Here’s one real-life example that substantiates these points:
Citing psychologist Douglas LaBier, director of the Center for Adult Development in Washington, D.C., Amanda Robb (writing for CNN) notes:
Virtually everyone learns the basics of empathy in childhood (from our parents comforting us when we're in distress), but my father died when I was 4, and afterward my mother had to be very can-do, juggling three jobs, graduate school, and two kids. When I was upset, she never said, "Oh, I'm sorry. It must be hard to have me away so much after losing your dad."
Instead, on good days, she'd say, "Why are you crying? Nothing is wrong." And on bad days: "You'd better toughen up because life can get a lot worse." Looking back at my 20-something self, I realize that if, as LaBier says, empathy is "the ability or the willingness to experience the world from someone else's point of view," I wasn't brought up to be able to do that [emphasis added].
At least my lack of empathy was not unusual. Having practiced as a psychotherapist for 35 years, LaBier believes that what he calls empathy deficit disorder (EDD) is rampant among Americans.
Going still further, Robb adds (and this is, well, a little scary):
LaBier says we unlearn whatever empathy skills we've picked up while coming of age in a culture that focuses on acquisition and status more than cooperation and values "moving on" over thoughtful reflection. LaBier is convinced that EDD is at the heart of modernity's most common problems, macro (war) and micro (divorce). (“Empathy Deficit Disorder—Do You Suffer From It?”, CNN, June 18, 2008)
So, whether or not you’d like to deny it, those with EDD may not be radically different from the rest of us.
Now let’s explore further why some people are without the empathy that would make them more accessible—and likeable—to us.
Much has been written on how environmental factors, particularly parenting styles and relationships generally, affect empathy growth in children. Wikipedia, which covers the topic of empathy with extraordinary thoroughness (including no fewer than 199 scholarly citations) is well worth quoting here:
[According to the research of C. T. M. Tisot, 2014] a few parenting practices . . . contribute to the development of empathy in children. These practices include encouraging the child to imagine the perspectives of others and teaching the child to reflect on his or her own feelings. . . . Paternal warmth was found to be significantly important . . . especially in boys.
And doubtless, there are a large variety of ways that the normal growth of empathy can be stunted. Here are just a few:
hansiline/Pixabay CCO Public Domain
Source: hansiline/Pixabay CCO Public Domain
Parents’ modeling is routinely mentioned as a major factor in what children learn (almost by a kind of osmosis). So if parents demonstrate non-caring, and perhaps also a ruthlessly competitive relationship to others, such an interpersonal stance could powerfully influence a child’s development. Might the caretakers’ attitude toward kindness and compassion be cynically negative—an empathic concern scorned, regarded as signaling weakness rather than strength? And, to better adapt to their family, might the child have felt compelled to ignore or repress feelings their parents prompted them to regard as deficits?
Did the child’s parents, because of a fragile ego resulting from their own childhood psychological injuries, possibly protect themselves from others’ criticism by sharply turning any adverse judgment against them back upon the accuser? Or did they, in advance, invalidate anyone whose viewpoint threatened to differ from their own—and so, implicitly, instruct their child to do likewise. In Time Magazine (04/17/2010), Maia Szalavitz, the co-author of Born for Love: Why Empathy Is Essential—and Endangered (2010), observes that “unempathic (psychologically wounded) parents are unlikely to encourage empathy in their kids, so this developmental deficit is apt to pass down the generations.”
Beyond poor modeling, was the child’s family emotionally constipated? Did the child grow up in a home where feelings were never discussed—maybe didn’t even appear to exist? If they became alienated from their own feelings (in a much deeper sense, from their very selves), how could they possibly be expected to grasp, let alone empathize with, the feelings of others?
And how about abusive or neglectful parents? If a child’s caretakers were unduly or harshly punishing (whether verbally, physically, or both), that child’s pained reactions may have been much too distressing to bear. Without the emotional resources to effectively counter such abuse, their only way of coping may have been to repress their self-denigrating feelings, to force them underground. And once this emotionally driven defense against shame or humiliation has taken root, they may no longer be able (at least not without professional assistance) to recover their natural feelings of vulnerability, or emotional accessibility—even if they’ve moved far, far away from their caretakers.
By psychological necessity programmed to squash their more tender feelings, they may have left at their disposal the only “invulnerable” emotion remaining—and that’s anger. Which is hardly an emotion that would endear them to others. Nor is it an emotion that would enable them to empathize with those others. Such an adverse situation may certainly be regrettable but, if we’re to look at these individuals humanely, can we in good conscience blame them for what they felt was imperative to shut down in order to survive their belittling childhood?
In this sense, it’s only natural that, repeatedly subjected to their caretakers’ almost brutal lack of empathy, these childhood victims might later become perpetrators themselves. As Szalavitz (cited above) notes: “Although children can be astonishingly resilient, surviving and sometimes thriving despite abuse and neglect, studies show that those who experience such early trauma are at much greater risk of becoming aggressive or even psychopathic later on, bullying other children or being victimized by bullies themselves.” And yes, it cuts both ways—neither of them favorable to their development.
Less directly related to parenting deficiencies perhaps are those who lack empathy because of excessive self-absorption. The enduring insecurities typically associated with such self-centeredness generally go beyond deficiencies in their upbringing to also include how they were treated by their peers, teachers, siblings and other relatives, as well as the general environment they grew up in. Whether they suffer from depressionanxiety disorders, or one of many personality disorders that involve self-absorption (from avoidant to borderline to paranoid to narcissistic and sociopathic), their obsessive self-focusing makes it exceedingly difficult for them to refocus on what others may be thinking and feeling.
Even with the personality disturbances we’re least likely to feel sympathetic toward (i.e., narcissistic, psychopathic, and anti-social), many writers have noted—as, for one, has professional counselor Steve Mensing (10/07/2010)—that “these conditions may have been brought on by severe emotional deprivation, traumatic conditions, and in some cases brain injury and anomalous brain conditions.”
Biological Causes for Empathy Deficits
One point not sufficiently emphasized in the literature is that the underpinnings for individuals' lacking empathy are not exclusively psychological. Drawing on the work of several academic studies, Wikipedia’s elaborate coverage of the subject concludes:
Empathy can be disrupted due to trauma in the brain such as a stroke. In most cases empathy is usually impaired if a lesion or stroke occurs on the right side of the brain. In addition to this it has been found that damage to the frontal lobe, which is primarily responsible for emotional regulation, can impact profoundly on a person’s capacity to experience empathy toward another individual. People who have suffered from an acquired brain injury also show lower levels of empathy according to previous studies. In fact, more than 50% of people who suffer from a traumatic brain injury self-report a deficit in their empathic capacity.
Biological hindrances blocking the development of empathy have also been linked to autism. Wikipedia notes various studies suggesting that autistic individuals have an impaired theory of mind. That is, they can neither interpret their own, or others’, mental and emotional states, and so they struggle to comprehend that another might have wants, beliefs, intentions, knowledge, and viewpoints different from their own. And though (if we can empathize with their plight) we’re hardly justified in making a moral judgment against them, still Wikipedia’s summary of the pertinent research indicates that they “self-report lower levels of empathic concern [and] show less [if any] comforting responses toward someone who is suffering.
Conclusion: Be Cautious—But Kind, Too
So where does all of this leave us?
As already characterized, because of their inability to respond to you in ways you need them to, individuals conspicuously lacking in empathy are likely to leave you frustrated—if not totally exasperated. So unless circumstances require you to maintain at least a minimal relationship with them (they’re your mother, child, boss, co-worker, etc.), you’re doubtless better off avoiding them.
But given the unfavorable dynamics underlying those deficient in—or altogether devoid of—empathy,  you really can’t condemn them either. It’s not as though, clear-eyed, they looked at all their options and deliberately chose to be unfeeling, insensitive, cold, or psychopathic. True, some of them lack a moral compass, such that many of their behaviors deserve denunciation. Yet, as the famous French expression goes: “Tout comprendre c'est tout pardonner”  [to understand everything enables you to forgiveeverything]. So if you can truly grasp why these individuals were somehow “fated” to act the non-admirable ways they do—whether it’s through an inherited aberration, organic injury, or environmental misfortune—then you ought to be able to conjure up some fellow-feeling, or compassion, for them.
And this isn’t to imply that you don’t have every right to stay away from them. It simply means that it’s only humane to empathize with them as grievously wounded—that you not shame or scorn them but attempt to view them with generosity of spirit—as well as be grateful that you yourself aren’t afflicted with such a grave personality defect . . . unless, that is, you find it utterly impossible to empathize with them (!).
© 2017 Leon F. Seltzer, Ph.D. All Rights Reserved.
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"there were no words, but images flooded every cell in her being ...

"there were no words, but images flooded every cell in her being ...