I try not to give advice, aside from the practical kind. I’m not going to tell you how to feel, think or react. I’m not going to offer explanations. I try not to equate my experience with yours. No, I don’t really know how you feel. I know how I might feel in the same situation; or how I felt when I was in a similar situation. But I don’t really know how you feel.
There is a difference between empathy and sympathy. Many people use these words interchangeably and that is wrong. Sympathy is ‘feeling with’, commiserating. Empathy is ‘feeling into’ experiencing another person’s feelings.
I doubt that there are many people who truly feel empathy; sympathy, yes, empathy, no. I think twins can be truly empathetic, the rest of us –no. I think is arrogant to say to someone ‘I feel your pain’ or even ‘I know how you feel’. You know how you might feel in that situation and while similar, not the same. You cannot physically feel my physical pain. You cannot emotionally feel my emotional pain. You can relate to it by recalling your own physical or emotional pain.
When I write about my feelings or vocalize them I am not trying to elicit sympathy. I am putting them outside myself. I want to see or hear how I feel in a detached, third-person way. When they are ‘over there’, away from me, I can see them for what they are. I can detach from them and analyze them and come to terms with them. And if they represent a problem, I can try to find a way to solve that problem.
You can understand what I am saying/feeling without feeling it yourself. You can sympathize because you may have faced a similar problem/situation. Or you can not. We do not all react the same way to similar situations. I can get myself tied up in knots and you may think “How is that even anything to bother about”, in which case even sympathy is off the table.
I dislike the phrase “It’s not all about you” It is selfish, self-centered, arrogant and demeaning. Your feelings, your life – hell yes, they are all about you. I am discounting the drama queens of life in this. You know those people, you cut your finger and they react with “You got blood on my new shirt” Those marvelous people who must make everything about themselves. It’s a wonderment to listen to and they deserve to get smacked with “it’s not all about you’.
I don’t want sympathy or empathy. Understanding? Perhaps. More like other people knowing me a little just as I am always trying to know myself a lot. Is there hubris in wanting to understand myself; why I do and feel and think in the ways that I do?
I don’t need you to sympathize or empathize I just need you to know me a little better. I think we all want to be known. It’s a matter of ‘don’t walk in front of me or behind me, walk next me’.
Trying to figure out who and what and why I am, is why I write.