Stop making value judgements about empathy, please.

I get really uncomfortable when people discuss “empathy” in relation to Asperger’s, and sometimes I get a bit annoyed.  Ok, so I might not intuitively know how you are feeling or what you need, but I care deeply about your wellbeing and have your best interests at heart.  On the other hand, a psychopath might intuitively know how you are feeling, and know what to say, but not give a monkey’s about your wellbeing, or have your interests at heart.  I know which I’d prefer in a friend.  Knowing and caring are two different things, don’t confuse them please.

© Catastraspie, 2013.

English: Marvelous feats in mind reading. Post...

English: Marvelous feats in mind reading. Poster print, lithograph, B&W, 70cm×53cm (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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14 Responses to Stop making value judgements about empathy, please.

  1. secretaspie says:

    Wurd. I recently had a heated discussion with someone on YouTube who just would not let it go that I must have no empathy because I’m an Aspie. He even said that if I had ANY empathy, I couldn’t be an Aspie. He backed off when I said I’d inform my diagnosers that they were wrong, but insisted that Aspies can’t know when they’re wearing someone into the ground because they don’t have empathy – and yet HE was the one who was like a dog with a bone! Aspies LEARN, same as everyone else, and when they’ve been through a situation, it teaches them empathy for that situation so in the future, they WILL empathise with someone because their mirror neurons have learned!

    • catastraspie says:

      Thanks for your comment! 🙂 It’s definitely something people get really passionate about, I try not to take people on on YouTube 😉 I quite enjoyed this thread: and it’s a far more complicated topic than most people realise I think – room for a lot of misunderstanding if people have different definitions of “empathy” so I really prefer not to use the word myself. I suck at reading people’s thoughts or emotions or knowing what they need if they don’t tell me, and I find it difficult to recognise my own feelings, but I consider myself to be caring, compassionate and I would always want to help someone and make them feel better if I can (and they tell me how). I like the idea that my mirror neurons are willing to learn 🙂

  2. Miriam M. says:

    I can totally relate to this. I have trouble knowing how people feel, but that doesn’t mean I don’t care about them. If someone tells me how they feel and I’ve been through it myself then I can relate and have empathy for them, but if I haven’t I find it very hard to have empathy for them. When I can’t relate or have empathy for them I try not to bring up the subject of that particular feeling of their’s because I cannot give them the empathy they need or deserve. I think we as aspies have empathy but we just go about showing it in a different way! I usually try and come up with solutions to people’s problems and that’s my main way of showing that I care as an aspie. Great post!

  3. Ugh. Yes. I think this is one of the weirdest myths, because I know for me and a lot of my AS friends, we do feel empathy very very deeply. Once I understand what someone is going through, I feel like what they’re going through is happening to me. Maybe that’s because I really have to “put myself in their shoes,” so to speak, to get it sometimes.

    Also, I think my way of showing empathy isn’t necessarily to talk things out with someone or give them a hug. I tend to mimic things I’ve seen in movies or read in books. I’ll offer to draw them a bath or make them some tea, but if they refuse those things I’m sort of at a loss for how to make them feel better.

    • catastraspie says:

      Yes a nice long list of things that have worked in the past that might be of comfort and offering them is sensible, or asking. Thanks for your comment 🙂

    • I have Dyspraxia which includes a similar difficulty with empathy. Based on my own experiences and things I’ve heard from other people with Dyspraxia I think it’s not so much that we lack empathy. I think it’s that what for most people is unconscious we have to do consciously and consciously mimic behaviour we’ve observed. What others just ‘know’ we have to consciously process and think out. Similarly whilst others pick up non-verbal cues without being aware of them we have to consciously watch out for them.

      Perhaps it’s similar for people with Asperger’s?

  4. Great post, thanks for posting this 🙂

    I seriously can’t stand these people that say this crap they find off they websites claiming the criteria you HAVE to meet to be aspergic. It’s a load of crap. Me & my father have aspergers yet we are both VERY different. We both feel empathy for certain things. Like yes sometimes I don’t care about others feelings because I can be very self orientated at times but when I know there is poverty in the world or animals being abused I cry and get very depressed.

    I’ll be honest I used to in old friendships if they would cry etc I’d do what I thought others did like be all sensitive & pretend I cared when really I didn’t but with my mum I really do care. But her brother passed away & I couldn’t understand it very well as I’m an only child. I would be overly hyper and happy whilst she would be crying.

    People can be ignorant & quick to judge people with Aspergers. I’ve been there when a person I thought was close to me went online & was quick to bring up a list of things she thought I didn’t do not knowing a thing about how people with Aspergers cope in life especially women with Aspies.

    Conclusion is..people are ignorant to things they have no idea about..!

    • catastraspie says:

      He thanks for your comment 🙂 He he! You might be right about the ignorance thing! It makes sense. I get cross when people tell me they know how I feel because I don’t believe them and it feels inaccurate even though I know it’s just a thing people say to be comforting.

      • Thanks for replying 😀 No problem 🙂
        Ahh I hate that too, the worst thing is when people tell me they know how I feel or what I’m going through is similar to something else when it’s really not!!!
        You can’t compare what we have to deal with to not seeing your bloody boyfriend! lol 😦
        Yeah I know they try to be comforting definitely, luckily the friend I have works with autistic kids so she understands me a lot & knows I prefer honesty to the fake overly friendly bull crap!

      • catastraspie says:

        I’m glad to hear you have a good friend who understands and is honest, that’s really important 🙂

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