Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Empathic Perspectives: Types & Filters

This discussion thread is about the different types of Empathic Perspectives. Ironic, I know, given the name of this group. lol Within the sphere of perspectives an Empath can have, there are three major categories. And within those, there are two factors we will be considering, as well.

The Shared Perspective

The first of this trio is called Shared Perspective. What this means is that the Empath has a shared perspective with the person they are working with. This stems from a shared experience like abuse. And even if the type of abuse the Empath suffered differs from the one offered up by the person being helped, the link still functions in the same capacity, allowing the Empath to quickly set the person at ease based on that shared experience of pain.

Shared Perspective is not, however, a type of empathic perspective in which one sees through the other person's eyes. Instead one views them through the filter of their own trauma and suffering. And through that process the Empath comes to understand the other person's motives, feelings, and behaviors based upon how the Empath themselves reacted to a similar situation.

And yet, while it may not be a type of perspective in which one sees through another's eyes directly, it is the most intimate of perspectives one can have. Through two acts of suffering, a singular understanding is formed the likes of which most could not comprehend, much less conceive of.

Lets say you meet someone at work and you pick up on tell tale signs that they are being abused. And in your past, there is some form of abuse. More likely than not, you will find yourself empathizing with that person's suffering on a deeper level because of how you relate to it through your own pain and suffering.

This is what makes victims of rape great victims advocates. They understand literally down to the marrow what the victim has suffered. And because of this, they are willing to go the extra mile for that person. Where as someone who had never suffered such a thing will be slow to fully grasp the other person's fragile state after such an ordeal.

The Blank Slate Perspective

The Blank Slate perspective differs from the Shared Perspective, in that the Empath has no direct experience and has not formed any opinions about the situation the other person is going through. It is like being offered a brand new type of experience to assess and understand.

In this instance, the Empath learns about the experience vicariously through the eyes of the other person and their words. The Empath is completely dependent on the other person for details in order to form a well rounded understanding of it.

An good example of this would be if you were to discover that you were pregnant (yes its a girly example) and you went to a friend who has had several children for an explanation of experience of childbirth.. You, being newly pregnant, have no experience in this area. Nor have you heard or seen anything about the woes of childbirth. You would be utterly dependent upon the description of such a thing given to you by your friend who has children Thus your opinion of childbirth, from the beginning to its end, will be formed vicariously through her eyes and her experiences.

The Prejudiced Perspective

You might find the title of this perspective uncomfortable, but none the less, it is what it is. But when I write prejudiced, I do not necessarily mean this in a derogatory way. Prejudiced, in this case, simply means that the Empath has experiences and/or opinions which tend to be filters in the process of their empathy. This can be good or bad.

Point of fact, the Shared Perspective is one type of perspective which falls under this category. And yet this category stands on its own, as well.

But I digress, the point of this particular category is to make you aware of how you, as an Empath, judge things, even without realizing it, based upon how you were taught throughout your life by parents, siblings, friends, teachers, and lovers. Your prejudices stem from your interaction with people, their opinions, their experiences, and their prejudices.

A good example would be a cycle of abuse. A parent physically abuses their child and berates them with emotional abuse all their lives. And when they grow up, they begin this cycle again by giving the same treatment to their child(ren). This occurs because the person who grew into an abusive parent had not other experience other than that of an abusive parent. In turn, he/she assumes (wronglly) that this is the way all parents treat their children. And in their mind, because of this experience, they are doing nothing wrong. They are simply being parents.

But to you, the Empath, based upon your own experiences, that parent is completely in the wrong. They are abusive parents who deserve nothing more than prison or to be beaten to a bloody pulp. (Please note I am not advocating child abuse here). So the question becomes, how, if you believe they are a horrible person based on your own experiences, do you close the gap between their perspective and your own, making them aware of what they were doing wrong?

Or perhaps one is raised in a home which has a low opinion of other people due to race, sexual orientation, religion or any other notable factor. It is more likely for the person raised in that home to grow into adulthood with those same opinions rather than being open minded and objective toward the subjects of that prejudice. But they may also not even be aware of the fact that they harbor such prejudices.

So again the question arises once more of how, if you believe the other person is prejudiced and small/narrow minded, do you breach that gap between perspectives and make them aware of what they are doing?

These kinds of questions and types of people are what make this Perspective the most broad based and difficult perspective to cope with. Because in doing this, one is often times taken out of their element, and dropped into an ocean of churning emotions, behaviors, motives, and thoughts which leave much to be desired by the Empath. These are the times when you want to wrinkle your nose in disgust and run away screaming. These are the moments when you are truly tested as an Empath, when you come face to face with opinions and actions you can not accept, condone, or understand through your own perspective.

Did you note the two subcategories within this discussion, while you were reading through it? They are experience and prejudice.

Experience & Prejudice

As an Empath it is extremely important for you to understand your own experiences and the prejudices which stem from those experiences. The reason for this is that these are the filters through which you see the world around you. It is the foundation from which you choose to interact with another person or not. And even as Empaths, who wish to be altruistic in the giving of their Empathy, the reality of it can not be escaped. Certainly it can be avoided and repressed for a time, but this is only prolonging the inevitable.

Understanding these things about yourself doesn't make you bad, evil, sinful or a monster, either. We are all human and we all bear some prejudices, no matter how open minded we are. But to truly offer help to others, it is extremely important to understand your own underlying experiences and prejudices. And in doing this for yourself, it also helps you understand others motives, prejudices, and emotions better.

Its something to think about. ^_^

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