Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Prejudiced Empath

Great title, right? It's a bit of an oxymoron, though. lol Empaths are not, for the most part, prejudiced. Certainly, though, there are probably a few, but that is racing this discussion in a whole other direction, so I shall digress.

Prejudice

What is prejudice? It is defined as: An adverse judgment or opinion formed beforehand or without knowledge or examination of the facts. Or as: A preconceived preference or idea. Here are a few others, just to be clear on its meaning:

1. The act or state of holding unreasonable preconceived judgments or convictions. See synonyms at predilection.
2. Irrational suspicion or hatred of a particular group, race, or religion.
3. Detriment or injury caused to a person by the preconceived, unfavorable conviction of another or others.


Of course, we are talking about the first two definitions of this word, that of adverse judgments or opinions and that of preconceived preferences or ideas.


Empathy

Now lets define Empathy. Empathy is: the 'capacity' to share and understand another's 'state of mind' or emotion. It is often characterized as the ability to "put oneself into another's shoes", or in some way experience the outlook or emotions of another being within oneself.

Prejudice + Empathy = ??

What do you get when you add prejudice to empathy? You get a filtered perspective of reality and the people within it. Everything is seen, interpreted and assimilated through a filter which has been built out of your environment, peer opinions, family values and opinions, religious doctrine, and social conditioning.

If there were negative influences within your life, such as derogatory discussions about a certain race or religion, these things will influence your filter, even if you do not realize that it is doing so. Just as being around people who practice altruistic service to others will also influence your filter. Its not just a negative thing, and nor is it a bad thing. Instead, it is an all encompassing thing.

This is the filter through which you see the world. This is the filter through which you interpret empathic signals. Thus, this is the place where personal and comparative interpretation of those signals begins.

Without realizing it, your mind sets out on a journey to find things in which to compare those empathic signals to. It gets weighed against religious beliefs. It gets compared to personal problems which are similar in some way to the issue behind the empathic signals. And within a minute amount of time, you either feel a desire to reach out to that person, who sent out the empathic signals, or push them away.

This, particularly during a first impression, is what causes you to instantly like someone or to develop an aversion to them without rhyme or reason. Its not based on logic, it is based on how you interpret the signals you receive, which is true not just for Empaths, but for everyone.

In another discussion we discussed different types of perspectives which fall under the category of Prejudice Perspective. One of those types, which was briefly discussed, was Shared Perspective. This kind of perspective arises when one picks up empathic signals and, through their filter, they discover that they have experienced the same type of situation with the same type of emotions bound within it. This leads to a deeper rapport between the person who sent out the empathic signal and the Empath who picked up on it.


This is only to say, that it is not such an oxymoron for these two words to go together, because they work in unison together. Its not a horrible thing, either. But the end result, is what you do with it and how much you let it influence your empathy and who you choose to bestow it on.

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