My Struggle With Empathy

Sometimes, loving someone too much can blind you…

I have always felt that love is an animal that needs to exist freely. No boundaries, no rules, no “ifs” or “buts”. Love, by its very nature, is supposed to be allowed to run on its own, to be as organic as possible, within the effects of people’s agendas or schemes. In some ways, love is like a loaded gun; it can be used for either good or evil. And, like a loaded gun, it can be used purposely or accidentally.

But love has a peculiar effect on those of us, like me, who worship the notion of being “in love”. When I am in love, I tend to develop blinders. These blinders cause me to focus so much on the person and the love emotion, that it consumes my psyche, day and night. When I am in love with someone, she is all I can think about, and the rest of the world is a coincidence. To say that the person I am in love with is my queen, would be an understatement.

But blinders also have an unintended affect. Blinders can work too well. In my case, blinders also tend to blind me from empathy.

Empathy, simply put, is the ability and action to react to some else’s emotion with the appropriate emotion. If a person is sad, you respond with sad, that sort of thing. But empathy also means that you actually understand and care about what another person is feeling, and that you can put yourself in their shoes.

For me, empathy can get in the way of love.

I know, it sounds strange. But think for a moment about the times when you think about a person. The way you imagine where they are, what they’re doing, what they’re thinking. In that moment, you are forming a mental picture of that person. And because this picture is coming from your own mind, you will instinctively inject your own feelings and emotions into that image. And so, if I’m imagining her being happy and cheerful, that’s great. But if she comes home stressed from work, I struggle trying to empathize with her stress, because in my mind she’s supposed to be cheerful.

Maybe it’s less about blinders, and more about my selfish perception of others.

Empathy requires that I have the ability to put myself in another person’s shoes. But why is it that when I do that, my brain starts to solve the other person’s situation, instead of trying to understand it. For example, if someone said that they were stressed because they were late for work, my tiny brain would think “Why didn’t you just leave home earlier?”, when instead I probably should have thought “Wow, that must have been terrible, anything I can help you with?”. There’s my lack of empathy.

And when I love that person, the lack of empathy gets even worse.

Because I see empathy and love as opposing sides, and not mutual, it creates conflict in me. Now, I know it sounds bad, but I think I am beginning to see how I can solve myself for once, instead of trying to solve for others. The key is in finding out how to make myself happy and whole, instead of relying on others for this task. When I am not a whole person, I am a person with a “hole” or void.

When we are whole and complete, we no longer need others to make us happy, and instead we are able to become a vessel of happiness for others. When we’re happy and whole, we have the ability to empathize with others instead of analyzing them. We become better people.

So, for now, I am in love with her while I work on my empathy skills, which means working on making myself whole again. I can’t even remember the last time I felt whole and complete. Hopefully that’s not a bad thing. Whatever caused this void in me, must have been somewhere in the background, because I didn’t even notice it.

Ultimately, love and empathy have to coexist in my life, for me to be the best person I can be, for myself and for her. Being in love can blind me, but it can’t stop me from becoming a better human being.

The struggle continues…