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Situational Empathy?

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badchoice posted 5/21/2014 16:18 PM

Situational empathy…

…is there such a thing?

Empathy is something I have struggled to express, and I thought I was making progress until last night.

Had to take DS6 to the ER last night (suspected concussion, wound up being ok).

As I looked around the room FULL of other people is various states of distress, all I could think was how fast can I get my kid out of the waiting room and into see a Dr. While I didn’t wish any harm on any of the other people, I felt no regard for their pain or hurt. All I could think was, why are they taking that old person before DS6, why did the drunk get in first, why do they even care about the drunk in the first place, etc, etc, etc.

When we were finished it upset me that I was able to spend the last 4 hours there, and not feel one drop of empathy for anyone else. I had felt like I had moved so far forward in that area, I read some of the other forums including WS and genuinely feel for the WS and BS here. Last night shook me at my core. Have I really not moved as far as I thought?

Then I thought, maybe I was in protector mode, survival mode, focused on MY SON, and everything was blurred out of my mind. I equate it to when your kid throws up- and I got threw up on last night in the waiting room, and as a parent, my kids vomit does not bug me. Anyone else’s vomit (even my own) – boy would it, so I got to thinking…it depends on the situation.

Anyone else have any thoughts on this? Is there a limit, or boundary to empathy? I don’t think I will ever be a 'Mother Teresa' who I assume had boundless empathy, but is this ‘normal’?

Trying2LoveAgain posted 5/21/2014 17:03 PM

I'm not sure there is such a thing anymore as "norm" in life! However, I do think empathy can be situational, especially when it comes to a situation like you dealt with last night. I know when my children were young (well, honestly, I would STILL be that way, and they are 35 and 30), I would probably have reacted exactly as you did! I don't think this makes you unusual and certainly not a bad person! We are just protective of our loved ones! I would say "No worries, my friend"!

Trying2LoveAgain posted 5/21/2014 17:08 PM

BTW....So glad to hear your son is okay! That's scary! Something else that I think can make it situational empathy...being scared!

LosferWords posted 5/21/2014 17:10 PM

Then I thought, maybe I was in protector mode, survival mode, focused on MY SON, and everything was blurred out of my mind.

I think this statement is really key here, badchoice. As a parent, I know if I am protecting my son, my blinders go on, and I care about little else, other than his well being. I think this is okay to a certain extent.

As a "thought experiment", try to imagine yourself sitting in that waiting room without the situation of being there for your son. If you were there merely as an observer, I think you would have a lot more empathy for the people waiting to get in.

I think you were in more "protective mode" than anything else. I wouldn't worry about it too much. You did good. The fact that you are questioning it to begin with shows growth on your part.

Really glad to hear your kiddo is okay.

BrokenButTrying posted 5/21/2014 17:12 PM

I think of myself as a very empathetic person. I'm co-dependant, of course I am!

When it comes to my kids however... not so much! Especially when they're ill. I've been in that emergency room situation before and wondered why the world and his sodding wife were being seen before my son. Empathy kind of goes out the window when your kids aren't doing too well.

I think it's quite normal, you want to protect your child and that's your one and only priority at the time. Everyone else can go to hell.

Give yourself a break, you did great. Glad your son is ok.

ThoughtIKnewYa posted 5/21/2014 20:41 PM

I'm bursting with empathy, BUT if there's something wrong with my kid, it's like no one else exists. It's a protective mode thing, so don't be too hard on yourself!

Alyssamd24 posted 5/21/2014 21:00 PM

I agree with what everyone else has said. When I was in college I did an internship at a hospital and spent some time in the pediatric ER. While I was there as a student i was empathetic to the families and children that I saw come and go.

When we had to bring our DD to the ER cuz she was suddenly head to toe covered with hives, my only concern was her.

I think it's a protective parenting thing!!

badchoice posted 5/22/2014 00:23 AM

Thanks y'all for the feedback. That makes me feel a little better. Still will bring it up in IC next week, but it's great to hear perspective too.

AFrayedKnot posted 5/22/2014 08:49 AM

All I could think was, why are they taking that old person before DS6, why did the drunk get in first, why do they even care about the drunk in the first place, etc, etc, etc.

IDK, while I can totally understand wanting your child to be a priority I think this goes beyond that. It seems like you are being judgmental to justify your lack of empathy. What if the other people waiting were children? Would you still want to be more important or better than them?

There is more than one self centered attitude at work here and you may want to take a look at all.

[This message edited by AFrayedKnot at 8:50 AM, May 22nd (Thursday)]

No12turn2 posted 5/22/2014 09:04 AM

I think a lot of parents feel the same. Even those who have not experienced infidelity. I hardly see the connection, but rather a human characteristic that brings shame to us after the fact. We are HARD WIRED to protect our young. I see this as normal behavior. JMO

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