3/21/12 questions and discussion
1-what forms of diversity do we cherish?6
2-is unfettered freedom truly free?6
3-are you your only obstacle?5
4-how much does "I'm just doing my job" excuse?7
5-is racial profiling racism?5
6-should the mandatory minimum laws be repealed?2
7-why does self-righteousness feel so good?6
8-is the idea of soulmates preposterous?7
9-is it possible for a person not to have a conscience?8
10-why does prayer work?4
tonight's question: is suffering a subjective experience and does it allow for greater empathy?
Kate: due to life experiences with my mom (recently as her caregiver -- she had cancer) I ended up feeling greater sympathy/empathy for other caregivers. I realized my problems are mine -- they are subjective -- they are also dependent upon whim and changing circumstances. One ought not seek suffering intentionally. This kind of experience does allow for greater empathic development. My friends at the time were having different experiences of their own. And I found the sense of connection I shared with them diminish during the caregiving. I eventually realized it was because I was placing myself above my friends. A kind of "my suffering is so much more important than yours" attitude. I decided not to be the victim of my own life's suffering. I realized how other's suffering was just as important as mine.
Bob: are masochists more compassionate than sadists? Masochists can feel self-righteous . . .
Kate: being isolated is ok for the self righteous
Bob: is subjective/objective adequate for describing suffering?
Kate: there's no discreet tool for measuring suffering. Nothing empirical. If one is choosing to focus on suffering -- their own -- they can end up giving it longer life, continuing it. This is why it's subjective
Danny: was saying your problems were the most important your way of just seeking help?
Kate: I wanted others to empathize but that can't be forced.
Danny: suffering is subjective based on one's attachments.
Nick: it's interesting that one kind of suffering can be compared to another. Hospitals typically use a 1-10 scale for patients to tell them how much pain they're in. It's up to the patient to decide how much they suffer. There is no objective measure. There is something to be said for not being ale to relate for lack of shared experiences. For example military wives talk to each other more comfortably than they do with non-military wives when discussing experiences to do with their spouses.
Kelly: [to Kate] as to seeking empathy -- what did you need empathy for?
Kate: I felt like time had stopped for me and no one else, I wanted to pause.
Kelly: empathy to end the suffering as opposed to sympathy?
Kate: condolences weren't enough. It didn't adequately respect my experiences. Even with empathy I doubt I would have noticed. During crises one goes into survivor mode.
Mike: I'm struck at how this question doesn't seem to recognize the vast amount of experiences humans have. I have the feeling a lot of suffering produces vindictiveness. Do you think some people seek out being victims?
Kate: it might parallel my experience at first. I tried to empathize with all the troubles in Rwanda and couldn't.
Kelly: did you compare your suffering with you mom's?
Kate: yes and no. I wish I had listened to her more.
Eric: there are 2 kinds of empathy: 1. we empathize because we believe our experience to be very similar to the other's. 2. is cognitive -- deep listening. It's not what I would feel in the same situation. It's knowing what the other is experiencing as the result of deep listening. This is a skill that not all possess but it can be developed in most of us.
Kate: is compassion fatigue more likely with the cognitive or the natural empathy?
Eric: through the cognitive skill one can become fatigued as the result of increasing one's capacity for empathy.
Beth: I don't see a real dichotomy. With both one must eventually go on with one's life.
Nick: Kate I wonder why you were suffering when your mom was sick?
Kate: as a caregiver one takes the patient into a womb. All mom had to think about was living. The caregiver must think of everything else, including the emotional/intellectual needs. Studies have shown caregiver stress is higher and depression more likely and longer afterward their period of caregiving.
Danny: would your suffering have been as extreme if free will wasn't involved? If you had realized that death is inevitable so why worry?
Kate: if I knew she'd die but wouldn't accept death as a solution.
Danny: if we take it completely out of our hands, might we suffer less?
Kate: I would say no.
Siva: if one has done all one can do what purpose does suffering serve?
Nick: we suffer or we don't!
Siva: acceptance means I can't blame myself for whatever happens. If I'm doing what I can what happens thereafter can't be suffering. There's no question empathy is better when experience is shared. What is key is the way we think about it. There's a difference between kinds of loss/suffering as well.
Bob: each circumstance of suffering is different. The idea of empathy, in a grief support group one has people who have experienced equal and even worse trouble.
Eric: I'm getting the idea that there's a certain shared experience angle. Suffering has for me sometimes been a source of learning. As Kate was describing it I wondered why she wasn't breaking down in the telling!
Kate: I've told the story so many time and lots of time has gone by since then.
Eric: people often feel a need to be stoic.
Bob: everybody does this in their own way.
Eric: there's sometimes a wall of stoicism, or "don't bother me with your problems."
Beth: people grieving stoically might mean they don't want to talk about it right now. Maybe one needs distraction(s) for a while.
Jamie: we stop suffering i when we die. Empathy might not be as likely if one is born with a malady vs. acquiring it later. If one knows there will be an end to suffering it's easier, one suffers less. Diagnosis helps even if it doesn't change experience.
Mike: our consensus seems to be empathy is good. I grew up in religious schools always talking about empathy (to a fault). Is empathy being taught today?
Kate: probably. but it still recommends that cognitive empathy.
Bob: I wonder if the better one's life is materially makes one less empathetic? Difficult circumstances might make us more empathetic. As we live better (materially) we become less empathetic, perhaps.
Mike: gated communities! All the world's problems walled away.
Danny: since we're taught what empathy is, this makes suffering dependent on what we're taught.
Art: is there a relationship between empathy and entitlement? Between what people expect and what they get?
A How-To List for Dysfunctional Living and Non-Critical thinking:
1. Surround yourself with people who think like you.
2. Don’t question your relationships. You then can avoid dealing with problems within them.
4. If critiqued by a friend or lover, look sad and dejected and say, “I thought you were my friend!” or “I thought you loved me!”
5. When you do something unreasonable, always be ready with an excuse.
6. Focus on the negative side of life.
7. Blame others for your mistakes.
8. Verbally attack those who criticize you. Then you don’t have to bother listening to what they say.
9. Go along with the groups you are in. Then you won’t have to figure out anything for yourself.
10. Act out when you don’t get what you want. If questioned, look indignant.
11. Focus on getting what you want. If questioned, say, “If I don’t look out for number one, who will?”