I am frugal with my feelings at best; stingy with my sympathy and definitely a firm believer in tough love. I don’t melt at the sight of babies and I do not think Romeo and Juliet were star-crossed lovers. In fact I think if the stupid bastard had made a damn decision in the first place and stuck with it without resorting to the 16 Century equivalent of throwing his toys out the pram, the whole story would have been nothing more than kids in the playground! Wouldn’t have sold so many copies mind…
However, despite the fact I have a highly developed idea of what requires my sympathetic input and what is merely a cry for attention that will inevitably only result in my contempt, I seem to have an over-developed sense of empathy. For those of you that aren’t aware, it goes as follows:
Sympathy – what you feel for someone who is less fortunate than you as an outsider. To feel bad for, or in some cases; pity.
Empathy – what you feel for someone who is experiencing a (usually bad) feeling/situation and identifying with their pain. To consciously or unconsciously take on the pain of others.
Before we go any further, I am by no means describing myself as an empath. I am not something out of a science fiction novel or a fantasy land. I just seem to have a highly developed and incredibly annoying habit of looking at all sides of things and feeling anguish for the person who comes out on the bottom. I actually find books with miserable parts in painful to read and they’re fictional characters for goodness sake!
Take ‘Harry Potter’ for example [spoilers]. After seven years of following their exploits and growing with them as they overcome physical and emotional challenges, the final battle ensues. When Voldemort is dead and the Deatheaters at least subdued for the time, the book skips to 19 years in the future when Harry, Ginny, Ron and Hermione are grown up with families of their own. Now I adore an ending like that, which wraps up the characters and brings them through, perhaps not unscathed but definitely alive. And yet here was I almost in tears wondering how George was, whether he had been able to survive without Fred and what had happened to Weasley’s Wizarding Wheezes. I adored that series but I could not re-read it again for over a year until I had come to terms with the fact Fred would die and George would be left alone. I felt physically sick!
I have found this particular phenomenon also occurring in day to day life, mostly when I could really do without it. Such as trying to be angry at someone who has done something incredibly shitty to me, only to find myself not wanting to exact revenge or payback because of how miserable it would make them feel. I’m sure I never used to be like this, did I?
Good God, this is not what I need to expect along with the rest of the aging process is it? If so, I refuse and will stop this moment!
I am all for understanding both sides of an argument and taking a balanced view of things but when the balance I take tend to sway in the favour of anyone who is not me, no matter who they are and what they have done, I start to feel that things are going a little far. Selfish has somehow become a dirty word and I shouldn’t need to feel guilt for putting myself first, no matter that someone else may feel bad when I am protecting my own interests first for a change.
So why do I feel so bad about considering doing it? In the words of Jim Carey; I hold myself in contempt!