Releasing the past in order to find myself

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Empathy versus Sympathy

So, I have lots to post about, but am just sorting through it before I write it down. 

Until then, a few notes:

Therapy has been helping (shocker!).  I am making some progress.

She uses a lot of Brene Brown's therapeutic models and I've been reading more and more of her work.  I find it to be very interesting. 

One of the things I came across is this cartoon model of "empathy versus sympathy" and I thought some of you might find it interesting and I wanted to share:

Clearly, my NM and MIL lack empathy.  But this really put it into perspective about what they don't get.  They live in so much shame, that they couldn't even imagine putting themselves into my shoes and trying to understand.  (not that that excuses them).  NM tends to use pity rather than even sympathy.  The pity than gives her the opportunity to feel like she's empathizing, while maintaining her superiority ("oh, that sucks.  I feel SO bad for you." while she thinks "that would never happen to me, as I'm too smart/attractive/rich/whatever for that.)


  1. The video was wonderful, Jessie! I have deep empathy for people and always did, even as a kid. This video helps me understand why I feel "inferior" after narcissists TRY to be empathic and TRY to be sympathetic. There's not just an element of disconnection, as Brene points out in the video---there's also an element of "ha, you're weak and I'm not! BUT I'll listen because I have to."

    Maybe as you've written, narcissists use "pity" instead of real empathy because it allows them to look at that person as an "object." It makes me feel "Looked At", like a bug under a microscope.

    Empathy makes people human, seeing ourselves in others and recognizing our commonality with them, I think.


    1. "ha, you're weak and I'm not! BUT I'll listen because I have to."
      Yes, this sums up my feelings about "sympathy" from a narcissist exactly.

      You've made good points about pity turning people into objects, while empathy brings out our common humanity. I often feel "looked" at too. It's a horrible feeling to feel like a "specimen".

      I'm glad you found the video interesting! Brene has some wonderful videos on the TED talks and on youtube.

  2. "What makes something better, is connection."

    This was really fantastic. Thanks for finding and sharing it with us.