Thursday, March 26, 2015

WORD OF THE DAY! 3/26/15!

awkward [awk-werd]
1. Lacking skill, dexterity, grace, and/or ease of movement.
2. Not well designed or effective to use.
3. Difficult or requiring tact.
4. Embarrassed or inconvenient.

1. Literally translated from German to "vicarious (or empathetic) embarrassment). The opposite of schadenfreude: the very uncomfortable sympathetic feeling experienced when you watch someone else embarrassing themselves. It is often intensified if the person is oblivious to how embarrassing their behavior is. The feeling is like being embarrassed on their behalf but intensified.

easily empathetically embarrassed / EEE
1. A person who suffers from intense vicarious embarrassment to the point of intense anxiety. Sufferers of this syndrome usually score higher on tests meant to measure empathy which makes sense since sufferers often find it difficult to experience the embarrassment or suffering of others, such as watching someone get fired or fall off a bike.

pain empathy
1. A specific subgroup of empathy related to recognizing and understanding another person's pain.

mirror-touch synesthesia
1. A developmental condition related to pain empathy, but also experienced by sufferers of phantom limb syndrome, that causes individuals to experience the same sensation, such as touch or temperature or pain, that another person feels.
EX. This blog article might get a little personal but screw it. I gotta live dangerously sometimes. Here goes something awkward:

I have never had trouble with sympathy or empathy. I may have trouble picking up on subtle clues when they directed at me (such as romantic interest or joking) but when it comes to recognizing the physical or emotional suffering of others I have always had a knack for it. An intense knack. An intense knack that has caused me a great deal of stress and anxiety.

In fact, I have reoccurring pangs of concern at the moment for the drivers of a truck I saw on vacation who had their luggage fall out the back their car. I can't help but worry that they lose something precious like money or a favorite shirt. Isn't that ridiculous?

Another example? I do not really take pleasure in watching real people hurt themselves or suffer. And most people would say they don't. But I know lots of people that enjoy watching clip shows of people crashing their vehicles or being arrested or going crazy. I can't watch Cops or World's Dumbest without growing extremely irritated. I can't even watch many medical documentary shows on Discovery Life that depict people going to the ER with horrendous injuries. They make me uncomfortable to the point of cringing or worse. I can't even watch some films without fast-forwarding past scenes where a good character suffers and is embarrassed, like Gaylord Focker in Meet the Family.

My empathy is so intense that I often feel physical pain in my legs at the sight of someone else in pain. I dunno if that is just intense pain empathy or if I have mirror-touch synesthesia or if I'm just being a hypochondriac. And that's weird. And my anxiety makes me stressed out and it makes certain sorts of interaction difficult: I get nervous when ordering food at a restaurant or in a check lane, I avoid eye contact with strangers, and I compulsively commit all sorts of behaviors to avoid these intense feelings of embarrassment myself or through others via fremdscham.

I think I am easily empathetically embarrassed. But I'm gonna explain the upside of that.

Journal on relation between experiencing fremdscham and empathy.

The upside is that, in the study above, people that experience extreme vicarious embarrassment often score higher on tests designed to measure empathy. And empathy, in my opinion, is one of the most underrated and under-cultivated qualities in the world.

Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feeling of others. We use empathy to better relate to other people. Those with low levels of empathy have difficulties relating to others, especially people who have very different experiences or backgrounds, and often those with low levels of empathy create friction by accident or on purpose. Empathy allows you to put yourself in someone else's shoes. Those without empathy may not be able to things from another perspective and/or appreciate/respect others. A lack of empathy is symptomatic of social disorders that make it difficult for people to interact with the world, like autism, or much word, those who commit sociopathic behavior are shown to have little empathy. And that makes sense: if you can't relate to someone else's suffering, it would make it easier to hurt them.

I believe I have intense empathy; I recognize that everyone else is a person like me but dealing with their own problems that I probably don't understand, especially strangers. (And I apologize if I get preachy or if I sound like I'm boasting.)

Even as a kid I remember that my empathy helped me rise to my proudest moments: standing up for others. I was bullied when I was a little kid, maybe because I was small or weird or talkative or sensitive, and that was a weight I carried for a while. This helped me grow because, when I got older and saw others suffering the way I had suffered, I took it upon myself to step in. Whether it was to offer the victim someone to talk to or getting an adult or actually stepping in myself. Nothing raised my ire like a bully and nothing bolsters my courage like an opportunity to stand up for someone else when they need it.

SONDER: The realization that everyone has a story.

As I've gotten older, I've cultivated my empathy into trying to be more understanding and diplomatic when it comes to dealing with people.

I try to be considerate and considerate of others. I believe the world turns on good deeds, even small deeds. Even small deeds like getting someone a meaningful gift or calling them when you miss them or clearing your place at a cafeteria or holding a door for someone or saying "good morning" to someone can turn someone's day around while a small act of cruelty can be the straw that breaks the camels back. And that doesn't just apply to people you want to help. It applies to people you want to hurt-- when someone is being rude or inconsiderate, like cutting me off in traffic or giving me an attitude, I almost always try to give them the benefit of the doubt. I recognize that I'm not the center of the universe and I don't know what this person is going through. We look for an external source to blame for our problems but, the truth is, we should probably look inward first. This doesn't mean we should necessarily let things get too far but mercy and patience are virtues.

I guess I would say try to understand others. I'll leave you with more example of where I see cruelty in real life but especially the internet: the judgement, harassment, and mockery of the overweight.

I have heard people make fun of overweight people, especially strangers, within earshot or judge their eating habits. I assume these people assume that they are overweight because they are lazy or stupid. Not every overweight person is lazy and/or stupid. In fact, being overweight isn't really an indicator of either. Being overweight can be an indicator of stress, genetics, hormone or glandular problems, or the fact the person likes being overweight (and I realize that's weird). I'm not saying being unhealthy is okay. I wouldn't advocate that. But people are overweight for a lot of reasons and often, I feel, people are not overweight or have lost weight, believe that overweight people just aren't trying hard enough. But the truth is that they might have other concerns in their lives that take precedence over their BMI like their children, their spouse, their job, their other health problems, mental health concerns, etc.

I guess what I'm saying is that, if you want my philosophy in simplest terms, "don't be an asshole".

Thank you. Peace.

P.S. I am not super empathetic. I still can be pretty oblivious at times. So be kind. Please and thank you again.
For more feels and bloviating check out my article on Neutral Good alignment.

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