I am overly empathetic – even my dad remarked that I am “the sensitive one”. I have a heightened sense of empathy, and I’m not very thrilled about that. Empathy allows me to feel, no, experience, others’ suffering and pain more easily, and I’m not too keen on that. I don’t feel the need to post about all the details of what goes on with Mom and Dad, but I will say that watching my dad’s stubbornness compromise the care of my mom is really, really difficult.
Studies have shown that people who have more empathy have more white matter in certain areas (plural?) of the brain. The question is whether that is something that can be developed, or something that is lost when head injuries, or even dementia is experienced. I find this all pretty interesting, since most papers compare this to the “rational response” of the brain as opposed to this “emotional response”. Why so interesting? Well, because I have a PhD in a technical (STEM) field, so I am this weird mix of rational and emotional it seems.
I am a university professor, for over two decades now. Long ago I made the choice to not be one of those professors that stands around the water cooler complaining about their students, and chose instead to understand where they are in their development (both in the subject matter and in life), and work with that. So maybe I’ve done myself in by practicing empathy all these years too….
The question of whether or not we lose empathy as we age is an interesting one. When I’m able to talk with my mother, she is still concerned about me – about the house, the finances, the dog ( ❤ ). My dad, well, it appears that there is not an ounce of empathy in him, which seems to worsen as he ages. I know that dementia robs people of who they are, but, in a sense, they seem to become more of who they are at their core.
For me, empathy really sucks. I worry a lot. I worry about the tragedy of the life they are stuck in and the feelings that come with that. The rational part of me worries about the finances, as well as this detail and that detail. But when it comes down to it, it’s the empathetic side that’s the most difficult to deal with. Empathy sucks.