Reactions to Suffering
Suffering, we can’t avoid it,
no matter how hard we try.
Between the poor, homeless and sick,
suffering is all around us.
We like to think we take it in stride,
but how do we really react to it?
If you saw an older man shivering on a curb,
with only a thin blanket and old clothing,
you’d most likely feel bad,
but you’d keep walking.
We all feel the pain of seeing this older gentleman
look as though he might not make the night,
but seldom stop and do anything.
Our reactions are what make us who we are,
both individually and as a species.
Naturally, mankind is sympathetic to the pain and suffering of others.
Psychologist Edward Tichener translated the German word “Einfühlung”
meaning “feeling into” into English in 1909,
turning into the word most of us know today as “Empathy”.
However, feeling bad for somebody is not empathy,
despite what most people think.
The feeling we get are instead a mixture of other emotions.
What’s the breakdown of some of these emotions?
Pity is often distress, discomfort, and overall sadness,
when witnessing someone else’s misery.
If you were to see someone yelling at their significant other,
you will most likely feel sad for them,
and look on for a few seconds before moving on.
Pity is the acknowledgement of another’s pain
and that you feel bad for them,
but pity does not go beyond this.
Likebait is another example of pity,
or someone online post a photo
or video to make their viewers feel bad
and at the end says:
“Like, repost, reblog, retweet, share
请点赞 转发 转载 转发推特并分享”
if you understand x’s pain and want to help.”
Of course, a like won’t help their suffering,
it’s just helping the poster
by giving them likes on something they posted.
Sympathy is the physical display of pity,
and hoping that the person will be relieved of that pain or suffering.
It is caring about the wellbeing of somebody
without personally knowing the struggle.
You try to understand by putting yourself in their shoes.
Empathy is both caring
and personally knowing the struggle the other person is going through.
Remember: personally knowing is not always paired with caring,
which means it’s not true empathy.
This is evident in psychopaths.
You have to have personal experience and care in order to empathize.
Compassion is either empathy
or sympathy paired with a desire to relieve that person of their pain.
With compassion, you actively seek a solution.
You do something with your sympathy or empathy
rather than just walking away.
It must be noted that altruism is very different from
共情 同感 怜惜以及怜悯是两码事
empathy, sympathy, pity and compassion.
When someone acts altruistically,
they are acting on the basis that it is the right thing to do,
not because they feel bad.
Altruism can be detached and emotionless,
as it is not buried in personal emotions,
only in doing the perceived right thing.
One way that altruism can backfire is being ignorant of pain,
not understanding the problem,
but trying to fix it anyway.
A good example of this is
replacing a child’s old broken toy that holds memories,
because you believe it is the right thing to do.
However, by replacing this toy,
you are tossing out all the memories they have attached to that toy.
So if you were to see that same old man shivering,
what would your reaction be?
Would you give him another blanket out of altruism,
or out of compassion?
Write your answers below,
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