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Does having your own difficulties make you more or less compassionate?

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Biblioklept
Biblioklept Community member Posts: 4,948 Disability Gamechanger

Do you ever compare your issues to other peoples and do you find yourself to be empathetic?

Sometimes it seems that people get dismissed as their problems aren't "as bad" as what others are facing and I just wondered if anyone finds that the worse things are going for you, the less sympathy or empathy you can feel or express for people going through 'lesser' problems?

I'm a hugely empathetic person and feel strongly for people, probably more than is healthy 😅

But there seems to be an internalised heirachy of issues that I didn't get the list for and I don't really know what people use to compare or judge whether a problem is "worth" talking about??

Comments

  • OverlyAnxious
    OverlyAnxious Community member Posts: 2,781 Disability Gamechanger
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    I'm too empathetic as well. It's almost like I 'feel' everything that other people talk/write about in my own body. And sadly that means I have to shut them off or stop reading as I can't tolerate the intensity of those feelings. (Which is the fundamental issue underlying most of my other issues.) Makes me seem like a selfish, heartless person, but it's the opposite of that in reality. I also have to remove all 'emotion' from any decision making, which again gives other people the wrong impression.

    I don't think I ever think 'theirs isn't as bad as mine' though. I try to see things from their perspective and understand the impact it has on their life, rather than just comparing to my own situation.

  • 66Mustang
    66Mustang Community member Posts: 14,952 Disability Gamechanger
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    I find I’m really compassionate when I think decent people are dealt an unlucky hand in life

    When I see people who were lucky go and waste what they got by self-inflicting problems, I often have much less sympathy

    Rightly or wrongly I also have much more empathy for those who don’t demand sympathy … I often find I like to support the “underdog” in general life so maybe it’s part of that??

    I agree about the hierarchy and I didn’t seem to get given a copy either 😆

    If someone brings up well known problems like “the C word” they get automatic empathy, but people who have struggled quietly all through their entire life get brushed aside

    I often find if an issue is invisible people often question it and require justification as well

  • Andi66
    Andi66 Community member Posts: 146 Pioneering
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    Having Autism and physical health problems, I am empathetic but I find others aren't. Recently I needed space just for me to be by myself. I'm in pain constantly and my family are going through stuff. My friend was angry, accused me of snubbing her, because I didn't answer her message straight away. I always been there for her, and listen to her. But not the other way round., she was vile in her messages which upset me. So we no longer friend s

  • woodbine
    woodbine Community member Posts: 12,093 Disability Gamechanger
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    I have a stock answer when asked how I am "could be better could be worse", we have a friend who talks about her "illnesses" all the time and if I'm honest I find that mind numbing boring, so my answer is yes and no to the question.

    2024 Election won

  • Maurice123
    Maurice123 Community member Posts: 109 Pioneering
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    I feel quite guilty in contributing to this conversation as I have only lost some of my right leg. Others seem to be considerably worse off than me. I am reminded all the time of how important an ablebodied person can be in our lives as I am the only wheelchair user in my local pub. The other customers have been so friendly and I have frequent offers of help in reaching the bar. I hope and feel that I am empathetic and am treated well in return. Sometimes I think that some disabled persons let themselves down by being overly independent and not respecting offers of help when they are offered. As a result many persons in a position to do so are reluctant to help.

  • figraspberry41
    figraspberry41 Scope Member Posts: 19 Connected
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    As a young child I was told "not to stare" at other people with visible disabilities whether that be obvious physical or a person that 'appeared different'. Growing up I like to think that I accepted people despite their physical appearance or 'strange behaviour'. As a nurse, I became aware of other people's attitudes towards people who 'appeared different or behaved' differently.

    Many people 'show' sympathy for another person but do not always have true empathy because it is not always easy (or possible) to really put yourself into another person's disability. It is more difficult, I think, to empathise with another person because it is not possible to really understand the disability physical or otherwise, since we cannot always understand the other person's feelings or perspective of how their condition affects them.

    With hidden disabilities it can be even more difficult to show sympathy or empathise with that individual because their disability is not easily recognisable or even understood. Whilst there is a lot more knowledge around the hidden disabilities there does seem to be a lack of 'true' understanding on how these conditions affect that person and therefore they find it more difficult to communicate with them, often coming across as patronising which can be very 'hurtful' to the other person.

    It is more difficult to manage situations when you receive a diagnosis that you have lived unknowingly with hidden disabilities for your whole life but had not had the condition noted or diagnosed earlier.

    My experiences both as a nurse and as an individual who discovered my 'hidden disabilities' later in life has illustrated how others view people with physical disabilities with apparent more sympathy and empathy than those with hidden disabilities in general. It is easier to have sympathy for an individual with a physical deficit rather than acknowledge an individual with hidden disability.

  • Jimm_Scope
    Jimm_Scope Posts: 3,560 Disability Gamechanger
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    I like to think I have a good amount of empathy! I certainly do get it wrong sometimes and mess up some situations. You can be as empathetic as possible, but your own experiences and situation still ground your own thoughts to an extent.

    I agree with others that I think it's very hard for a non-disabled person to empathise with a disabled person. I think, as smart as we can be, humans aren't very good at imagining "forever". To most people, the closest they get to experiencing being disabled is being ill. That however is very often just temporary and so it's assumed temporary until it isn't. Knowing you have a condition forever is a very different weight to carry. At least that's my thoughts on why it can be hard for non-disabled people to fully understand what it is like to be disabled.

    I also agree that many times it can feel like there is a "hierarchy" of some kind. It is in some way true, that some conditions are more disabling than others, but that should never be used to invalidate the way someone is feeling. So I think I understand the concern about not knowing what is "worth" talking about @Biblioklept, at least I can get the worry of "My problems aren't as bad as Xs so I shouldn't talk about them" myself. I just have to remind myself when those thoughts arise that all problems are worth opening up about and talking about. I think it is timing that is the one issue left there (at least for me), if someone is talking about their issues I will try to relate with my own issues if there is some connection, but I will not try to go on about my own problems until I am sure they are done talking about their own. At least, that's what I intend, sometimes it doesn't always end up that way if I end up rambling on some tangential thought. It is something I have to keep in mind.

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  • figraspberry41
    figraspberry41 Scope Member Posts: 19 Connected
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    Recently I have had to walk with the aid of a walking stick, since then I have noticed that people (whilst out and about) will walk aside or wait for me to pass, which is kind and courteous (also appreciated by me for not having to lean on my stick whilst the other person passes me!) In general, it seems that most people try to acknowledge those with obvious signs of a disability and react accordingly. That said, equally, sometimes people show their annoyance that a disabled person is obstructing their path and will be more aggressive with their actions.

    In contrast, I have just returned from a trip where I had pre-booked (via telephone, since my disabilities make other modes of communication more challenging for me), a Passenger Assistance. This proved to be well worth that initial effort. It is helpful to know that this 'help' exists and for my first time using the service was suitably impressed.

    On the topic of how others appear to want to be your "friend" whilst they share their problems with you but fail to appreciate that you also may require personal space and might not wish to "share" some things with them I have also experienced this. Not only witnessing how some people treat their 'friends' but also how they seem to assume that their 'friend' is there to be there to solve or at least listen to their problems but then choose to ignore the other person's need to be listened to. When people behave in this manner it can be difficult to show sympathy or empathy towards that individual. However, I try to be sympathetic and where I have perhaps some personal experience of the other person's problem will endeavour to listen empathetically and respond appropriately. Agreed this can be difficult to get 'right' at times but at least the effort is being made with the best of intensions to support the person in need.

  • Andi66
    Andi66 Community member Posts: 146 Pioneering
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    Yes, that's what happened to me .

    I listen to their problems but other way round I get nothing. When I needed space, I just get verbal abuse. I'm having counselling at the moment and she didn't like that.as I put my meeting her back by an hour.

  • figraspberry41
    figraspberry41 Scope Member Posts: 19 Connected
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    Unfortunately, this is quite often the response from either a person without disabilities or a person with disabilities that is unable or unwilling to understand a disabled person and particularly if the individual has "hidden disabilities". I have witnessed how a person will be more sympathetic towards another person who has obvious physical disabilities but is somehow ignorant towards an individual with 'hidden disabilities' and assumes that their 'problem' is either of their own making or just a temporary complaint that magically disappears after a while or they expect you just to "deal with it and get on with life!" However, life can be just as devastating for the individual with 'hidden disabilities' as it can be for a physically disabled person.

    I hope that you can find some support from your counselling, it is not an easy thing to deal with and I certainly do not have any answers for you. However, I can empathise with you as I have found myself in a similar situation. Sometimes all you can do is withdraw from the person who is behaving badly and unsympathetically towards you and see how things pan out. A true 'friend' is more likely to come around than an individual who only wants your 'friendship' for their gain - the 'metaphorical' "shoulder to cry on". Giving you both space and time to reflect on the situation enables you to put into perspective the situation and perhaps re-evaluate the 'friendship'.

    I hope this helps.

  • letitbe
    letitbe Community member Posts: 457 Pioneering
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    I’m also massively empathetic and always hate seeing injustice , it really affects me, but if I feel overwhelmed I can lose my temper , this makes me feel shame and guilt .

  • figraspberry41
    figraspberry41 Scope Member Posts: 19 Connected
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    Those feelings of shame and guilt I get too. Despite what people say, it is not always easy to control our emotions / anxiety and these easily present in angry outbursts. Not professional in a workplace arena nor at any time but these responses are in direct response to how we are being treated and just because our conditions do not always enable us to engage 'the brakes' before we sound off should not and does not make those with these conditions less human, infallible nor 'bad individuals'! Often our emotional state is something that we actually have little control over since it quite often stems from a series of hormone / electrical impulses and chemical reactions that as individuals with these conditions would rather not have or rather have better control over. However, since we are unable to 'transplant neuro typical thinking or the physical / chemical imbalances that create these unwanted outbursts it seems unfair that those individuals who suffer with these conditions have to be treated so badly be cause of those who 'dish out' the responses in the first place.

    I have experienced first hand emotional outbursts that have culminated from a barrage of abuse, taunting and 'bullying' in the workplace and have invariably been the individual singled out for my "apparent poor behaviour". What is missed is that had not all the taunting, bullying and poor behaviour from others had not occurred than they would have nothing to complain about! The perpetrator(s) behaves the way they do because often they're are the one's who are insecure and behave like this to draw attention away from their own inadequacies. Unfortunately, those of us who would normally be quite placid have a tendency to erupt when our brains have had enough of the torment. Whilst it doesn't necessarily excuse our own poor behaviour it is a reason for an outburst.

  • SAWILL62
    SAWILL62 Community member Posts: 1 Connected
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    I find it difficult as a severely disabled and sick person, to have empathy for anyone as my own needs are not being met. I have no patience or understanding for people who won’t help themselves and expect everything done for them. Its for me about learning to think about my scarce energies and saving what I need for myself, instead of wasting them on those who have much more than me.

  • figraspberry41
    figraspberry41 Scope Member Posts: 19 Connected
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    I am sorry that you feel the way you do! Life is never easy and with disabilities can become devastating and difficult to cope with. In my professional life I have come across many people such as you describe. Those who are finding their disabilities very hard to accept and come to terms with, which is reflected in their behaviour. By contrast, I have met people who have embraced their disabilities and try to live the best life within the scope of their disability. Feeling 'sorry' for ones' self can be quite destructive; although for most people I would suggest that we all get those feelings of 'why me', 'what have I done to deserve what is happening to me' etc…. at times. It is natural, I think to have those feelings. Regardless, that it is possible to try to have sympathy (or even empathy) for others who turn towards another person to express their feelings whatever they may be. No one decides to be disabled or from birth chooses to have 'hidden disabilities' that affect that individual during their lives but that does not mean that that individual cannot show sympathy (or have some empathy with) another person experiencing the problems that they have.

    Sometimes people work 'hard' to manage their disabilities by 'fighting it', whether that be 'pushing' themselves through pain to achieve a goal or managing their difficulties with support. Encouraging people to do what they can is 'good'. Although, of course it can lead to other people believing that the person can (or should) always do this and that can lead to people assuming that the person can continue doing a task because they proved that they were able to once! People can be fiercely independent, which can also be detrimental because then when they really need 'help' others are reluctant to respond because they assume that the person is being 'lazy', when in fact their disability just will not enable them to do a particular task one day that they may have done (not necessarily with out pain or considerable difficulty) previously.

    Whilst it is very annoying and frustrating to see others with 'more' than yourself does not mean that another person doesn't deserve sympathy (and where appropriate) empathy. It might be 'good' to remember that there will always be people who find themselves with a disability that is almost (for them) hard to 'live with', equally there are others who will try hard to hide their disability and fight to remain independent. Either way, all people should be treated with respect and acknowledge that they might not always be able to do the task that they managed previously as well or at all today.

  • WhatThe
    WhatThe Community member, Scope Member Posts: 1,245 Pioneering
    edited June 7
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    Hi SAWILL and welcome to the Scope community!

    I read your post in this discussion with interest so thank you.

    Less happy to see the above response to your first ever comments (the fifth, long post on this thread, by a former health professional to boot..)

    Such a response doesn't encourage any member to open up and practice using their voice nor feel they've been heard and understood. Empathy is knowing this.

  • Amaya_Ringo
    Amaya_Ringo Community member Posts: 75 Pioneering
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    I don't know how you would categorise it, but I think I'm more aware than some folk about stuff going on. For example, I've blocked people pushing onto a train to let visually impaired folk get off, I've stepped aside for people to get a wheelchair through a crowd…these are small and really unimportant things that everyone should be doing but I've noticed that not many other people do do those things.

    I've also worked in a college environment supporting students with various disabilities, physical and neurodevelopmental, and advocating for them was a big part of my job. But I learned a lot working with a couple of lads with Muscular Dystrophy, and the frustration of having to have me tag along with them when the doors broke - teenage boys who want to be able to go around on their own but can't because the tech isn't working. I got a whole new understanding of what it meant to be in a wheelchair from them - as well as dealing with a progressive condition.

    I'm autistic; I find there's not a lot of real empathy for people on the spectrum. Just a lot of fake news and people assuming things we need/don't need. Not asking, just assuming. So I try very hard to understand and not to assume. Nobody can get this right all the time, but at least I try.

    One thing that does make me frustrated is when people with certain physical disabilities start talking about invisible disability as 'privilege' because we look the same and 'can pass' as non-disabled. I don't think they really understand that from a lived perspective. A lot of people with physical disabilities are neurotypical, and so can understand the world in a neurotypical way (which we can't). I have a whole list of things which are barriers in my life that I have to overcome, and I don't like them being belittled by someone as if disability was a kind of competition and we were scoring points. All disabled people face challenges - I really hate when anyone assumes because you 'look' a certain way, your experiences must be less valid. All the statistics seem to suggest having an invisible disability does not reduce the level of discrimination you experience - sometimes the opposite.

    For example, the shops and their quiet hours. Some shops do that once a week. Sometimes once a month. Imagine if they only put in wheelchair ramps once a week or once a month. Everyone celebrates the quiet hour as progressive, but it's actually very patronising. Why it's harder for shops to turn off music and such all the time than to fit ramps and other accessibility aids is unclear, but seems to stem from the idea that invisibly disabled people don't need help.

    I've also been shunted out of disabled sections on trains to make way for bikes, and I've been directly abused by people because I need to have my case with me (short term memory issues mean that I can leave it behind if it's out of my line of sight). I get so fed up having to argue my case to even be in a disabled seat. If someone with more mobility or physical issues than me gets on, I'm going to move for sure - but it's not usually disabled people trying to make me move.

    …Genuinely had one woman try and make me give up my booked disabled seat once for her to put her bag on it.

  • Maurice123
    Maurice123 Community member Posts: 109 Pioneering
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    The last contributor (Amayo-Ringo) has had many rough experiences judging by the crass woman who thought his seat was more important for her case than his body.However not everybody is like that. I live in a very country area of Devon and all I have found is what appears to me to be genuine sympathy and offers of help. When my disability occurred my local pub gave me a get well card signed by a dozen people. I have recovered though I will always be disabled and I have felt only helpfulness from people who do not need to help me. I have normal conversations with people as if I am Normal?

    I live a long way from council estates and have never had to lock my doors as we do not have jealous trounlemakers here. My sympathy goes out to those who are not so fortunate, particularly those who are forced through circumstances to live in areas where young people without fathers usually decide to terrorise their areas. However empathy sounds hollow to those people so affected.

  • figraspberry41
    figraspberry41 Scope Member Posts: 19 Connected
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    I apologise to the people affected by my previous comment, it was not meant to cause distress or upset anyone. However, I think I have been very much misunderstood. It was not my intention to be seen as 'critical' towards the person's comments who finds it difficult to show sympathy or empathy for others who fail to see how any disability physical, visible or hidden because I happen to be also on the receiving end of other peoples' lack of understanding of disabilities as I too have hidden disabilities.

    Despite having worked in healthcare, I have been subjected (by colleagues) to bullying, intimidation, abuse and a total lack of understanding of how my condition affects me personally. It is also very difficult to want to be sympathetic or empathetic towards people who feel that their disabilities or condition cannot possibly be perceived as bad as their own. This simply isn't true! Each individual experiences their own disability uniquely and whilst some traits or symptoms are the same or similar to another's it does not follow that one individual is worse off than another or deserve less sympathy, empathy or respect than any other individual.

    When I was first diagnosed with my conditions, I was asked at work if I wanted to 'share' my disabilities with my colleagues. Initially, because of a host of reasons but primarily embracement I did not wish to share this with the people that I worked with. Later, after some thought I decided that my colleagues could not 'support' me if they were unaware of my conditions and how it was affecting me at work in particular at the time. Once I had 'shared' this with my colleagues it was amazing how much 'harder' work became, I was isolated from conversations, treated very badly and at one point after I complained about the bullying I had to endure was actually ignored and my so called colleagues didn't speak to me. other than business. I ended up leaving my job not because I was 'bad' at it but because Management failed to support adequately my 'reasonable adjustments' and my individual needs. I have been declined PIP because I am deemed not to adequately fulfil the criterion and because I managed in my job for over forty years! It is a shame that some may believe that I'm not deserving of sympathy or empathy because I do not fill someone's criterion or meet their expectations of what a disabled person should look like or nor have 'Autistic' and Dyslexic stamped on my forehead to warn others that I have a disability. To the person who expressed their view that they find it difficult to show sympathy or empathy towards another person who believes, assumes or presumes that their difficulties must be worse than the individual sharing that view, I do have an understanding of what that also feels like. What I'm trying to say is that we can all try to show some sympathy, empathy (where appropriate) and compassion for any individual who is sharing an experience, a disappointment or a health issue regardless if it is a physical or mental health issue.

  • onedayatatime
    onedayatatime Community member Posts: 127 Pioneering
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    Ive very recently had a big fallout with someone to do with all this. This person has themselves physical medical problems, disabilities but is also very negative, indecisive and continually in a stressed mood. It's everything I have tried not to create for myself but have been the listening ear. Recently it's become more and more about their needs, their problems and to be honest, it's become too draining and stressful for myself to deal with. While trying to be empathetic and helpful, the friendship has shifted from a fun friendship to a stressful one to be around. It came to a head very recently when this person basically accused me of not giving them my help when they needed it at that precise moment. Unfortunately I did not respond well. In my defence, I have tried very hard to manage my own stress dealing with my own circumstances and have simplified my own life to mentally deal with the frustration of my own physical disabilities. It now feels like I am continually dealing with someone else's stress and it feels invasive. While I do have empathy for others disabilities, I do feel that there needs to be mutual boundaries where the friendship is not just about disabilities but about having and finding fun whilst being understanding to each others physical and mental limitations.

  • Maurice123
    Maurice123 Community member Posts: 109 Pioneering
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    I think onedateatatime has a very good disposition to life. Just because somebody is disabled does not give them the right to sneer at everybody else. If they want to retreat into their shell then I would let them wallow in their own self pity. There fortunately are plenty of sympathetic people around who I would rather choose as a friend than continue with a worthless case who think that their disability is the only thing in the world that matters.

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