Table of Contents
- No Empathy
- What IS Empathy?
- Teaching Empathy to Children
- BUT, HOLD ON A SEC! Not everyone can be taught empathy.
- The Differences Between Sympathy and Empathy
- Closely associated with Sympathy is sentimentality
- Melodrama as Entertainment and Practical Application
- Melodrama in today’s GOP
- Final Warning
Ted Bundy got a tough rap. Of course, by all accounts and given the outcome of his trial and his final execution, he got what he deserved. So did Bernie Madoff, one of my greatest heroes and the biggest con man of all time. What both Bundy and Madoff lacked was a capacity for empathy. But as psychopaths or sociopaths, they never really had a choice.
In Bundy’s case if you’re going to abduct, bite, rape, murder then eat parts young women who have a certain fetching appeal, then if you come back and skull fuck them after they are dead and maybe take home their heads and put them in your freezer for a nice summertime break when hunting has been slow, it’s probably best not to be able to feel much about or towards them beyond their functionality as object for fun and games.
Bernie Madoff always claimed, rightfully so, that in the decisions of his Ponzi scheme victims there was always a bit of greed. “I told them not to give me ALL their money,” he said in defense of himself. “But when they did, you took it,” his interrogator said back and Bernie shot back, “Yeah, see, greed.” Bernie also exclaimed that his investors were ingrates, “This guy invested $500K with me 10 years ago and I made him $16 million and now the asshole wants his money!” The interrogator: “But you didn’t make him anything, you took his $500K and just spent it.” Bernie, “Yeah but he doesn’t' know that” It’s hard to imagine Bernie feeling much empathy in these exchanges.
What IS Empathy?
Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another person. It is a complex and multifaceted phenomenon that involves both cognitive and emotional processes. Empathy plays a vital role in human social interactions, as it helps us to connect with others, cooperate, and resolve conflicts. Yet there are some tricky aspects to empathy including the truth that not everyone can feel it.
There is no definitive answer to how much of empathy is learned and how much is innate, as different aspects of empathy may have different origins and developmental trajectories. However, based on the current scientific research, there are some points to consider.
Empathy is partly innate and partly learned. We are all born with varying amounts of empathy, depending on our genetic makeup, brain structure, and personality traits. However, we can also learn to become more empathic through our experiences, education, and socialization. Empathy can be enhanced or diminished by various factors, such as parenting style, culture, trauma, mental health, and neurological disorders.
Empathy involves both emotion sharing and executive control. Emotion sharing is the unconscious process of mimicking the facial expressions, vocalizations, postures, and movements of others, as well as feeling what they feel. Executive control is the conscious process of regulating and modulating our emotional responses, as well as understanding the perspective and intentions of others. Emotion sharing is more innate and automatic, while executive control is more learned and deliberate.
Empathy develops over time. Children are perfect candidates for learning empathy, as their brains are still developing and they are exposed to various social situations. Empathy can be taught through explicit instruction, role modeling, feedback, and practice. Empathy can also change throughout adulthood, depending on life events, relationships, and personal growth.
Empathy is not a fixed trait. Empathy is not something that we have or don’t have; it is something that we do or don’t do. Empathy is a skill that can be improved or neglected, depending on our motivation, effort, and context. Empathy can also vary depending on the target of our empathy; we tend to be more empathic towards people who are similar to us, who are in need, or who are part of our in-group.
So we can look at empathy as a dynamic and multifaceted phenomenon that involves both innate and learned components. It is influenced by various biological, psychological, and social factors that shape our ability to understand and share the feelings of others. Empathy is not only a human quality; it is also a human responsibility that requires constant practice and reflection.
Teaching Empathy to Children
Several methods can be used to foster empathy in our children, coworkers and anyone else who we come across in our lives. Based on relevant psychological research ways in which we can foster empathy in ourselves and others are by putting on new glasses, turn on the receptors, learn from stories and films, broaden the range of our experiences, role-play, see similarities, and perform random acts of kindness.
Putting on new glasses refers to not making snap judgments and instead considering the factors of a situation that may have contributed to that person’s behavior, mood, difficulty in communication, seeming unfriendliness and other frustrations that would have previously led to snap judgments. Turning on the receptors is actively practicing compassion through active listening to those closest to us as well as to those who are distressed that we rarely talk with in our daily lives. Active listening leads to a better understanding of that person. Stories and films help to foster empathy by putting a human face on social problems and providing a helpful channel of communication between people regarding those problems. By transporting us into the experience of specific individuals, families, and groups of people, films help to foster empathy. Broadening the range of our experiences by volunteering and participating in social service programs, we are forced to confront the barriers we have built and as a result become more open to understanding the situations faced by others whom we might not have previously interacted with or known of. Assuming the role of people closest to us by walking in their shoes for a brief time helps to foster mutual understanding. Seeing similarities between each other as all being members of the human race with the shared vulnerability to suffering, weakness and death fosters compassion towards others through a sense of fellowship. Performing random acts of kindness leads to compassion due to our actions shaping our attitudes.
In addition, for children in particular, ways in which to foster empathy are to be a responsive, nurturing parent; build the child’s emotional vocabulary so they are better able to communicate and understand other people’s concerns and needs; let children know how you feel and your personal reactions to others; explain the reasons for rules and the impact that hurting and helping has on others; provide hands-on experiences; introduce cooperative learning; and encourage a compassionate self-image. Through these methods, empathy can be fostered in children.
Empathy is a desirable skill to teach because it boosts physical and psychological wellbeing. In addition, by shifting our attention to others, empathy and compassion keep us from becoming too preoccupied with the self and enables us to live life with greater purpose and freedom.
BUT, HOLD ON A SEC! Not everyone can be taught empathy.
Psychopaths are people who have a personality disorder characterized by manipulative behavior, a lack of empathy, fear and remorse. They are often portrayed as cold-hearted and ruthless, but some research suggests that they can fake these emotions better than the average person.
One possible explanation is that psychopaths have a different type of empathy than most people. They use empathy tricks. Empathy can be divided into two components: affective empathy and cognitive empathy. Affective empathy is the ability to share and feel the emotions of others, while cognitive empathy is the ability to understand and predict the mental states of others. Psychopaths may have low affective empathy, meaning they do not feel what others feel, but they may have high cognitive empathy, meaning they can read and manipulate others’ minds.
Another possible explanation is that psychopaths have learned to mimic emotions through observation and practice. Psychopaths may study the facial expressions, body language, and vocal tones of others, and use them to their advantage in social situations. They may also use emotional language and stories to appear more sincere and trustworthy. Psychopaths may be motivated to fake emotions because they want to achieve their goals, avoid punishment, or enjoy the pain of others.
In summary, psychopaths can fake empathy by using their cognitive skills and their social learning. They can switch on and off their empathy depending on the context and the target. However, this does not mean that they truly feel or care about others; it is just a strategy to get what they want or avoid what they fear.
The Differences Between Sympathy and Empathy
Sympathy and empathy are two words that are often confused or used interchangeably, but they have different meanings and implications.
Sympathy is a feeling of pity or sorrow for someone else’s misfortune. It means that you acknowledge and feel sorry for their suffering, but you do not necessarily share or understand their feelings. For example, you might say “I’m sorry for your loss” to someone who has lost a loved one, but you do not know how they feel exactly.
Empathy is a sense that you can understand and share the feelings of another. It means that you put yourself in their shoes and imagine what it is like to be in their situation. For example, you might say “I know how you feel” to someone who has lost a loved one, because you have experienced a similar loss yourself or you can imagine how they feel.
Sympathy and empathy are both important for building relationships and showing compassion, but empathy is generally considered more helpful and supportive than sympathy. Empathy can create a deeper connection and understanding between people, while sympathy can sometimes make people feel alienated or pitied. However, sympathy can also be sincere and warm, especially if empathy is not possible or appropriate.
Closely associated with Sympathy is sentimentality
Sentimentality is a term that describes an excessive or exaggerated expression of emotions, especially those that are related to nostalgia, pity, or love. It is different from other feelings because it is often not based on reality, but on idealized or distorted views of the past or the present. Sentimentality can also be seen as a form of manipulation or insincerity, as it tries to evoke emotions in others that may not be genuine or appropriate.
Some examples of sentimentality are:
- A movie that uses clichéd scenes, music, and dialogue to make the audience cry or laugh.
- A speech that appeals to the emotions of the listeners, rather than to their reason or logic.
- A gift that is meant to remind the recipient of a shared memory or experience, but that has no practical value or use.
Sentimentality is not always bad, however. It can also be a way of expressing affection, gratitude, or appreciation for someone or something. It can also be a source of comfort or joy for people who are going through difficult times. The key is to balance sentimentality with honesty and realism, and to avoid letting it interfere with rational decision-making or critical thinking.
Melodrama as Entertainment and Practical Application
Oh, the beauties of melodrama are endless! Who doesn’t love a good story full of exaggerated emotions, sensational conflicts, and stereotypical characters? There are some good reasons why melodrama is such a wonderful genre.
Melodrama makes you feel things. Lots of things. Whether it’s pity, anger, fear, or joy, you can be sure that a melodrama will tug at your heartstrings and make you cry or laugh out loud. You don’t need to worry about subtlety or nuance, because melodrama is all about being loud and clear.
Melodrama is easy to follow. You don’t need to think too hard or pay attention to details, because melodrama is all about the big picture. You can easily tell who is the hero and who is the villain, who is in love and who is in trouble, and what is going to happen next. You can just sit back and enjoy the ride.
Melodrama is entertaining. You never know what kind of twists and turns a melodrama will throw at you. Maybe the hero will discover that he has a long-lost twin brother who is also his enemy. Maybe the heroine will fake her own death to escape from her abusive husband. Maybe the villain will turn out to be the hero’s father. The possibilities are endless!
Melodrama is educational. You can learn a lot from watching or reading a melodrama. You can learn about history, culture, morality, and human nature. You can also learn some valuable life lessons, such as: never trust a stranger, always follow your heart, and don’t mess with karma.
As you can see, melodrama is a genre that has it all: drama, romance, action, suspense, and comedy. It is a genre that appeals to everyone, regardless of age, gender, or taste. It is a genre that has been around for centuries and will never go out of style. It is a genre that deserves our respect and admiration.
Melodrama in today’s GOP
Some people might suggest that the present-day GOP is just one big melodrama because of the actions and statements of some of its members, such as Matt Gaetz, MTJ, Lauren Boebert and Jim Jordan.
Matt Gaetz is a Republican congressman from Florida who is filled with melodrama starting with a federal investigation for allegedly having sex with a minor and paying for sex with women. He has denied the allegations and claimed that he is the victim of an extortion plot. He has also been a vocal supporter of former president Donald Trump and his false claims of election fraud. He has been involved in several controversies, such as wearing a gas mask on the House floor to mock the coronavirus pandemic, storming a secure room during an impeachment inquiry, and traveling to Wyoming to campaign against fellow Republican Liz Cheney.
MTJ is a Republican congresswoman from Georgia who is also known as Marjorie Taylor Greene. She is a conspiracy theorist who has expressed support for QAnon, a baseless movement claiming Trump fights a secret war against a cabal of satanic pedophiles. She has also endorsed violence against Democrats, suggested that school shootings and 9/11 were staged, and made racist, antisemitic, and Islamophobic comments. She has been stripped of her committee assignments by the House and censured by some of her colleagues.
Lauren Boebert is a Republican congresswoman from Colorado whose melodrama begins as a gun rights activist and a business owner. She has also embraced QAnon and other conspiracy theories, such as claiming that the 2020 election was rigged and that COVID-19 was created in a Chinese lab. She has defied the Capitol’s metal detectors and security protocols, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's location during the January 6 insurrection, and accused Democrats of being terrorists.
Jim Jordan, a melodramatic Republican congressman from Ohio, helped found the House Freedom Caucus, a group of conservative hardliners who often clash with the party leadership. He is also a staunch ally of Trump and a fierce critic of his opponents. He has been accused of ignoring sexual abuse allegations when he was a wrestling coach at Ohio State University, which he has denied. He has also been known for his aggressive and confrontational style during congressional hearings, often interrupting and shouting at witnesses.
These are some examples of how these four Republicans have contributed to the perception that the GOP is just one big melodrama. Some people might think that these fucking idiots are more interested in creating drama and controversy than in governing and solving problems. They might also think that they are undermining the credibility and unity of their party by spreading lies and misinformation, attacking their colleagues, and inciting violence. They might also wonder how they represent the values and interests of their constituents and the American people.
Humph?! The audacity of these cynical realists!
Just to be clear neither Ted Bundy nor Bernie Madoff is going to be on the 2024 national election ballots—they're both indisposed by being dead.
But knowing the players in our coming electoral cluster-fuck of a melodramatic election is important and thus I offer the very limited list of usual suspects above. There are many more little darling possibilities for the MAGA, cross-burning, homophobic and misogynistic GOP voter to choose from.
An important clue in your selection, however, should be finding a candidate without a shred of empathy, neither learned nor natural. Also, your candidate should show great sentimental attachment to Criminal Gang Kingpin, former POTUS Donald “Dumbshit” J. Trump. Indeed, Trump starred in his very own melodrama for years on TV, The Apprentice, where Trump pretended to be a successful businessman so that he could fire people every week, a psychopaths dream job.
With a bit of luck you MAGA true believers will be able to elect your boy so that he can serve as POTUS from his prison cell. Find me a better melodrama than that!
Empathy, who needs it?