Empathy; Our systemically excluded emotion

Who doesn’t like a cute dog? Phoebe Belle Butze circa 2021

What makes you happy?  Does your happiness come organically or is it something you must cultivate?  Where are the happy people in this world?  Is happiness truly attainable?  If I tried to answer these questions before Jacob got sick, I would answer as follows; I don’t know, not sure, don’t have a clue, no.  I thought I was relatively happy at that point.  I finally felt like my job mattered.  Naomi and I got along better than we have in years and had (still have) a mutual respect.  Jacob was thriving in college.  Ana had a wonderful social network and was seemingly happy.  I was on high dose medications for depression and anxiety.  I took (and still take) those meds plus two for hypertension and cholesterol.  I was not happy.

Since Jacob’s diagnosis and subsequent death, the brief moments of happiness and contentment have been completely converted to sadness, fear, and contempt.  Grief is that inevitable, encompassing emotion.  Moreover, what has taken the place of empathy?  The answer is hatred.  I have a hatred for, what I perceive as stupidity.  This is not an accidental feeling.  Humans have been led down a rabbit-hole devoid of empathy.  Our country leads the charge of this fear-based propaganda meant to make certain people wealthier while killing its constituents.

I beg of you to read this in its entirety.  I am not bashing a singular political party.  They are both/all to blame.  To clarify my points, however, I must make certain statements.  I believe the following: Both political parties are not what they were once.  The republican party has succumbed to a religious, gun toting ideology that caters to the extremely wealthy by using its least educated white people as puppets.  The democrat party has absolutely no solutions for this country.  There are essentially for 4 parties now.  Alt-Right, Far-left liberals, republicans, and democrats.  The latter two have been swallowed by the former two.  They all manage us by fear.  We are unhappy.  We live in fear of the other side’s ideology. 

More about my personal lack of empathy.  I know someone who was diagnosed with Covid-19 and was placed on some sort of oxygen/ventilation.  This person is a Trump supporter and was somewhat vocal during the election.  My first thoughts when I saw the posting on Facebook was that of anger.  I surmised this person isn’t vaccinated. I then thought, “well, fuck, you’re not vaccinated.  If you’re not vaccinated and “anti-vax” why should they even treat you?  You didn’t want a vaccine then, why should WE help you now?  Basically, you get what you deserve.  This sickens me to no end.  It sickens me that my heart is hardened.

I should have empathy.  I am an overweight, recovering alcoholic who’s made bad decisions my entire life.  I’ve received mercy.  From whom or what, I don’t know.  Some power in this universe has blessed me and I’ve made better decisions.  I still live with an eating disorder that leads to hypertension, pulmonary disease and eventually death.  I say this because I seek empathy but, many times, don’t practice it.  Empathy cannot live in a vacuum. 

How do we become empathetic?  How do we reverse the current trends?  How do we move from a society of people who says, “I told you so” or “you reap what you sow” to a society of people who says, “I feel for you” or “How may I help?” It might be too late on a large scale.  It’s not too late for me, however.  Like anything, PRACTICE.  This isn’t easy.  I have opinions.  I have “beliefs.”  How were these opinions formed?  How were my beliefs cultivated?  This is what I am going to practice.  Whether someone decided to be vaccinated has no bearing on how I treat that person when he/she is vaccinated.  It’s sad and worrisome.  Let those of us without sin cast NO stones.  Instead, please teach the rest of us about compassion. 

Next Blog: Fear is cultivated

Following Blog: How is Happiness Cultivated

2 responses to “Empathy; Our systemically excluded emotion”

  1. It is not possible to feel grief and loss and at the same time, feel empathy/compassion. You can go back and forth, but but cannot experience both at the same time. That is how the brain works. The same with anger, which can be part of grief and sadness. One emotion at a time.


  2. While I truly embrace the guts of your post, I disagree with one premise in the entry.

    You are NOT a person that’s “made bad decisions” his entire life. Most specifically, your decision to get clean & sober nearly two decades ago was a right turn that benefited not only you but your entire family. Your continued sobriety and righteous behavior has enabled you to be there for not only Jacob, but also his mother and sister. Indeed, your presence in the lives of your loved ones and your ability to open up and share your emotional travels enrich all of us.

    Please keep writing.

    (Just sayin’.)


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