Selective Tears

One of my biggest complaints with neurotypicals is the reactionary and selective nature of their empathy.  Oftentimes their empathy only appears when someone close to them is in the crosshairs of tragedy.  We see this day in and day out.  Those that know someone who is homosexual or bisexual tend to support same sex rights whereas those that do not know such a person are less likely to.  Many that find the death penalty abhorrent tend to throw that belief out the window when someone they know is killed.  So many things in this world are out of sight and out of mind until tragedy hits.  Where were your tears before tragedy struck?  The psychopath, on the other hand, does not change their (nonexistent) empathy when tragedy hits home.

The psychopath may have already considered her alliances and those deserving of cognitive empathy beforehand.  Often this means that the psychopath has run a particular calculus and no action is determined to be needed, but there is no hypocrisy to be had.  Everyone is equally beneath the psychopath in her eyes.  If she is concerned about matters of cognitive empathy, she has not consciously changed her approach based on the arrival of ruin.  If she has been concerned with fairness, then she has been invested in such all along.  There is no magic switch that is thrown when tragedy strikes.

I will concede that education of certain plights is a requirement for anyone to show affective or cognitive empathy toward another group.  The NT, it seems, is prone to turning on their empathy only when the pain hits home.  The psychopath is often criticized for her apathy, but in reality, hers is an equal opportunity apathy.  I do not suddenly lose sleep when I find out that one of my possessions is in pain.  Odds are that I have already taken measures to ensure that my belongings are safe under my wing to begin with.  I do not need a reminder to shed my nonexistent tears; why then does the NT need a reminder to shed theirs?

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Comments

  1. NT says

    Hi Jess.

    “One of my biggest complaints with neurotypicals is the reactionary and selective nature of their empathy. Oftentimes their empathy only appears when someone close to them is in the crosshairs of tragedy.”

    You know exactly what the underlying reason for this is. There is NO ONE on this earth that is unselectively (sic) empathetic. For a start, just have a look at Dunbar’s number. It’s not psychologically possible to care about all 7 billion on the planet.

  2. NT says

    “The psychopath, on the other hand, does not change their (nonexistent) empathy when tragedy hits home.”

    Here’s the issue. Connections are energy hungry. I’m not talking about in the ethereal social connection kind of way. I’m talking about e=mc^2 energy. It REQUIRES physical energy to manage a social connection. Energy enters our bodies via matter we consume. This matter is converted into energy for us to perform tasks, a big chunk of which is used in neural network construction and learning, a big chunk of which finds its way into NTs’ limbic systems for creating and maintaining social connections. Thus, your implied assertion that NTs should be equally committed to equal empathy as psychopaths are to equal indifference, represents a false equivalency because psychopaths bear far less energy costs in the social arena than NT’s do.

    Where I will agree with you is the apparent hypocrisy. As an NT, I was only able to see it in myself after my mental breakdown thanks to gaslighting. For NTs’ there is the issue of social *intent*. As you’re aware, our desire is to be accepted by the group at large, which means adhering to or, at the very least, professing the social ideal, which for some inexplicable reason I am still to work out, means caring (or rather pretending to care) for those we don’t know. I remember when I was in the biggest throes of chaos with the borderline I mentioned the other day, there was one email in particular which gave me pause. She told me that I only care for those people I love, and I don’t for people I don’t. At the time it hit me hard, because I knew she was right. But after reading up on various psychological profiles, I realised that this is actually fairly typical of introverts (which is why I believe we are often labeled ‘antisocial’). There was a period where I felt I should work on this and change it, but in time I realised that I was really reacting to her expression to that social *ideal*, and the one I’d been conditioned to believe as a Christian. But if I think about it, caring for people I don’t know (and I define that by level of influence on each others’ lives) is actually a waste of energy and an incredibly inefficient use of my time. I’d rather pump that into creating strong connections with those I have close to me, and allow network effects to take care of the rest. Six degrees of separation and all that.

    So if the borderline ever restores our relationship, I will tell her flat out that she can shame me as much as she likes, but there is a circle of concern, and a circle of influence, and like Covey states in Seven Habits, it’s rather pointless spending energy in your circle of concern if it’s bigger than your circle of influence.

    Unfortunately, 99% of NTs believe they can because of social idealism. And the hypocrisy kicks in when things hit close to home. Never forget that NTs’ have far more energy invested in the social economy than psychopaths do.

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