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Drawing boundaries around empathy


Something I've thought about with regard to empathy is whether I'm really feeling somebody else's pain when those mirror neurons fire.

At times I've felt overpowered by empathy, to the point where it is counterproductive and harmful to myself. One way I've distanced myself from such feelings is by realizing that I'm not really feeling what the other person is feeling, I'm merely feeling what I'm feeling when I think about myself being in that person's position. These feelings are my own, and they result from me exposing myself to other people's situations and imagining myself in their shoes and thinking about how awful their lives are compared to my own. Hmmm ... in a way this is not all that flattering, because at the root is a feeling that I'm superior and that my life is so much better than theirs, that I'm SuperMan because I have the time and ability to help other people.

I've had to learn to draw boundaries, otherwise I'd be so busy living other people's lives, trying to arrange their lives so that I'm not disturbed by what they are going through, that I wouldn't have any time or energy for my own life. I still struggle with this. It must be really hard for parents to let their children grow up and deal with reality on their own, to let their children progress from total dependence to independence, to let their children fail so they can learn from failure.


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