Empathy?

Not an easy word to wrap your head around. How do you empathise with what you do not understand?

Could we think of why we do not understand something?

  • I don’t want to understand something.
  • I don’t know how to understand something
  • I don’t want to learn
  • I cannot learn
  • I will not learn
  • I will not imagine
  • I cannot imagine

A lot of very kind somethings seem to start with – ‘Though I cannot imagine what it must be like, here’s this in any case”. This  being a placeholder for anything one might offer up in support.

Can I really support something without understanding what it is? Is what I offer as support meaningful in anyway if I do not understand – in explicit consequence – what it will and can do?

I’m using this question to prime a discussion on how we look at and deal with mental illness. I have been living with Schizoaffective Disorder for over three decades now, half of which was spent undiagnosed and half of the half with a bunch of tentative and erroneous diagnoses.

I’m not very sure I have anything to offer that might really help. But that’s the thing – I’m not sure. The only way – at least for me – to find out is to move a bit along this trajectory and see what emerges.

A lovely philosophical essay by Thomas Nagel out to set the picture up:

What is it like to be a Bat?

It’s an old classic. There have been some counterpoints to it over the years. But it sets the problem up in sharp relief.

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