i don’t remember how old i was when i realized that there was a difference between sympathy and empathy, but i do remember that i identified strongly with empathy versus sympathy. to me, it seems that sympathy is a sort of passive, removed, unembodied pity for someone else’s misfortune or pain, while empathy is actually sharing in the experience of their feelings. i don’t know if we can always control how we feel, or how removed we are from feeling it. but to me, sympathy reeks of condescension, privilege, and almost like a show of emotion that is for the consumption of other people. like, oh i feel so bad for them, oh my gawwwwd, it’s just so awful. as opposed to actually feeling their pain, being able to relate to it, and wanting to connect with another human being.
i don’t know if i’m making sense at all coz i’m two gins and one gravol into my night, and because i’m sad and thinking about how my mom has had a complete and utter lack of empathy (or sympathy, come to think of it) for the fact that i’m devastated by what’s happened to me and by her rejection of my experience. and how so much was for show, even back then. it’s easy to make a show of caring, isn’t it? but to take the time and effort to connect to another human, to feel their hurt and their pain? not for the phony, or the faint of heart, or those so deeply buried in denial that they will sacrifice their own child.