What is empathy supposed to look like? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 4 Old 04-05-2014, 11:08 AM - Thread Starter
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One of the things that we've always been concerned about is DD6's empathy because she's never seemed to have much. She's always done what we've called "puppeting" -- she knows what to say and what to do but in a sort of wooden fashion, like she knows she has to imitate empathizing with people but doesn't really feel the emotions.


We're in the middle of a very sudden relocation and had to rehome the family dog. She's really my dog (adopted before DD6 was born) but DD6 has grown up with her as a fixture in our household. 


Naturally, I've been mopey but what's concerning DH and I is that DD6 seems not to care. She hugged me (because my sister -- who is adopting my dog -- told her to) while I was crying when our dog left the house but pretty quickly reverted to her normal routine. During the day, DD6 would ask  if I was still sad (she's really bad at reading emotion other than "happy" it seems) and seemed puzzled as to why. She knows our dog is not coming back home but takes it as a fact of life and seems to have no emotion attached to her leaving. She will say, "I miss Miyuki" (our dog) but it's more a statement than actually missing her.


Similarly, and more disturbingly, her grandmother (my mother) asked her the other day if DD6 would miss her when we moved. DD6 likes playing with my mom and sees her on a regular basis. Yet she replied, "No, I don't think so." When I took her aside and explained that she had hurt her grandmother's feelings by saying that, she had no idea that she hurt her grandmother, nor did understand why I asked her to apologize. She eventually did but in that, "Well, Mom told me to apologize but I have no idea why" sort of manner.


This is not new and has been ongoing. Therapists say that it's "normal" but is it really?

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#2 of 4 Old 04-05-2014, 03:05 PM
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It can be normal if it's an emotion that is too big for a child to cope with. I think to some extent everybody can act as though they don't care when they actually feel very deep and unsettling emotions.

Not being able to read emotions other than happy doesn't sound normal. Does she have other things that worry you that may be related? It can be a sign of aspergers but there would be other symptoms too.
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#3 of 4 Old 04-06-2014, 10:36 AM
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I would be happy that my child shows so much resilience, being able to bounce back after a big change. I am also impressed about how true to herself she is. You expect her to be upset because YOU are upset, her grandma expects her to be sad because SHE is sad. I believe that your dd's stregth to be her own person will help her in the long run, when she will not be easily led to make other people happy.
It happened to me that my ds was not upset when I was; then I thought: maybe I should learn something from him.

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#4 of 4 Old 04-06-2014, 11:05 AM
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Have you ever read much into Meyer's Briggs personality tests? It's not the be all end all tool, but it can be an interesting starting place.

I don't have much "true" emotion. I feel happy, and I identify with others in that state of mind. I am very analytical, and quickly process negative emotion into a manageable happy mode. I have had to learn.to say things and do things socially for the sake of other people, but I rarely feel it myself. I have.to work to, at times, to be patient with others emotions while they work through them. Only when something is totally helpless and hopeless do I tend to struggle.

I am an entj. They make up about 2% of the population, and the vast majority of them are male. So, a female entj, in the world.of women, who are largely sf, has a hard time learning not to offend people. She will figure it out, but don't ask her to feel emotions she doesn't.

Sympathy is feeling where the other person is coming from. Empathy is learning to imagine where the other person is coming from. You are really wanting her to be sympathetic. Empathy is a more abstract concept that will improve with age. Small children typically view everyone's perceptions as being the same as their own. She isn't upset, they arent upset.

I have found as an adult, my ability to respond to the emotional needs of others is more even and reliable than many of my sf friends whose own emotions become part of the equation. So, dont think that she is at a disadvantage. Likely, she will be a stable and rational companion as an adult.
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