Oct 7, 2013

A Quick Primer On Empathy, or Empathy 101

I sometimes wonder if some people are judgmental because they lack certain life experiences, and are therefore incapable of imagining what other people's struggles feel like. Actually, I don't wonder that at all. I'm certain of it. So I offer the following list of unpleasantries that everyone should suffer at least once in their lifetime, in the interest of increasing empathy and becoming better people. I realize this list is incomplete and horribly biased toward my own stuff. And I should confess that this post is, in part, a reactive rant inspired by a rude comment on my essay about depression on Everyday Feminism. Whatever. I'm okay with that.

When you've endured each of these for a minimum of one or two hours, feel free to judge others:

  • Labor (the childbearing kind, not manual)
  • A debilitating migraine (as if there is any other kind)
  • Severe depression (or any mental illness, really)
  • Prejudice (being the target of racism, sexism, homophobia)
  • Chronic pain (not visible to others)
  • Poverty (or even the specter of being one crisis away from losing everything)
  • Loneliness (not just feeling alone, but having literally no one to reach out to)
  • Physical withdrawal (from prescription drugs, OTC drugs, street drugs, alcohol, cigarettes)
  • Failure (of the big, humiliating, life-changing nature)
  • Fear of losing a loved one (in a discrete, immediate sense)
  • Spending time in a psych ward (yup, been there)
  • Being kicked in the balls (for the men out there)
  • Stupidity (throwing this in here because it seems only fair)

I believe there are traumas no one should ever have to experience: physical or sexual abuse, the death of a child, war, famine, manmade or natural disasters—the list goes on. These are easy to empathize with, perhaps because they seem so distant and unlikely to affect us personally.

So, what did I miss? What would you add to this list?

UPDATE: Considering the thoughtful comments (below), I stand corrected. Don't judge. Just don't. It's not nice.