I Never Believed This Was Possible – But Now I Do… Losing Empathy

I never believed it was possible to lose the ability to feel empathetic. Over the course of the last ten years, I have slowly started to feel less and less empathy for people’s unfortunate situations.

I’m not sure if this is normal when you become older, or if this is because I have lost so many people that are close to me, or if this is because of the chronic pain I have endured over the last five years… probably a combination of all of the above.

Not a situation I am proud of. I don’t think it’s the lack of empathy. It’s more of a numbness I feel. I have a hard time taking in anymore sadness. I understand why people have a hard time going to hospitals, which I didn’t really understand before. I don’t have any desire to be in a hospital… EVER. Whether for good or bad. I have no desire to answer the phone, I was bad before, but now? Please, I’d rather just not … ever … answer … the phone. So many unfortunate conversations have occurred over the phone. All those updates and urgent calls in the middle of the night, jumping in the car with 1/2 a bag packed and driving like a bat out of hell to someone’s ICU. It’s not fun.

Please don’t get me wrong. I would not take any of this time back. I would not do anything differently. The moments I had with all of my loved ones was very special to me and I still cherish it. It’s just, there has been a lot of death and I am numb.

I feel guilty for not wanting to go to the hospital when people are ill. This used to not even be something I would think about. Now? It’s very difficult for me to imagine getting out of the car and going in the elevator and walking through the ICU and hearing the beeps and sounds of the machines and the sickness.

Wow…. this is really some depressing shit. I am sorry.

I have been in a flare, the pain has not been fun. With pain ultimately comes depression and I have been battling these two for the past couple months like a dragon slayer and I gotta tell you. It’s been one hell of a battle! Every time I see the sunshine, it feels like that shit comes right back … consistency has not been working with me. You all know how that goes. Right now it seems for every one or two good days, I’m getting 3 or 4 bad days. Keeping my head up is not easy, but I’m praying and working at it as hard as I can manage!

Tomorrow I’ll be more positive, I promise! Thanks for reading… stay cool!

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7 thoughts on “I Never Believed This Was Possible – But Now I Do… Losing Empathy

  1. Yeah, I have noticed a loss in empathy as well. It actually occurred when a friend of mine with many unfortunate circumstances started to hang around quite frequently ( i met her one day, she showed up at my work on my lunch hour the next in a rather scary way). But she is kind and loving humorous and harmless just over friendly. She had a tendency to dump her problems on whoever would listen. Unfortunately that seemed to be only me.
    I end up listening to a lot of people like that. But for some reason, whenever I have many problems or things seem too hard. I don’t have anyone to listen/help me out. So I think loss of empathy comes when you receive none/ very little but give a ton. I’m not sure where empathy comes from though. I think it maybe comes from God but I’m not sure how. I know that empathy is what makes a lot of authors great. The ability to understand and identify with others circumstances, and to care. To realize that people are ultimately one of the only important things in life and that they matter, every individual -hopes, dreams, stupidity, and all. So as a result of loss of empathy my writing has suffered quite a bit.
    Maybe I can get it back though, if I step back from my problems, and realize that there is someone else ( slave/abused/ maybe even one of you guys) who has problems also, not necessarily greater problems than mine but that you as an individual have a right to life, you are unique and I can not make you. A human. I have no way to create you. Your uniqueness, the fact that you are sentient also, that you face problems, that you may wish you had my problems instead because they are so much smaller than yours. So it might be that empathy is directly related to love, in that empathy is an expression of love. ( AHA! Love comes from God so the link through love to empathy is how it must come from God!) ( sorry had a light bulb moment!)
    But maybe in realizing the wonder that there is in a human, in the joy or humor or curiosity of their thoughts and traits, and also in observing the similar problems we face we could find empathy again.
    Don’t look inside the box. Look at the world outside the box. I guess.

    So you guys have problems, and I care about you. For no other reason than you are you. And you are completely unique and wonderful and amazing because you all think differently than I do. So if I can learn to laugh at my problems, and face life with joy( knowing in the end I get to spend eternity in heaven regardless of how hard life is here) not an overwhelming sense of defeat. Then the joy and love I have ( which never left I was just looking at things the wrong way, in theory anyway) will be more openly expressed again. And hopefully I will have patience again, so that I can hear stories again! ( note: most stories/ characters come from other people I meet and talk to)

    And maybe I can offer them a bit of encouragement or actual help if they need it.

    I wonder if it the problem is also linked to something else. I can feel half a thought at the back of my brain. But im not sure what it is.

    Well if my theory works, I’ll let you know. Starting today is trial period of one month.
    Post back in thirty days if anyone really cares or reads anymore.

    … unless I forget, then I might be late.

    • Your post just sparked something in me. I just realized how I lost my empathy three months after my spouse and I moved into our new home. She had a lot of problems and life changes occur and suddenly my empathy evaporated slowly; partly because my fear of negativity sharing my problems would have burdened her and partly because I felt mine were worthless. However, we stopped attending mass regularly due to our new location and mass has always been a big factor in my life. That is why I feel like something was missing and that is probably why I have become so negative in such ways. I am going to make a push in our busy lives to attend mass and seek some professional help. Thank you.

  2. Thank you for writing this. I know it’s years old, but knowing someone has felt the way I’m feeling somehow helps give me some kind of hope..that perhaps its normal. My numbness has come from being abused, losing someone to suicide (I blame myself) and having a best friend for two years who is constantly depressed. I feel like my empathy is tapped out, and I never EVER imagined that could happen. My heart took on more than it could handle..and I thought it could handle everything. I don’t want to talk to anyone, I don’t want to see anyone, and I find it gut-wrenchingly difficult to conjure the appropriate emotions when people are suffering sometimes—it kills me that I’m like that now. I hope so much you’re doing better.

  3. Just read your post and the replies. So sorry you feel this way but I”m starting to feel the same. Noticed this post was in July 2010. How are you doing now? Did the empathy for others come back and if so how?

  4. Don’t feel bad or guilty about the way you feel. It’s so much easier to be empathetic and supporting when everything is going well, when it’s not you just have to focus on what’s important to you & forget about the rest.

  5. Hello my friend,
    I’m sorry you are having such a hard time. If it does any good at all I can honestly say I know how you feel. I used to think empathy was one of my personality traits, but alas, no more. I still have it, I think, but sometimes it flies away and I feel like the mean witch.

  6. I think we go through phases that can last days or weeks or even months when we just don’t have the energy to be empathetic. It takes a lot of emotional and physical energy to provide support to others and sometimes it’s just not in us to do that to the extent that we would like. It could have to with getting older, too, as we’ve “been there, done that” so many times over and over again. Yet I believe that this too shall pass. When we don’t hurt as much, we have more energy to spare for others. And the flares and relief happen intermittently as does our ability to care for others. Take heart, don’t beat yourself up. Give yourself permission to focus on YOU rather than other people for a while. And don’t feel guilty. You can do only what you can do. Hugs!!

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