Empathy Deficit Disorder and shifting the blame

Some that know me well (especially my wife) can attest to the fact that I don’t have a great deal of patience in showing empathy or sympathy (yes, there is a difference).

EmpathySo when I saw this article from CNN about EDD (Empathy Deficit Disorder), I finally realized that I can’t help it either.

I’m afflicted with a disorder.  A disease that I can’t control.  EDD is rampant among Americans, so that makes me more comfortable knowing that I’m in a large group of people who “just can’t” show empathy.  It’s not our fault, we have a disease.

The psychologist who “identified” this disorder credits it with creating most conflict in this world.  From war to divorce, it’s all because of EDD.  It destroys lives and causes political strife.

WOW!  What a cop out!  How pathetic is that!  Sure, the majority of Americans have problems showing empathy.  But is that because we have a disorder?  Heck no!  It’s because we are self-centered, egotistical Americans.  But what do we do instead of recognize a deficiency in our character?  We blame it on a disorder.  “It’s a disease, therefor it’s not my fault.”  No, we don’t consciencly say that, but that’s the resulting effect.

Sure, lack of empathy can easily cause divorce and war, but it’s not some disorder that causes it… it’s the “symptom” itself – lack of empathy.  And that is caused by pride.

I recently listened to the entire 52 hours of the book, Atlas Shrugged (review forthcoming).  One of the recurring phrases used by those who were destroying the country was, “I couldn’t help it.”  Isn’t it funny how it’s never “our” fault.  It’s always someone else’s fault.

This reminds me of “Post Election Stress Disorder.”  Another excuse of a disorder.

…. [a] reaction to the emotional and psychological disequilibrium brought on by the economic, political and social developments, domestically and globally, since Bush was first elected. It’s an affliction, a malaise on a mass scale; the magnitude, severity and duration of its effects impossible to measure.

Once again, we shift the blame and look for something to cause problems in our lives.

And now, we are getting to the point where we are even shifting the blame away from the ones we love.  When kids get caught shoplifting, parents often blame the store of the employee who caught them and even sometimes find a way to sue the store.  What happened to the days when parents left their kids on a holding cell at the police station to teach them a lesson?  That rarely happens now days.  And what a tragedy.  The character building that happened overnight in a jail cell was remarkable.

My favorite disease is Alcoholism. This is a tough one as it’s a proven fact that some are more inclined (through genetics) to become alcoholics than others.  But is it really a disease?  Or is it a weakness?  A weakness is something that can be overcome or at least fought.  A disease gives the impression that is has so much more power.  Let’s call it what it is — a weakness that must be battled.  Perhaps for the rest of ones life… but it’s no disease.

We need to stop calling our character flaws diseases and step up to the plate and fight the battles to better ourselves.  This whole psychological and emotional disease business is getting out of hand.

To top it off, the psychologist who “invented” EDD says that the first step to “recovery” is to fake it.  Yeah, that’s right.  Fake empathy and eventually you will start to have it.  What the?!?!  So lying is now a cure for a disorder.

What is this world coming to?

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4 Responses

  1. Mike W. says:

    Reluctant,

    I agree with some of your points and disagree with others. We do live in a society that likes to ascribe our flaws to determinism and something outside of our control. This is a cop-out, as you state. It allows us to make excuses for bad behavior and poor choices. And although I agree that lack of empathy isn’t a genetic disease (which I don’t think the psychologist argues), it is likely a consequence of upbringing (or a “disorder” of environment) coupled with an unwillingness to make a very difficult effort to have compassion.

    It seems that much of what we do, we do because we have seen others do it and visa versa. Does this generate a disorder? Other things that affect our behavior is what others do to us. I have heard experienced psychologists comment that almost all of their patients with Borderline Personality Disorder (and this is a very real disorder. I deal with it everyday in my line of work) have been sexually abused.

    Now I’m not saying that we should define the lack of relating empathetically to others as empathy deficiency disorder or that we expand the excuses for people’s behavior. What I am saying is that it isn’t unreasonable to describe something as a dis-order (something being “out of order”) in an attempt to address causes and solutions.

    One other point of contention: if we are to wait to act lovingly towards all humankind until we actually love all humankind, no one would do it. Often times we are faking goodness (or at least doing things for less than optimal motives) until we are “filled with this love, which he (God) hath bestowed upon all those who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ.” It involves effort and prayer and trust in God in order to discipline ourselves (in other words, order ourselves) to eliminate the disorder of being deficient in empathy.

    Thus, I don’t consider myself ridiculous for considering myself disordered by my deficiency of empathy as long as I see that it is something that I can overcome. I might even need to pretend that I have empathy while I pray and fast until I actually obtain it.

  2. Mike W. says:

    P.S.

    I think you could have a little more empathy with the psychologist 😉

  3. Reluctant says:

    Thus, I don’t consider myself ridiculous for considering myself disordered by my deficiency of empathy as long as I see that it is something that I can overcome. I might even need to pretend that I have empathy while I pray and fast until I actually obtain it.

    I would be fine if the psychologist defined it as a deficiency of empathy (DoE). Most people don’t break down disorder into having a deficiency. Most people see disorder and think disease and something they can’t control or do anything about.

    Perhaps it’s just a matter of semantics, but sometimes wording is crucial. Especially in this situation where our society has a predilection to finding any excuse for their behavior.

  4. Liz says:

    Its a good thing that i read on because i was seriously going to say WHAT THE HECK! Ha ha, i think its funny that they have “diagnosed” this as a disease! This poor sad world.

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