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I already don't have the energy for empathy - Elf M. Sternberg
I already don't have the energy for empathy
I saw an interesting book the other day which, I confess, I haven't read. It was entitled Against Empathy. I read an interview with the author, Paul Bloom, and one of the things he said was "If I have empathy toward you, it will be painful if you're suffering. It will be exhausting. It will lead me to avoid you and avoid helping. But if I feel compassion for you, I'll be invigorated. I'll be happy and I'll try to make your life better."

And just as everything the Cognitive Behavioral Therapists and "mindfulness" consultants have told us was already said and written down by Seneca, Epicurious, and Zeno 2300 years ago, Bloom's insight is 2500 years old and comes to us from no one other than the Buddha himself.

There's a reason Buddhists are taught compassion and not empathy. Compassion is mindful and empathy is not; compassion frees us from the suffering of others, narrows down our suffering from "experiencing your pain" to "knowing your pain and being able to do something about it." We waste ourselves if we try to take on more suffering than we already experience; our reserves for dealing with pain are limited, but the only reserve on our compassion is the number of hours in the day.

The author says he talked to a lot of Buddhist monks while writing his book, so maybe he gives them credit. I'll find out when the library gets the book.

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