How to avoid the Stockholm syndrome

Two responses stitched together

Empathy. The beloved of peace makers. It means according to Google:

the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.

In her recent new Medium hit, Emma Lindsay writes:

there is no way for you to know what another person is feeling.

I have seen this idea in many other situations dealing with political correctness subjects and it was a favourite weapon of the PC police: calling the discussion off because feelings cannot be questioned on the basis of feelings having an unsharable status.

But this intrigued me because I know we are not, as a species, islands. We don’t know everything another person is feeling, but the fact is we know enough if we try harder.

And in fact this makes it even more shameful to deny the reality of others.

Those who deny the reality of others actually do it because they themselves live in denial of reality itself.

I mean, isn’t empathy built in? We do have brain regions specifically built to mirror another’s internal lived experience into us so that we can get them, so that we can exactly feel what they feel.

Isn’t art a proof for shared feelings on common stimuli? From music to visual arts, from food to dance, we have collected in our civilised history mountains of descriptions on the experience (a.k.a. strings of connected feelings) given by art. And we have analysed them over and over and found themes, common traits in the reactions humans have to it.

If there is no way empathy exists, then how would one explain our humble hundred thousand years long survival as groups? We stick to each other, more so when the times are hard, closer when pain is shared or imminent, selectively when pleasure is shared or imminent, I mean, there really is a quite intricate web of ways in which we show outward the fact that we do share feelings of other humans around.

Not only that, we’re also eager to do it. Biologically we get amazing positive feedback for empathy, as anything from blood sugar, heart rate, blood pressure, endocrine secretion and many others are directly modulated positively following social interaction, but, do note, especially so social interaction where we empathise.

Aren’t manipulation and its younger hotter sister persuasion based on the fact that we do have ways to know how other people are feeling? Sure they are so.

And it is not only empathy as a way for one to know what another is feeling.

Empathy is biologic, and like any biologic aspect some people have more of it. Just like talent.

Compassion too is there to help. Compassion does not occur spontaneously, it is a side effect of an attempt to understand rationally the behaviour of another. It is when we feel like we understand the behaviour of others that we turn to compassion as a means of communication. Compassion is granting the humans around us the right to be themselves.

Sympathy is also a real thing. Sympathy though only appears when we share the experience of the humans around. Only once you have actually, viscerally experienced that which “the other” goes through you can display sympathy or act sympathetically.

So, we, like in we humans, I believe, should give up this idea that the basis of mutual respect is our inability to perceive one another, but exactly embrace the original idea that this is actually the foundation: our shared humanity, and shared brain structure, and shared smelly shit and sweat, and hairs in places we can’t tell, and pain in invisible places, and suffocating longing, and fear of loosing our sanity, and spinning sinking never ending inner turmoil, and joyous trembling of guts and hearts, and chocking tears of happiness, all these things we know about each other, which are a mile long list if ever enumerated, are the foundation of mutual respect.

If we’d only stop ignoring our shared humanity. If we’d just stop being in denial of our own reality. But instead, we fake empathy, compassion and sympathy everyday.

We fake empathy pretending to feel for the others, and actually invading their intimacy. We fake compassion pretending we know the others, and actually attacking their dignity. We fake sympathy, pretending we’ve worn their shoes, and actually stealing their identity.

However, when you read mr. Van Jones’ idea that:

When those of us on the left assume that every Trump voter actually endorses every extreme idea Trump has voiced, we miss opportunities to truly understand the human motivations and dilemmas that produced this outcome.

… you realise that outside of Political Correctness and into the realm of politics, empathy can be completely harmful for those that drew the short stick at birth.

Don’t have empathy for your oppressors, because you may become your own oppressor.

The oppressed for the oppressor would be better off to experience:

  • mercy
  • forgiveness
  • compassion

Why I believe these words are thrown around so weirdly, well, it is because we’re so bad at googling word definitions and word etymology, and because they tend to press painful wounds when needed.

Take a child molester and the adult today molested child.

There cannot be any empathy from the molested to the molester, unless the molested child becomes a pedophile, which many times is a form of self inflicted harm originating in low self esteem. If the molested pedophile actually molests a child too, then sympathy can wake up as a sentiment.

Take the recent discussion around here on sober pedophiles being open with their challenge. Very few people were compassionate, and most were angry. Why? Because as an outsider empathy for any kind of different sexuality is hard because we when we mirror those feelings we get sick as we’re biologically conditioned so. So, no empathy, but anger and disbelief in their soberness. I have no clue … but, what I can rationally say is: innocent until proven guilty, opens up on the hardness of an unasked for experience, therefore I can try to understand what they go through by intellect which brings by the possibility of compassion.

I think this is the same mechanism that explains why there were church folk who cared for AIDS sick gay folk and church people who yelled „you deserve it”, while both parties agreeing that being gay is fundamentally wrong. Some had compassion some hadn’t.

The oppressed can feel mercy. Mercy is a form of passive aggressiveness that a lot of people confuse with compassion. They cannot be more different. Mercy is when you believe one is essentially fixed in a lower human state. It is confused with compassion because it is rational, but unlike compassion, mercy is about the state of the human, not about the human. That is why I get a sudden fever when I hear „have mercy for the poor” and I immediately know they’re pinned to that condition by the so called help they get.

Some say indifference is the death of love, I say mercy is the death of love. Mercy is for love like water for the lungs.

The oppressed may feel forgiveness, which is not as a way to comfort the oppressor but as a way to smother the inner suffering of the oppressed. Forgiveness is the true antidote to suffering. Communicating forgiveness is completely optional and it is an act of generosity. Not altruism, because there is no sacrifice, just an optional decision with some possible societal reward.

The oppressed may feel compassion, but that should only be seen as the best way to disrupt the oppressor, not as a blank check for more oppressive actions. The oppressed’s compassion is a weapon, or at least a tool and it should be used because it basically means understanding the inner workings and life of the oppressor. This is useful to prevent more oppression, not to cuddle the oppressed.

Vengeance is when the oppressed uses compassion without forgiveness. That is why vengeance always will hurt both sides. That is not to say vengeance is wrong, like our over the top morality claims, but just that you should not use it to soothe wounds but as a kind of sacrifice you should be at least aware of.

the Stockholm syndrome

can thus be avoided and such things as

potentially be cast as mere accident of thinking. Otherwise, embracing the poster child of pseudo fascist discourse with the kindness of empathic thought might cost not only your life and freedom but also those of many others who have yet to come.