Friday, January 29, 2010

Empathy, born or made?

Nurture vs. nature. What happens to us vs. what we are. When I was a child I was teased, made fun of mercilessly at school. I hated grade school - well late grade school/jr. high, and yes, parts of high school. I was from a town with "rich kids". Snobs. The ones that thought they were better than the rest of the world. Mean girls. Yep. Even if you were in the group, one day you could be in, the next day you could be out. As I saw happen on more than one occasion. In fact one of those exiled became a good friend of mine within days of her fall from grace. And one of the mean girls had the gall to tell me not to be her friend, she was trash. Sigh
One would think that all this meanness, all this hurt is what made me the empathetic person I am. Which is, in and of itself, a curse. As I was pondering why I have been blessed with this personality trait I recalled something that made me realize this was probably a reinforcement of the trait, but I have had it since I was very young.

I remember being a little first grader, running around on the playground, being stopped in my tracks by my classmates chanting. "Kindergarten babies, wash your face in gravy.." Forget that it doesn't make any sense, it hurt me. Me? I felt first anxious and then sad and then hurt. I was internalizing the feeling of the kindergarten kids. How dare these bullies, barely out of kindergarten themselves, be so mean? It just wasn't right. So I refused to participate. Maybe next year when I was a year farther removed. Who was I kidding? I still felt the stab of hurt and embarrassment for each child so bullied.

That's nature. I guess I got the empathy gene and had it nurtured until it was full blown.

For goodness sake, you know it's bad when I project feelings onto buildings! And animals. And, in my mixed up brain, it's worse with both of these because they cannot speak for themselves.

Well, that's my thought for the day. Not sure why I felt compelled to share it, but now you know another little piece of my puzzle.