Evolving Towards Empathy

One of my earliest emotional memories is being given bad news and noticing a disconnect between what I felt (not a whole lot) and what I thought I should feel. This continued for a long time and, as a young adult, my lack of connection limited my success.

One of the changes that’s come with age is an improved ability to see the emotional forces at work in the actions of others. It feels more like “functional empathy” than the real thing but, as a father, I’m happy to be heading the right direction.

Last month, a friend recommended Far From The Tree. I had read a review when the book was published and decided that the book was too intense for me. I was scared to read it.

The book covers sexual orientation, deafness, dwarfs, down syndrome, autism, schizophrenia, disability, prodigies, rape, crime, transgender and the family systems associated with each identity. In recommending the book to me, my buddy said that three of the chapters were “essential reading for every parent.” Naturally, my pal didn’t tell me which three chapters!

I’ve long held a desire to act as a counselor to kids and young adults. What’s held me back is the same fear that initially pushed me away from the book. Do I really want to let those thoughts, those people, into my head?

The book seemed like a non-lethal way to explore my fear and I’m glad I read it.

Of the eleven identities covered, my life has been touched by seven.

Not exactly a niche subject.