Types of empathy and how empathy can help in the quest for social justice!

Social justice is the new slogan. We all want to embrace it and really advocate for it. It’s almost a new addition to our vocabulary. And that’s the best thing that has come out of Covid-19 pandemic. Before this pandemic the lives of marginalized groups didn’t get much attention because so much else was already going on. Shopping, vacationing, gossiping, partying and all that necessary stuff. Now that COVID is here, we have had to dissociate ourselves from all the other pursuits that we were engaging in and talk about things that unfortunately took a pandemic to come to notice. One of them is social justice. One of them is noticing marginalized groups and people of color, disabled people, people with a sexual orientation that’s different from ours and even the elderly. Kids have become important again. Abuse has started headlining most news shows again. You know, all the things that only quarantined humans notice.

But most people who say Black Lives Matter or Advocate for Disability or Hear Me Roar are going to be seasonal birds, I fear. And here’s why! They don’t have empathy.

Or they don’t have the type of empathy that makes them go and get what marginalized groups are asking for.

So you can read about cognitive empathy and emotional empathy and see how they do and don’t help but here I will tell you how compassionate empathy can help us further the advocacy for underrepresented groups.

Compassionate empathy is the type of empathy that helps us feel someone else’s pain, have a close emotional connection with their pain without getting overwhelmed in the process and then setting about ways in which we can do something about their adversity. That’s what constitutes compassionate empathy. And that’s what I wanted to evoke or may be just bring to your notice a little because without this variant of empathy movements will start but won’t get anywhere.

Empaths come in different forms as empathy does too. Many people choose empathy over their inherent listlessness and this is truly commendable. Empaths aren’t necessarily born even though many are consummate empaths by birth. Empathy can be an acquired trait. Because psychology discovered empathy only about a hundred years ago there isn’t a lot of literature on it. There isn’t a lot of reflection on it either.

I’m a special needs mother and let me tell you my journey through the supposed empathy that people have touted to have for special needs and differently-abled individuals. Many of these so-called empaths have been fair weather friends. They’ve liked my social media posts and have even shared some of them. If you know how social media works and how cutthroat the industry is, their sharing of my posts and showing it to their audience is probably their huge contribution to my life and advocacy efforts. I don’t need them. They can keep their supposed and fake empathy.

Then there are some friends who have made a huge show of being so affected by my advocacy that they have started to say things about topics that are closer to their heart. These cognitive empaths are also on some level slightly self-serving and unfortunately are not going to be instrumental in bringing social change. Cognitive empaths are great people to have perspective-based discussions with and they’re very astute at understanding feelings but probably stop right there. Their empathy doesn’t extend beyond that. I’m not discounting this type of empathy. It certainly has a role in many jobs where empathy is needed and emotional empathy can cause difficulty in decision-making. Such people who identify as cognitive empaths are likely people who do great on a strictly personal level and probably have an action side in response to someone’s problems.

But when it comes to extending the work that we are trying to do for social justice, talking won’t cut it anymore. Discussing won’t solve things much. Merely recounting the same ten or so things that cause social injustice won’t be game changing.

What will change the lay of the land is compassionate empathy.

So that’s what we should focus on.

What can we do?

What’s advocacy?

What’s BLM?

What’s Civil Rights?

What’s disability?

What’s keeping marginalized groups from being mainstreamed?

How can I help?

How can I donate?

How can I empower?

How can I do it in a way that my resources reach where they’re needed?

That’s what leads to real, tangible outcomes from empathy.

In my opinion and in the words of Elvis Presley, “A little less bark and a little more bite”.

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