Saturday, 28 April 2018

Blog 106 - Empathy versus Sympathy


Empathy versus Sympathy

I have a question for you. Do you know the difference between empathy and sympathy? Two very similarly spelled words. Two words that are commonly used incorrectly.

Just to clarify the difference up, we'll begin this blog post with a grammar lesson.The dictionary definition of empathy is:

  • the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.

The definition of sympathy is:

  • feelings of pity and sorrow for someone else's misfortune.

In my google search I found this quote, which I think explains the difference well:

The ability to feel sympathy for others is a great part of what makes us human, and it's what compels us to reach out and offer help. So have sympathy for people who confuse this word with empathy — they're awfully close in meaning. Feeling sympathy means you feel sorry for someone's situation, even if you've never been there yourself. Empathy is when you truly understand and can feel what another person is going through.
https://www.vocabulary.com/dictionary/sympathy



Here is another great example:

Empathy is heartbreaking — you experience other people's pain and joy. Sympathy is easier because you just have to feel sorry for someone. Send a sympathy card if someone's cat died; feel empathy if your cat died, too.
https://www.vocabulary.com/articles/chooseyourwords/empathy-sympathy/


So why am I focussing on this topic? My blog is titled, Crouzons, Downs and Me...Love and Life. This title does not truly capture the whole realm of my existence. I roam in so many different circles in the world in a medical sense and a family sense, that I understand what many people are going through.

I can't just give my attention to one cause, as many people are able to do, because I do deal with a multitude of issues. For example, Crouzon syndrome (craniofacial syndrome), hydrocephalus, Chiari malformation (spinal issues), Down syndrome, heart defect, mental illness, bullying, domestic violence, inclusive education, Coeliac disease, visual impairment, osteoarthritis, multiple miscarriages, financial difficulties, family dysfunction. .. and if I keep thinking there would be more. I often joke that I don't live in this world, my body is here but I actually reside in my alternate universe. I say this as I often feel alien to what other 'normal' people go through.

People from all over the world message me about their situations, and I know why. I take the time to listen to them and share my walk with them. I offer advice if they request it. People know that I do truly understand what they are going through. I have an arrow in my back, just like they do!



So what if you want to feel empathy but you haven't experienced what someone else is going through? I genuinely think it is possible. Maybe you have been through a similar situation, or someone else you know has, or you have been through something that had a similar outcome. For example, someone may have lost their job and had to sell their house. That may not have happened to you, but you've had financial difficulties where you've had to watch every cent and you feared to lose your house.  Maybe you know someone going through IVF. and has miscarried. Now you may not have gone through IVF, but you know how hard the process is, and you yourself have miscarried and know the grief that comes with losing your baby.

 I found this infographic which I think explains how we can show empathy:


Showing empathy is trying to imagine what the other person is going through, and endeavouring to see their world how it is. You may not agree with the choices they've made or the circumstances they are in, but you cannot be empathetic if you are being judgemental. The person is a fellow human being and they are hurting. Talk to them and find out what they are feeling and actively listen to them. Ask questions but don't offer advice unless they request it.

You cannot ease another person's grief - it is a process they need to work through. You may be able to give some short-term solutions, but generally, the person will need to work their situation and deal with whatever that means.



Most human beings want to feel connected with other people. They want to know that other people understand or will try to understand their situation. Unfortunately, so many people are so preoccupied with their own lives that they often don't reach out to show empathy to others.

My challenge for you is to reach out to someone today who is hurting. You may just be the blessing they need. 

Monday, 19 March 2018

Blog 105 - World Down Syndrome Day Thoughts


Tomorrow is World Down Syndrome Day. A day close to my heart. A day I wish didn't need to be. If people born with Down syndrome, were actively accepted in mainstream schools and out in society, then there would be no need for this day, which aims to create awareness of the awesome lives people with Down syndrome live.

So many people hold archaic views of what a person with Down syndrome looks like, what their intelligence is, what they are able to do or not do, and the way they should live. Even though people with Down syndrome, with the help of advocates, are now being seen doing ordinary things and living ordinary independent lives, preconceived and prejudicial attitudes still prevail.

My daughter Jessica has opened many adults' eyes to what is possible and I have seen a change in their perceptions of what the label Down syndrome means. What bothers me at the moment is the attitude of some other children towards Jessica.  In the school playground they don't see her uniqueness as something to be embraced. They see her as 'different' and maybe even 'weird'. I so wish I could change the lenses of these children and make them see Jessica as the rounded child she is. Yes, there is no doubting that she has an intellectual impairment, but she is kind-hearted and wears her heart on her sleeve; and she has feelings and passions. Jessica is so incredibly imaginative and loves music and drama. When she sings, it is not 'funny', it is the joy she feels and is expressing. My daughter has goals for her life like they do. And guess what? They are the same goals. I am thankful to the children who do take the time to say hi to her, play with her, help her, and accept her individuality. These children will be more caring and empathetic adults who are aware of other adults with disabilities.

This year Jessica was selected to be on the school's public relations team. She proved herself good enough to be a leader. There will be more moments to come this year, where she will again prove herself as equal to her peers. Hopefully this continual demonstration, will show the other children in her year level that she is like them in more ways than she is different.

And as I do daily, I as her mother will continue to show her she is loved and valued and perfect just the way she is. I will also continue to challenge society's attitudes, one person at a time.