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#176463 - 08/28/07 04:01 AM Re: Can you learn empathy? [Re: ttoon]
Wife Supporter Offline
New Here

Registered: 07/26/07
Posts: 23
Loc: UK
Thanks Dave, I think my Husband would relate to you, he has a similar memory.
I printed off the replies and gave them to my Husband, we had a few heated discussions (not necessarily about this) and last night lead to him disclosing some of the infomation about his abuse ( although I have known for 15 years he have never given any/very little details).
Although it's early days Im hoping this will be a catalyist for more recovery, he has held on to some terrible memorys for years on his own.
Thank you to everybody

#176535 - 08/28/07 12:45 PM Re: Can you learn empathy? [Re: Wife Supporter]
indygal Offline

Registered: 06/22/06
Posts: 439

also worth mentioning is about repression of feelings - something we learn in society, as children, even as adults - that expressing ourselves isn't always allowed, or appropriate, whether from an abusive situation or one that was controlled in some form.

the thing is, repression of one's individual feeling is simply not possible - when we repress ourselves, we repress a lot more than just what we consciously wish to keep from surfacing. over time, this repression forces downward so much it is difficult for our true sense of self to re-surface.

with time, and more importantly, the will to find our true selves inside, one can learn to release these repressed feelings and eventually how to express appropriate feelings and in turn, empathy for other individuals.

it is not easy to do. having spent a lifetime recovering from physical abuse, i still sometimes am reminded by someone that a remark i have made may have been misinterpreted as being "cold." in the past, such criticisms would surprise me but now, i listen, accept and try harder to empathize with others.

more specifically, the huge learning curve i experienced regarding csa in men made me realize i still had a long way to go in empathizing with men's issues.

i hope i've made some progress in this; i like to think i have.

all the best,

my avatar is one of the Battle Angel characters, fighting the good fight.

#176542 - 08/28/07 01:21 PM Re: Can you learn empathy? [Re: indygal]
Kathryn Offline

Registered: 02/08/07
Posts: 303

What indygal said.

#176588 - 08/28/07 04:29 PM Re: Can you learn empathy? [Re: ttoon]
head&heart Offline
New Here

Registered: 02/16/07
Posts: 17
Loc: Chose the hard place--left the...
Dear WS
This is a really important topic and one which I touched on in my first posting a couple of weeks ago. Empathy is a difficult subject to discuss. It is initiated by another persons feelings or assumed feelings then it must be directed inward with an internal act of emotion that feels for itself the emotions of the other. For the other person to know that you have empathized you must in some fashion communicate your now shared emotion to them. Somewhere in all this give and take survivors of trauma get lost, each in his own personal way.

My husband grew up in a family with a mother who was bi-polar. At various times there were real crises and there was always inappropriateness and unpredictability. Her illness was covered-up, never discussed and unexplained throughout his childhood. There is plenty of evidence that he could easily have attachment problems due to his mother. Since my husband recovered his memory of a rape at age 8, it has become clear to me that he is suffering with two different but deeply intertwined fears of many aspects of empathy. All roads to empathy have been blocked by the threat of feeling the emotions of others as they lead you to feel all your own unresolved feelings (and repressed memories). It is much safer to not feel quite that deeply about anyone, and the threat of emotion is greatest with those you love most.

Something in the threat that empathy poses is also the crucial to the discussion about deception and lying. Deception is a protective act. Perhaps its ultimate goal is to manipulate and control in order to protect against emotions of your own and those of others.


#176591 - 08/28/07 04:39 PM Re: Can you learn empathy? [Re: head&heart]
Kathryn Offline

Registered: 02/08/07
Posts: 303

That was great H&H.

#177355 - 08/31/07 08:21 AM Re: Can you learn empathy? [Re: Kathryn]
weepywife Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 05/22/06
Posts: 57
My husband and I just had this conversation last night, but it was about me having the lack of empathy.

I too get upset and my husband distances himself from me and does not reach out to hold or hug me after an emotional period. But I know he is the most empathetic person I know. I think the lack of emotion showed may go back to not wanting to deal/connect with their emotions. They also may be feeling so much empathy for their wives that they start to blame and hate themselves. The survivor may not feel strong enough to comfort someone else.

My husband said when he first told me that he was abused I showed no empathy. And he was really upset by that. He's right I responded in the wrong way. I was completely blindsided. I actually felt relief when he told be because I naively thought that this was a problem that could be easily solved. I felt relief that our lack of intimacy wasn't me or that he wasn't having an affair. I felt the worst was out in the open and since it was all out in the open things would get better. I think I had alot of the standard misconceptions about being a male survivor and it being no big deal.

So 2 years later he tells me about my lack of empathy bothering him. I say I'm sorry I can't change the past. what can I do now to be a better partner. He says nothing. He says you can't learn empathy. And he says that I don't have it. Boy that makes you feel good.

Survivors, how can I be more empathetic to my husband?
Keep in mind that he HATES talking about this stuff so it is hard for me to understand what is going on in his head.


#177392 - 08/31/07 11:50 AM Re: Can you learn empathy? [Re: weepywife]
Agape Girl Offline

Registered: 07/25/07
Posts: 120
Loc: New Jersey, USA

Going through the same thing, I felt relief when he told me. It's not right that I felt that but, when you look at who else the blame is on and when you believe you did nothing wrong to your partner to cause the imbalance in your relationship, it's seems more acceptable to feel relief that your not the one at fault. So other person or persons are that are outside your relationship. Heavy stuff, to understand.

I'm trying to figure out in my head how it is I'm supposed to turn off my emotions when he's having a down day and not take it persoanl. I've asked for him to let me know when those days have surfaced. I'm waiting patiently for what that signal is. (Yesterday was our first down day and like I said I'm trying not to feel hurt by his distance from me).

I also in turn want to be able to give him that safety he needs while not making him feel as if I've turned off my emotions tward him. It's a tough thing to understand. But, I'm sorting through.

Thanks for letting me vent a little, I just wanted you know I'm in the same boat too!


means selfless love of one person for another
without sexual implications
(especially love that is spiritual in nature)

#177409 - 08/31/07 01:34 PM Re: Can you learn empathy? [Re: Agape Girl]
Wife Supporter Offline
New Here

Registered: 07/26/07
Posts: 23
Loc: UK
H & H - Thanks for that, "mothering" issues could well be a problem.

I just wanted everybody to know that since I wrote this thread I have had time to reflect and I now don't think it's a lack of empathy but as many of you have suggested a problem communicating his feelings to me.

Kelly & WW I do feel for you both, it's not easy in this situation we have all been thrown into, but with every new piece of understanding between you and your partners it gets slightly easier - keep strong,

Thanks WS

#177626 - 09/01/07 01:03 PM Re: Can you learn empathy? [Re: ttoon]
nicky Offline

Registered: 08/24/07
Posts: 261
im sad to say i have done and said the same things :-(

i like the rain cause no one knows im crying

a strong man is one who is able to control himself when he is angry
what is your definiton of control?

i lay awake another hour
just like the one before
the shadows play a game with my head
i can't take this anymore

#177663 - 09/01/07 04:37 PM Re: Can you learn empathy? [Re: Wife Supporter]
emptydreamer Offline

Registered: 05/19/07
Posts: 276
Loc: Midwest USA

It never ceases to amaze me at how many problems are shared by so many of us with reasons to be here.

This thread hit me so hard, many of the posts sound like my wife talking about me!

It is true, when she is hurt, I feel totally inadequate to be able to comfort her. It doesn't help that she too is a survivor.

Her hurt, comes out as vicious anger. She becomes the most vile, foul mouthed attacker I've ever witnessed. Cussing, screaming, name calling, putting down, dragging everything I've ever disclosed about myself up and using it as a weapon to hurl the most wicked words my way as she possibly can.

This sends me into self protection mode. I become the scared little kid who feels helpless to do anything about the situation.
I feel the only choice I have is to sit there and take it. The quieter I am, the madder she gets. She says I'm cold and unfeeling, and in some ways, I'm sure that is how it appears. On the other hand, she has no idea of how this behavior effects me.

We are making improvements, but they don't seem to come quickly enough. We are in the middle of the latest episode as I type this and I'm hoping when I go home from work today, we can communicate, in a civil manner, and hopefully make a little more progress.

I know that I am a tough man to love. I have a hard time even loving myself. My emotions were stolen from me and I'm trying desperately to get them back. It is hard, but I will not give up.

She says that she knows I love her, but that I don't love her emotionally. I'm afraid to tell her that I don't even know what that means.

Best wishes and warmest regards,

I'm here for a reason. Failure is not an option.

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