Empathy Beyond the Ego

­­Looking within to find empathy offers a different perspective so I’m going to throw it out.  While many over-achievers want to be empathetic, and some feel they are, it may be a false empathy in many cases.  They are focused on themselves, and the need for personal satisfaction is wh­­­at drives their achievements.  Achievements tend to be self-indulgent in nature.  Achievers often have difficulty finding empathy until they reach a point of satisfaction with their own accomplishments.  Unfortunately, this may be an ego driven empathy, self-satisfying empathy―one more accomplishment to add to the list.  Granted, doing good works help the receivers regardless of the motivation.

Is it possible that empathy can be another method of self-satisfaction for some?  i.e., I am helping others therefore I feel good about myself to the point that empathy becomes a narcissistic endeavor?­­  

Our consciousness is what gives us a sense of self―really the ONLY thing that gives us a sense of self.   For each one of us, the universe, the empathetic subjects, and everything else we perceive live only in one place.  That place is our consciousness…. Without consciousness, they do not exist for us.  What does this mean?  It means, that everything we sense as the outer world is really within us―within our perception.  Once we realize that our achievements are not something that we personally accomplished, but, also required consciousness, other lives, and the universe, we can no longer separate ourselves.  Thus, they are an accomplishment of the universe.  Our consciousness manifests this reality for us.  We are not separate from the universe; our perceptions are the universe as we know it. 

Once one understands this, it becomes clear that the true feeling of empathy is an integral part of self-love and it comes without effort to those who have this characteristic.  Empathy becomes intuitive rather than learned, and is no longer an object we seek; it’s a part of us.  True empathy is not born out of guilt, or feeling sorry for someone in need, nor is it found in feeling guilty about having more than others.  True love is not attainable without empathy, both for oneself and those one perceives as others.  Likewise, true empathy is not attainable to those lacking self-love, and I submit that lack of self-love is a motivator for many over-achievers.  Many are seeking self-love through their achievements and carrying out good works for them is based on false empathy as they seek self-love.

This took me many years to understand.  Early in my life I thought I would find it (self-love) through education so I­ collected degrees.  Not surprisingly, the degrees brought me no closer to understanding any of this.  I loved nature and climbed mountains and worked as a Physical Therapist.  I thought I was empathetic because I was helping people, but just like climbing mountains, it was motivated by my own need to achieve and had little to do with empathy.  Sadly for me, a substantial amount of over-achieving was necessary before I realized it would not bring wisdom, empathy, self-love, or anything of importance. 

Perhaps accepting that the only true asset we have is our consciousness and that our ego is an obstacle is all we need to understand to offer more to the world we perceive as outside of us. 

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3 thoughts on “Empathy Beyond the Ego

  1. Interesting and thought provoking post. By objectifying the empathic nature you suggest here is a defilement of the mind therefore, ego driven, this is why satisfaction is attached to the action but, if we are mindful of this and be able to explore this feeling and what brings this feeling about, only then can one reach the wisdom to expand empathic reaction without attachment, emanating true love. This way is known in Buddhism as right way because one neither settles in to the emotion that empathy promotes but settles for just is – being part of nature. Before understanding this, I felt there was two parts to empathy or an act of kindness. Say for example an elderly person drops their purse / wallet and is unable to pick it up. You witness this and instinctively go to help by picking it up and handing it to the person. Would you say at this point it is simply natural and has no emotional attachment? Only when the elderly person says thank you ect ect, then you feel as sense of achievement – The ego/defilement sets in?

    • Thanks for your comment. It made me think about something I enjoy thinking about, though I’m no real expert. I would think that the instinct to help is centered around true empathy and will promote the action to help, but the act to help does not necessarily reflect empathy. The sense of achievement or satisfaction is definitely an ego driven response and I believe motivates many people to carry out acts of kindness without true empathy, even in simple cases such as the one you spoke of. Thanks for reading!

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