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The likable facade

User Thread
 33yrs • M •
A CTL of 1 means that parallelist is a contributing member of Captain Cynic.
The likable facade
I have these theories about myself:

* Being nice to people is something I learned to do and choose to do rather than something that comes naturally. When I think other things are more important I can choose to stop empathizing and focus my concerns on those other things.

* The only real reason why I empathize at all is out of a desire to be liked which is in some sense founded in fear and neurosis.

* Although the Milgram experiment demonstrated that nearly everybody place conformity and obedience above empathy, which I think I’m unlikely to do, I tend to place intelligence and progress above empathy.

Couple of questions:

First, is this unusual? I know there are people for whom empathy is very natural. I just spent 4 days hanging out with my niece and nephew. My niece is 2 years old and she already thinks a lot about other people. It comes completely naturally to her. And I love her to bits for it. I’ve definitely decided niceness is the #1 thing I look for in a partner.

Second, are people like me bad people? I mean, nowadays I’m very interested in ethics and doing the right thing and I’ve a growing track record of doing the right thing in situations where other people probably wouldn’t because I like to think about it; it’s like a hobby for me and I get a kick out of being nice. But all of that is a choice I made consciously. So I wonder if the only thing that makes me a nice person is the fact that I believe in it and work at it. And because it isn’t unconscious and natural perhaps it could all change and I could be corrupted perhaps by money or power.

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 38yrs • M •
A CTL of 1 means that JoeCrow is a contributing member of Captain Cynic.
I think maybe we all make a choice like this but for a lot of people it's a subconscious choice. And no, you're not bad, if you were 'bad' you wouldn't be wondering about this, you'd just be out there being 'bad'.
A lot of us have to make an effort, some days not so much, but others it feels like a huge effort to not just say what you're really thinking.

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 33yrs • M •
A CTL of 1 means that parallelist is a contributing member of Captain Cynic.
Yeah I think I’ve decided that is stupid to worry about who you are. You can’t help who you are so you should just embrace it. That doesn’t mean you can’t change how you act however. It is healthy to adopt a disregard for what you can and can't do so it doesn't matter who you are, you can choose to behave however you please. The only exception to this is that you should probably focus on what you enjoy and excel at; that's just a pragmatic point, no use trying to specialize in something you find really difficult.

So I’ve made choice in my life to behave in ways that I think are virtuous and maybe some of those things don't come all that naturally, I don’t think that really matters. In the end what matters is a person’s performance and actions.

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 38yrs • M •
A CTL of 1 means that JoeCrow is a contributing member of Captain Cynic.
Yeah, exactly that. As long as you don't set out to deliberately hurt someone. You just sound very aware, and that's a good thing, even if you're aware that you have bad points... especially as you're aware you have bad points.
It's interesting about the 2 yr old though, I'm not sure all 2 yr olds are like this. Are we all born with this ability? Or do we use it, get positive attention so use it again. Interesting.

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 33yrs • M •
A CTL of 1 means that parallelist is a contributing member of Captain Cynic.
I don’t think all 2 year olds are like my niece (my nephew isn’t like her for example) so people definitely vary in the amount of empathy they are born with. But I think empathy can also be developed but I’m not quite sure how. For me I think it is often easier for me to justify empathy as a useful/effective tool for getting things done: it is easier to work with people than against them and so it is something I pull out when I think it might be a good idea. When my niece grows up I imagine she will find a sentence such as my last one pretty bizarre perhaps even amusing because, for her, empathy is pretty fundamental: she would never question whether to be empathic, that’s just what she does; that’s who she is.

The other thing I’ve been thinking about is the benefits of less empathy. People who have absolutely no empathy are really quite scary but having less than others has its uses: you are able to develop a stronger sense of self and strong convictions about things if you don't care so much what other people think.

My attempt to get both the advantages by varying the amount of empathy I experience based on the situation seems like it would work well but, as you can see, I’m struggling with concerns of lack of integrity and identity associated with that. Real empathy should be natural should it not?

Perhaps then the ideal is for empathic and less empathic people to work together and respect one another. With the empathic people in the team functioning in a kind of quality assurance role.

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 38yrs • M •
A CTL of 1 means that JoeCrow is a contributing member of Captain Cynic.
Maybe society is designed to have people with varying degrees of empathy. I wonder if there's a difference between the sexes?
I think being with people helps build empathy, as well as reading, doing creative things.

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The likable facade
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