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Author Topic: Can empathy be learned?  (Read 278 times)
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« on: March 12, 2015, 08:35:59 AM »

One of the BPD traits is a lack of empathy for others, and themselves really.  I'm curious if anyone has any info on the possibility of a pwBPD 'learning' this.  Above all else, an ounce of empathy from my BPDh would go a long way to helping the r/s, and I'm wondering if it is something he may be able to someday pick up, or if the blockage to this emotion will most likely almost always be there?

 
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« Reply #1 on: March 12, 2015, 11:01:31 AM »

Here are my thoughts/observations on this:

Empathy is a natural emotion that people either have the capacity for or don't.  I think there is a small segment of the population we label as "sociopaths" that lack empathy, and somehow see themselves as something different than everyone else.  I also think that pwBPD are not in this category - they do have empathy.  Probably a ton of empathy.  Their issue is that their empathy is locked up and inaccessible. 

Part of what I observe is that my wife is simply too emotional.  She shuts down her empathy along the idea that "I care so much about others, and nobody cares so much about me, so screw others, I won't care anymore."  She blocks her empathy for others because she can't separate it from herself.  Empathy=pain. 

In that sense, I think pwBPD can learn to empathize with others as long as they can learn to separate others from themselves.  N example would be a few weeks ago when I expressed to my wife that I was really stressed out and that it was affecting my health.  She worried, said she would help take care of things and let me relax.  That lasted about half a day, because her hearing that I was stressed out stressed her out, and she could not separate herself, and then she fell apart.  It's not that she could not empathize with my stress, it was that she could not cope with it because she could not separate it from her own stress.
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« Reply #2 on: March 12, 2015, 01:20:33 PM »

Can a person with BPD traits learn to be more empathetic?

Yes.  We can all learn to empathize.  That is the basis of active listening skills and of some DBT skills.

I believe that when people are emotionally overwhelmed, they struggle to get beyond their own needs and see the needs of others. 

People with BPD traits are often overwhelmed.
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GENERAL ANNOUNCEMENT

This board is intended for general questions about BPD and other personality disorders, trait definitions, and related therapies and diagnostics. Topics should be formatted as a question.

Please do not host topics related to the specific pwBPD in your life - those discussions should be hosted on an appropraite [L1] - [L4] board.

You will find indepth information provided by our senior members in our workshop board discussions (click here).

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