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What if a being can't be happy and well?

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  • What if a being can't be happy and well?

    Hello all,

    I've been working very hard on my health and mental well being and the change is positive. I'm ever grateful for the teachers that have helped and continue to help me, including the Buddhist teachings I can watch online.

    One thing has me stuck and a little distressed. There are some people for whom empathy cannot be accessed. The neural pathways for empathy are either missing or corrupted. My father and my ex are much that way, I think, and when I try to imagine them happy and well, I can't because I know they're illness will not let them. I've been thinking that maybe I could say "may they have a healthy rebirth" but it feels like I'm rejecting them instead of accepting thing which is something that I want to cultivate. I rarely have to interact with them so in that space I want to cultivate acceptance but they're like Madam Curie's Diary's surely full of good things but too long exposed to them and you'll find yourself sick. That makes me sad.

    Thoughts?

  • #2
    There are some people for whom empathy cannot be accessed. The neural pathways for empathy are either missing or corrupted.
    People who have an inability to empathize with others are called sociopaths. I distinctly remember Ajahn Brahmali talking about sociopaths and he said, "if the person truly is a sociopath, then it's best to have as little contact with them as possible." I assume this also applies to our minds. It's best not to use our minds to empathize with someone who is, by definition, unable to understand empathy. Of course, I've met a handful of sociopaths but it's hard to tell the difference between a sociopath and someone whose simply become sadistic, greedy and jaded.

    Also, when developing loving-kindness, it's best to focus on people or animals which are easy for us to attain a tranquil mind. If we try to force ourselves to accept things we do not accept, then we're just rejecting ourselves for not accepting certain things. It's a kind of self-invalidation. The whole point to loving-kindness is to develop and nurture an attitude of compassion towards others... not to cause a degree of well-being that will magically manifest itself in the person's life. In that effect, it doesn't matter if the other person "actually" becomes happy, only that our spiritual virtue is being nourished and reinforced.

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    • #3
      Hi Amanda,
      We are all suffering, in our own ways
      When we get into a debate with ourselves, about how others are suffering, or even our own suffering, it is futile. It is out of our control.
      Be mindfull that our minds love to find something to put a spanner in the free flow, this endless chatter that will find something to engage us in.
      Be present, and smile inside, all is as it is.
      Lots of loving kindness to you
      with metta

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      • #4
        dear amanda,

        i think you're doing well actually with your loving kindness practice. may i recommend something? please contemplate that no matter how much suffering other people have, it's bound to end as AB will say, happiness is between two periods of suffering and suffering is between two periods of happiness. the way i look at it is even though you may not be able to imagine that they could be happy, the most important part is that you are wishing them well. that's enough to close the gap between you and them. just being able to wish happiness and well being to others is already a great act of giving.

        sukhi hotu.

        with anjali and metta,
        russ

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        • #5
          Thank you all so much for this! I am truly grateful.

          Also, when developing loving-kindness, it's best to focus on people or animals which are easy for us to attain a tranquil mind. If we try to force ourselves to accept things we do not accept, then we're just rejecting ourselves for not accepting certain things. It's a kind of self-invalidation. The whole point to loving-kindness is to develop and nurture an attitude of compassion towards others... not to cause a degree of well-being that will magically manifest itself in the person's life.
          When we get into a debate with ourselves, about how others are suffering, or even our own suffering, it is futile. It is out of our control.
          I was worried that I was doing this very thing - invalidating myself. I want to love all beings, no matter how troubled precisely because I understand how the mind can make a person suffer terribly. I felt as though I was just being stubborn and cruel to be so against these people and I kept reciting Dhammapada verses 4,5, and 50 but I was just beating myself up. I will try to have compassion for myself in this area;that will be hard and it will be more possible than what I was doing.

          Comment


          • #6
            Amanda,

            Is it possible that you are also misinterpreting some people? Just because empathy is not visible, it does not mean it is not present. For example, I've often been judged as lacking compassion or empathy because I don't usually show emotions, I don't often openly express feelings and because some events don't seem to move me. Despite that I have a strong urge to help those in need , I wish for the suffering of others to stop and I often feel glad for the success of others. But I don't have a habit of expressing the former two.

            Also despite also not showing it, I'm a pretty joyful person. But that's just me. I just want to point out that it's not always easy to evaluate another.

            With meta,
            Daniel

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            • #7
              It is possible but unlikely. I understand that not showing emotion is not the same as lack of empathy. Narcissists (that is the poor but clinical term) and Psychopaths show emotion fine. What they lack is the information that informs them how their actions affect the emotions of others. They have "cold empathy", logically they understand the consequences, but they don't feel the consequences. While it takes a trained professional to truly diagnose them and there is a spectrum for empathetic disorders, they often go undiagnosed because their pathology only really shines around others and they themselves don't realize that their lacking, albeit some do and just don't care (Why should they? No, HOW should they?)

              I spent some time checking as many facts as I could to make sure I wasn't being unfair and I still continue to occasionally check myself from judging instead of observing but the evidence is pretty strong that some of the men with whom I had been close are suffering from a painful disorder but cannot find help. Indeed, the fact that so few are diagnosed and in treatment means that modern science has been, thus far, unable to find an effective treatment. I wish it weren't that way but it is...that's really hard to accept. But who am I to say that the path they're walking is without valuable lessons? It's why I really really want to accept them.

              Comment


              • #8
                well what you percieve as the problem might not even be the real problem.

                i've some doubts from time to time about this zen master Thich Nhat Hanh but with his past he understands suffering like no other so maybe he's right and "you need the mud" so i'll post this link hoping to provide some insight

                http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lJkzvM_l8VQ

                Comment


                • #9
                  Thank you so much, Stefan.

                  I really don't understand this talk, so I'll be re-listening to it!

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                  • #10
                    "All boundaries are conventions, waiting to be transcended. One may transcend any convention, if only one can first conceive of doing so."
                    ~David Mitchell (Cloud Atlas)

                    If a mind can conceive or imagine happiness and wellness then I see no distinction between living it, and not. The mind conceives of a barrier and the trick is to simply not believe in it anymore (e.g. Social awkwardness, anxiety, depression are all things that I simply don't allow myself to feel anymore, no fuel for those fires.) As individuals I have no doubt that there are literal barriers of various size and thickness, as spoken above pertaining to serious mental illnesses, this is perhaps one of the largest and heavily fortified of the conceivable barriers. That is to suggest that every person feels happiness and wellness in the same way as another, approaching from different angles is often key to attainment of anything.

                    With Metta,
                    Dan

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                    • #11
                      Hi Amanda et al.,

                      I think it's important to realise that you can give loving-kindness and compassion to whomever, no matter what they are capable or incapable of experiencing. I know talking about theory isn't from the heart, but if you give loving-kindness to people with or without certain mental capabilities, you may find that their situation and your feelings toward them will improve. Who's to say that this will not help them and you somewhere down the track too...?

                      With metta,

                      Scott
                      Last edited by Scott Bazely; 25th-September-2013, 12:18 PM. Reason: Reworded

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                      • #12
                        Hi Scott.. I agree.. I have a bit a problem to understand the question anyway... if somebody has a mental problem and can't feel empathy or be happy, where is the problem to feel loving kindness for him/her? Not being able to feel happy.. or empathetic : how sad is that?
                        Is the problem possibly not person B's not being able to feel for others, - but that person A was badly hurt by person B and feels a grudge? In THAT case I could understand....
                        and: that can change when we understand the nature of mental illness. Understanding how mind works is always a good thing .
                        Also I think it is a good advice to stay away from these people if they are hurting others. They probably only "need" a victim to prove their power to themselves. Being that victim does not help them and not the victim. It is completely "counterproductive".
                        _()_

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                        • #13
                          Amanda,

                          let me put it this way: suppose someone steps with bare feet in some glass, of course that would hurt but would it help him if you'd also step into that glass? it would not and yet that's the trap which many people out of the goodness of their heart fall in to: their own desire to 'help' ...

                          the thing is that samsara consists of many sorts of illusions so it should not be surprising that many bad situations are not even bad situations, they're just situations but the mindset matters a lot. if you for example ever had that sort of accident with the glass before you'd be able to have the empathy for someone in such a situation while you would not have to go through that whole experience again yourself.

                          what that zen master basically proposes is the notion that not only do you need the bad to recognize the good but that beauty can be born out of an ugly situation if you learn how to transform feelings of suffering in yourself. usually the main difference to gain something positive out of a negative situation is only your viewpoint and your feeling.
                          he also explains how you should focus on listening to ease the suffering others and maybe eventually solve ongoing conflicts instead of rushing into a momentary perception of a solution guided by angry feelings which would probably stir up conflicts with others even further.

                          with metta,
                          Stefan
                          Last edited by Stefan Van Cappellen; 26th-September-2013, 05:31 AM. Reason: typo

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                          • #14
                            I don't know what happened but I suddenly understand better. Thank you all so much. I wish I were better able to express my gratitude because this is so important to me and to finally be progressing is major deal but I hope explaining how much I appreciate all of you and your help is sufficient.

                            With Metta,
                            Amanda

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                            • #15
                              dear amanda,

                              aloha! you're very welcome. didn't do anything really, it was all you sukhi hotu.

                              with anjali and metta.

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