“The Myth of Empathy” – PDSG Presentation by Linda Buchan & Sarah Hendrickx


“The Myth of Empathy”

Wednedays talk was originally to have been given by Lana Grant on “Autism and Adulting”. Unfortunately her train was cancelled, which gave the opportunity for Linda and Sarah to provide a somewhat impromptu presentation on Empathy.

With so little time before the meeting was to start, no slideshow could be prepared, however good old fashioned pen and paper produced an excellent interactive presentation which generated much discussion.


“The Myth of Empathy”

Axia Post-Diagnostic Support Group
December 2019

with Linda Buchan and Sarah Hendrickx


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22 comments on ““The Myth of Empathy” – PDSG Presentation by Linda Buchan & Sarah Hendrickx
  1. Senor Moment says:

    Thanks for the impromptu presentation. I yet again found it quite appropriate to my own circumstances. So please keep them coming. I would also suggests that this is a subject looking for a well-informed author.
    One of the things I got from this, in the most general of terms, is that many people with autism could be thought of as constant expatriates. I spent a great deal of my earlier life moving from place to place around the UK. I felt like an expatriate in each place in which I lived there; even though I found numerous people I could empathise with along the way. But I also felt like that in my hometown, before the travelling around commenced; due I suppose to having both binational parents; neither of which were actually locals. And yet they thrived there, and continue to live there. And I still enjoy being there myself. As your clinic is so very close to the border with Wales, you probably get quite a few people like me with very divided affiliations. I don’t really feel completely at home on either side of that border, and yet I can still empathise with most NT and ND in those two entities. And to complicate matters I now live on the other side of the World. And I’m probably even more at odds with the culture here. The reasons for that incompatability, both here and there, are fairly obvious. You might say I’m rather anti-fashion in an extremely fashion-conscious society. With so many people being so much more mobile these days (even against their will), small wonder that most people in the World actually feel quite alienated by the current economic and social regime. (Small wonder too that this election is so acrimonious and divisive.)

    Something else I also got from this presentation. In my case, it very much is an issue of mental processing speed. Not only can I never quite keep up with the contemporary global breakneck speed, but I also have no great appreciation of those who apparently enjoy life in the fast lane – that which Henry Miller referred to as “The Air-Conditioned Nightmare” right back in the early last century. I still greatly value being allowed to take my time over deciding when and how I empathise. And judging by so much of the current upheaval in the World, there are obviously plenty more folks with a similar outlook around.I’m sure both presenters here are very aware that ‘we’ very much are a significant minority, if we can only find more ways to be heard. And what we may lack in speed, we probably compensate for with a great deal of patience.

    • whereislove says:

      I, like you, senor moment, also have a great deal of patience but I’m not always ‘fast’, although I can be fast-depends what it is I think that empathy is not a myth it does exist. I think that I have a great deal of empathy. Probably far more than most people.

      I wasn’t sure where to ask the following question but I need advice about buying lightbulbs. I’m sensitive to light and I need some lower wattage lightbulbs but I can’t find any. Does anyone know where to get 10W or less (not LED 10 watt because that would be too bright obviously). A coloured lightbulb would be best.
      There is no lightbulb that is low wattage enough for me.
      I hope someone can help me with this.

      • Senor Moment says:

        I’m not in the UK, but I imagine that you need to go to a different kind of shop to get lower than 10 Watt LED bulbs. I imagine it might actually be better for you to go to an Electrical Wholesaler. These are usually on industrial estates. In the country where I live, I regularly buy bulbs of 3 Watt LED for lighting public areas at night. Even 1 watt should be available. I guess you might want Warm White bulbs, rather than the Cool White bulbs which simulate daylight. But I have also seen different coloured LED bulbs of 1 watt, and of the usual bulb-holder size. One of the great things about LED lighting IS that you CAN buy low watt bulbs. You can also get converters so that very small bulbs will fit in normal household bulb-holders.

    • whereislove says:

      About processing speed-I was always the only one in school who had to keep looking at the board with the instructions to the class for longer than any other student. I was the only one in the class who didn’t get the verbal instructions for activities as fast as the other students. The notes on the board were ambiguous and I had to ask my study partner or fellow student for help to understand what we were supposed to be doing on numerous occasions since my processing speed is slower with verbal instructions and ambiguous directions and also generally slower having to read sentences over and over again and needing a lot of rests and then start to feel really sleepy after making effort on many occasions. Education system was a nightmare for me. They would not allow me to rest when I needed to (I needed to sleep during the school day but I couldn’t) and they expected me to go as fast as they wanted-as fast as everyone else. I did not do well at school as a result. School was actually torture.

    • Whereislove says:

      Thank you for this insightful, interesting presentation. The theory of quantum mechanics specifies particle entanglement where particles have telepathic empathy. People are connected by the physics of the planet for a start to understanding. Thus even though two people or more may be in a seemingly different place they can communicate through empathy which may or may not be enacted into action for the force of good. The topic of empathy and how it relates to particle physics is of utmost interest to me. Empathy is enacted by telepathy which is in fact particle physics.

    • Whereislove says:

      Just like particles can be separated and still influence each other, when people are separated, they can still communicate with each other and as we are all connected and everything seems to be connected, this means that theoretically we can all possibly communicate without talking which is what empathy is at the base level. So, for example, if two people with a previous strong bond such as close family members or any other viable previous connection were each in two different places (at a distance such that they couldn’t see or hear each other in the ’normal’ physical distance type of interaction and then one of the people started thinking about a certain thing, theoretically and in effect, the other person, at a distance would think the same thing if the mitigation for natural systems protection for altruism (which is a core facet of the way humanity should interact) were extant. This is a base level example of the theory of quantum entanglement on the human level rather than simply the particle level which is in fact true.

    • Whereislove says:

      Exactly-Empathising for many people in humanity is a decision they can make at will to empathize or not to empathize and some people process and make that decision slower than others (two different types of people there). For many others Empathy seems to be like a constant companion (that’s how I feel) and possibly for others, they may not be able to feel empathy at all and others may just need more time to process the information needed to feel empathy since feeling empathy is specific to a particular instance else it wouldn’t be empathy and therefore information from the other (connected) source (let’s say other person or people for example) has to be transferred to the recipient and processed so that empathy (which is basically understanding and feeling ‘the same’ as same as same (feeling) can be in a different location. These different types of human empathy incorporations are by no means always mutually exclusive. There are of course multifaceted variations throughout humanity.

    • whereislove says:

      For example, I am an empath and I have intuitive empathy. That’s what I mean when I say that I feel that empathy is like a constant companion. Sure I have autism too. Google ‘links between intuition and empathy’. Some people can literally get information from other people into themselves subconsciously which is what I do. It is called intuitive empathy. It is like the cloud in computing-knowledge that is already there to get. It is all for love. Humanity needs to accept love and be loving. This information will help you to do another presentation for us

  2. Linda Buchan says:

    As always very interesting comments to further the discussion

    • whereislove says:

      Why are you writing ‘the myth of empathy’?

      I think it would be a good idea if this website allowed people who want to post on it to choose the type of writing template style that is to be printed. I always write with my writing slanted to the right and the writing template style is mostly slanted to the left after posting on this website which annoys me. Sorry I just don’t like my writing to look slanted to the left.
      I hope it is possible to allow choice in this matter possibly in the future?

      • Dream says:

        If you listen to the presentation, it may help you understand why the phrase “the myth of empathy” was used.

        I’m sorry you don’t like the way the type face looks, but unfortunately there is no option for users to change the font on individual comments (that I’m aware of). If the type face were to be changed, it would affect the whole site, so is not something which would be done without discussion amongst other users and the Axia team.

    • whereislove says:

      Google ‘quantum mechanics and empathy’

    • Whereislove says:

      I can help you to write another presentation about empathy and intuition if you want me to. I know a lot of things

    • Whereislove says:

      Don’t forget that within oneself the universe can be hidden. All is connected.

    • whereislove says:

      I would like to send you some of my Artwork Linda. I would like to share my ideas. Would you like me to do so? What is the best way to do this?

    • Whereislove says:

      I think you are a very empathic, intelligent lady Linda Buchan

  3. Whereislove says:

    I really liked this video. I agree, there is no proof for some people’s claims on the topic of empathy and therefore some things may be a myth regarding what certain people understand empathy to be and how it exists or is acquired/developed/used. In future maybe Linda and Sarah may be interested to do another video following this one, on the same topic, titled ‘Collective empathy, intuition, health and proof for telepathic conmunication’. I would really like to watch such a presentation also

  4. Ayani Pont says:

    Excellent content. Just listened to it. Absolutely – some movies can make you cry so hard, and also, there is nobody else around, so you can just let your feelings show without being judged. I hate crying in front of other people.
    What Dr. Linda said, in real life – you just don’t know how to react, and sometimes it is too much information and you can only react the next day, after having processed it thoroughly and thought things through. I am also more of the “fixer” – having sent links to people what they could do about it.
    Research mode empathy.
    I totally get that too much empathy can be crushing. I hate when people are all touchy feely pushing THEIR emotions onto me, when I might not feel as sad as they assume. I then just disappear on them, needing space from all that emotion.
    I prefer to have no reaction at all.
    Usually I just say I am sorry you have gone through so much abuse, and I really do feel sorry, but I cannot do anything about it, can I? It has already happened to that person.
    But if somebody is angry or very sad, it is so heavy, and I have to get away because it is too intense.
    Similarly, when I am in an sensory overload situation I really can’t be empathic at the same time, because then I am in survival mode, fight or flight or freeze, and not more touchy feely, I am already in overwhelm, so I have to shut out any more stimulation..

    I looked into the Attachment theory – did some research on that, but it just did not fit. I don’t think attachment theory is a good fit for autistics.
    They should add another category reserved for autistics.
    When a psychologist is trained in attachment theory is trying to push an autistic into that frame, it’s a complete misfit, because many autistics obviously love solitude and have a PHYSICAL need for solitude, in order to recharge and cope.

    Hope to meet you 2 in person one day. I always feel homesick when I can relate so much.
    Will there be any online classes for such lectures? I feel you 2 have a lot to teach.

  5. Linda Buchan says:

    Thank you for your kind comments and also your thoughtful helpful response to our presentation

  6. Gilly Robinson says:

    Thanks, Linda and Sarah

    I had not come across the notion of ‘movement empathy’ (I think that’s what you called it, Linda?). Anyway, I googled it, and came across an article (‘Empathy through vision and movement’, Laura Otis, Psychology Today, 26/8/20) that made huge sense to me (I’m the one always ‘rescuing’ worms out of the soil, snails on a dry path, bees drowning far out to sea (even though I have a bee allergy)…

    To quote:
    ” Seeing a fellow creature struggle differs from reading about a creature struggling, but in both cases, emotions may arise as one imagines one’s own body making the same movements. The emotion may become conscious whether or not the simulated motion does. And the creature need not be human. Life in distress calls out to other life.

    In this time of death and despair, it encourages me that the instinctive bonds among living creatures still hold. The link between “motion” and “emotion” is more than verbal, and the desperate fluttering of a trapped bird screams, “Help me! I’m alive!” Instincts older than humanity may save humans as long as we respect all of life.”

    I’ve no idea if this extract relates to what you were referring, but I certainly relate strongly to it.

    Thanks, both, for a great talk.

  7. Linda Buchan says:

    I hadn’t explored it as fully as that so thank you for sharing that
    It certainly resonated with me too

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