People assume that I’m uncaring or cold because I don’t get sad and grieve or question the fate of humanity when horrible things happen on the world stage. I care deeply about foreign and domestic terrorism, school shootings and every other account where there has been senseless violence. I have empathy for those who are affected and the aftermath to their communities and families. I do not feel sad or become outraged or worry about the future of humanity. Instead, I turn to looking for a solution. Not the simple answers like banning guns to stop gun violence, but the underlying issues causing so much violence and division in our world. It’s harder to look beyond the simple answer and not get caught up in the emotions of what’s happening. Each time the world stops and panics in horror after a terrorist event, the terrorist wins!!
I attribute my ability to stay partial and not get emotionally involved on how my life has unfolded. I took the horrors of my life and used them to support others in making it through theirs. I learned the difference between empathy and sympathy. I also learned to set boundaries around my stuff and other people’s stuff. I care deeply about each person I sat with and the stories they shared of abuse, horrors unimaginable to many, mental illness and suicidality to name a few. If I got caught up their sadness and feelings there is no way I could help them. I had to take care of myself and distance myself from their experience without losing the ability to genuinely care. This is my reaction to horrors outside my environment.
Feeling deeply, having empathy, caring about others and the world we live in are all very good things. All of us cope in different ways. Not being upset at all by tragic things happening in the world which do not directly impact us is not being insensitive or not grasping the reality of what’s going on. In reality, they have no direct impact on the lives of the masses. Caring that something happened and having an emotional reaction to it aren’t the same thing, nor are they dependent on one another.
There are horrors happening in the world every single day which we turn a blind eye to in order to survive and keep our worlds in tact. We know they’re happening, but we opt not to care, so to speak. Tuning out the emotional impact of yet another horrific thing isn’t necessarily unhealthy. As humans, we cannot maintain the equilibrium in our lives and allow ourselves to feel everything deeply. This filtering is part of good mental health.
In closing, I have empathy for the families of those lost in the Ukranian flight on Wednesday, along with every other atrocity that goes on in the world each and every day. I’m not sad. I’m not impacted in any way. I refuse to live in fear anxiety about what might be. I hope for a world where there is less violence and tragedy. My conversations about these topics acknowledge the sadness, but swiftly shift to what can make things better. I often opt not to talk about them at all, which is OK, too. I don’t feel the need to get caught up in things I cannot fix or change. Acceptance is a good thing. For the record, Acceptance is in no way the same as Agreeing/Liking something.