Empathy and suffering #digped

Before vacation I attended digital pedagogy lab institute (DPLI) in Fredericksburg Virginia. I haven’t been able to write a summary blog post for the experience. It was not at all what I was expecting. I was thrilled to spend a week with Maha Bali and Kate Bowles, so really, I did not enter with any expectations other than to share the space with a couple of my favourite people. Since I was attending the networks track, I did hope to meet some new people and make some new connections/friends.

One of the ah-ha moments that did occur was when we were having a discussion around empathy. I shared that after my cancer diagnosis my empathy level for others significantly expanded. I found that it was my worry about my loved ones that made me sad. I could feel the pain they were in because of my diagnosis. It was heart wrenching.

It was in this discussion that I drew the connection between suffering and empathy. Because I was suffering, I felt increased empathy towards others. To me, this explains the high empathy levels in some of my friends – because I know they are suffering, and that personal suffering translates to increased empathy for others.

I think that is one of my big take aways from my experience at DPLI.

It leaves me with the question, can you be deeply empathetic if you have not had personal suffering?

1 Comment

  1. I think it’s necessary to reflect on the depth of your own suffering but I don’t know if you will come back with a deeper feeling for others. I find that I relate to the feeling of being off-on-your-own and disconnected from the world (for however long it was) as a place of terrible lonesomeness and isolation that might seek out sympathetic others but more for my own need to be acknowledged.

    So maybe empathy is a form selfish solidarity among us sickies? The fellow survivors club thing. Or more likely, an overdeveloped sense of other people’s feelings due to a socially difficult inability to separate ourselves from others?

    I developed empathy as a result of being picked on as a kid–feeling different and angry about it.

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