NaBloPo September 21 Prompt: Do you think you’re good at seeing the world through another person’s eyes?
To see the world through someone else’s eyes implies empathy, a concept I came to understand through the Audrey Hepburn movie Funny Face. No, really.
I do try to consider other perspectives than my own. Often I find myself reminding people to look at the situation from the opposite point of view. Some of this, I think, comes from being a fiction writer. Motivation, perception, intention–these elements are key to understanding others. While I would never pretend to fully understand or feel the world the way another does, I make an effort and sometimes am successful.
That being said, one of my greatest weaknesses is when someone behaves in a way that I cannot understand, no matter how I try. For example, when I hear about people abusing animals or knowingly allowing child abuse to go on, I can’t rectify it. Then it becomes almost an obsession–why are they behaving this way? My mind cannot seem to find any insight into those types of behaviors. I cannot see the world through the eyes of someone who would purposefully hurt a child or animal, or allow other people to inflict pain on either one. I just don’t get it and I become frustrated at my own short comings.
A few years ago I had such a block when a woman I knew admitted full knowledge of her husband’s sexual abuse of children. Legally, there was nothing I could do because there was no evidence aside from her admission (and “oh well” attitude). I cut her completely out of my life and have tried to warn people about both she and her husband. It was a difficult time because I couldn’t see her as anything but a monster. My normal empathy was gone; as a mother myself, she made me sick. It ate away at me.
Finally I decided to seek help. When I explained the situation to the therapist, I kept saying, “I just don’t understand her. Why would she do this? I can’t seem to let go of this hate.”
The therapist pointed out that perhaps it is best that I don’t understand her–that some actions are so against our own natures, we can’t rationalize them. And in no way should something like sexual abuse of a child be rationalized.
It was then that I realized empathy is a gift but not one that every person should be granted. Some actions shouldn’t be rationalized, particularly if the person doing them has no remorse. We can analyze those actions in an attempt to explain them and circumvent future tragedy, but we cannot view the world through their eyes. And we shouldn’t want to.