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It’s Not Lack of Empathy, It’s Resilience

man-person-fog-mistI don’t know if it’s my body language, my words or the things that I say but I feel like I don’t react well to people. It’s some insecurity mechanism I have where I feel like the way I react to sad or shocking news isn’t the way I way I should react and I feel like a lot of people have this problem.

It’s as if my reaction doesn’t match the reaction they are expecting and I can see that I haven’t satisfied their expectations for how I should act following certain news. This is only a point of contention for me because I feel like the reaction I’m giving is false and fake and that makes me question my degree of empathy.

I’ve wondered many times whether there was some degree of psychopathy going on in me because I’m not shocked by things that happen. I wonder whether because these things aren’t as impactful for me as they are for them if I lack empathy. I don’t think I’m alone in this feeling either and I’ve made the same remarks to several people who feel the same way.

This has caused me concern only because I want to be close to people, I want to feel what they feel and I want to be able to comfort them if they are going through something hard.

After a lot of thought though, I came to the realization that I’m not affected by things like shocking news or deaths of people I don’t know because I have a robust crisis management system in place in my brain.

I don’t waste time feeling things, I fix them and when I do feel things I do what I can to move on.

This is a defense mechanism from years of dealing with the paranoia and delusions of living with a mental illness. I’ve had my fair share of feeling despair and estrangement from reality and I’m not affected by things like shocking news because the automation of moving past difficult things is deeply ingrained in how I operate.

It’s even the reason I write these articles.

I’m aiming to instruct people on how to deal with the difficulties of living with mental illness.

Spending time dwelling in the feeling of a situation isn’t something I like to do. I realize that this makes me sound cold and unfeeling but I fix things.

I realize that feeling grief and empathizing is something that needs to be done in order to move past a situation but the truth of the matter is that whatever you’re facing it could always, always be worse.

I don’t know what’s wrong with me in this regard but I know that I feel empathy for people who have horrible horrible lives, who live on the street and have lost their families to drunk driving accidents and who are hopelessly addicted to heroin and who live day in day out with a debilitating case of hallucinations and paranoia.

I feel for them, I don’t feel for the fact that you found out your boyfriend is texting some other girl. That’s small beans, I don’t feel for the fact that your computer got stolen or that a valuable football star is suspended from a couple games because he got a dui.

I think more than anything it’s a matter of perspective.

I live with horror and panic everyday of my life when I have to talk to people or when I have the distinct notion that people are conspiring against me in the far corner of the room.

I just know that whatever problem you have, it could always, always be worse and there’s no use in crying over something that you can take steps to fix.

It’s Not Lack of Empathy, It’s Resilience

Michael Hedrick

Michael Hedrick is a writer and photographer who has lived with schizophrenia since he was 20. His work has been featured in Salon, The Week, Scientific American and The New York Times. You can purchase his book 'Connections' here or Follow his blog on Living with Schizophrenia here.

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APA Reference
Hedrick, M. (2016). It’s Not Lack of Empathy, It’s Resilience. Psych Central. Retrieved on May 31, 2020, from


Last updated: 23 Apr 2016
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