Last night at a therapy group, we talked about many things, including personal injuries and the horrific murders in a Charleston, South Carolina church.
As usual, the topics covered the board in the group room.
At one point, I said to the group members, “It looks like we’re talking about the opposite of empathy. What is the word for that?”
And then we all struggled, together, to come up with one word to describe the overriding theme in the room — a word that could do justice to the pain people had suffered. We were able to put some words on how it felt to encounter a lack of empathy, but it was difficult to come up with one word for the opposite of empathy.
I didn’t take a picture of the whiteboard, with the words we tried, but I do remember these:
One of the group members used her phone to look up antonyms of empathy, which were only three:
Here are some more words I wrote down — after that group discussion — about my personal experience with the opposite of empathy:
The opposite of empathy
I don’t know what word to put on it
I know it when I encounter it.
The first time I did, it
was a Resident named Hyatt
at Children’s Hospital.
I was 10
and he said
“You are not in pain
You are a spoiled brat
And you are taking our time
away from children who are
My response was
then finding a
doctor or nurse
to listen to me,
to believe me,
and, using their skill and power,
to stop the pain.
I wonder what happened
to Dr. Hyatt?
Did he learn and get
better at dealing with
children in pain?
I HOPE SO!!!
Here are some photos I took yesterday, before and after I learned about the killings in Charleston:
Here’s one that was playing last night, as I walked back to my car, after the group:
What words or music might you choose, for the opposite of empathy?
My gratitude to all who contributed to my writing this post and to you — as always — for reading it.