Monday, October 26, 2015

Experience and Empathy

A recent study finds that those who have been through a difficult experience are actually less empathetic toward those going through similar experiences than those who have not.

The main reason they cite is that once someone has overcome a problem, they underestimate how difficult it was.

Anecdotally, with my experience as the parent of a child with a chronic (currently) fatal disease, I have to say there is some truth to that.  My eyes roll at the day-to-day complaints about parenthood that fill my Facebook theme.  I find myself sarcastically replying, "And what fatal disease does your child have? How long is she expected to live? How much time did you spend doing therapy to keep your child alive today?"

This is compounded by my preferred personal style being to "make it look easy."  I try to in general not show the hard work this is, forego special treatment as much as possible, and, with the exception of fund raising events and acute events like hospitalizations, try to present myself and our family as not all that different.

But we are.

Intellectually, I know that we have adjusted to the reality of cystic fibrosis, which does make dealing with it part of our routine, and that all of us can seem to be maxed out in dealing with the problems we're presented with. And that many parents have even more to deal with.

Still, when I've walked Meagan through her hour-long routine, hoped that the next drug she gets prescribed is one that we can afford and is not terribly difficult, and seen reports of other CF patients struggling or dying, it can be hard to muster much sympathy for the parents of the toddler who was fidgety on the flight to Disney World.

Yes, this is my problem. I'm hoping that by naming it, I can get better.

Dealing with struggles doesn't necessarily make us better people; it's up to us to make it work.


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