The limits of empathy – on compassion

I talk about empathy a lot – but I think there's something I desperately need to say in regard to this.


A lot of ADHD or Autistic people have Alexithymia – which is an inability to recognise their own emotions or the emotions of others – but they are still incredibly compassionate people.

Compassion can be a logical emotion, not just an intuitively felt one.

Compassion requires nothing to do with emotion, and in fact in some ways feeling others emotions is a barrier to compassion.

Compassion is a logical look at all the circumstances that may have caused some behaviour and deciding to act with care toward someone.

Logic and emotions are not separate. Too much of either is usually always a bad result and can cause an issue with the ability to be compassionate.

Compassion relies on perspective taking – trying to put yourself in their shoes. That can easily be done logically or emotionally, or with a combination of both – just with "how can I be nice to this person – what more information do I need?"

Emotional Compassion – I can feel this person is hurting, I will be kind.
Logical Compassion – In the past I have identified this as being related to this behaviour through study, I want to be kind which I know involves something I’ve studied
Emotional/Logical Compassion – I can feel this person is hurting, this behaviour might be related to this thing I’ve studied, I will be kind

Emotion = intuition
Logic = reasoning
Emotional Logic = intuitive reasoning

You can use both. Or one, or the other, and get the same result.

The double empathy problem is a failure of logical capacity in emotional reasoning – it demonstrates the limits of egocentric empathy.

The thing that undermines compassion is egocentric bias. Thinking that others are the same as ourselves.

Originally tweeted by Rory – ADHD Autistic OCD (@roryreckons) on November 22, 2021.

Published by roryreckons

I am an ADHD/Autism Coach as well as ADHD/Autism/OCD/CPTSD advocate and independent ADHD/Autism researcher. I am an ADHD/Autism Coach who trained through the ADD Coaching Academy. I write mainly about ADHD/Autism/OCD/Mental health issues, but will also discuss morality, abolition, and current affairs occasionally.

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