Empathy II

Two dolls, Milly and Mandy. Milly places her marble in her basket, and goes out to play. Bad, bad Mandy takes Milly’s marble and hides it in her box. Milly comes back, and wants to play with her marble. Where does she look for it?

Quite young children will say, her basket. They realise she does not know Mandy has taken it. Some children with autism will say the box. They cannot conceive of other minds, with other understandings.

I was saddened when a woman said she would not walk alone on her local nature reserve- or any remote woods or lanes- because of fear of male violence; shocked when a therapist said she would feel a “natural stranger response (fear)” on the couch of a male psychoanalyst she did not know. I think of counsellors, certainly, but even analysts as strongly pro-social. I file away the fear of the analyst- some women? Most women?- as part of my world map.

I want you not to feel that fear, or need to.

This felt mindblowing, and after, I wondered why. Chatting with R in the caff, I suddenly imagined myself as him, looking at Clare and enjoying her company. Well, of course he would, or he would not do it; and he evinces pleasure. It was a moment of empathy rather than an Out of Body experience. I don’t know- perhaps I just don’t think about it, I enjoy meeting, he is willing to meet and that is enough for me, but right now I feel pleasure in the thought that he values my company.

Or possibly it is that generally with empathy I imagine myself in a similar situation, and imagining myself as the other is more empathic.

I imagined F at a radical feminist gathering, and when it became known that she persuaded a tranny to revert her kudos increased. This is paranoid. There is a difference between having an attitude to my transition and treating me as a project. I am not entirely comfortable with the thought, though.

Man convicted of manslaughter, only 19 years old. He drove a stolen van at a policeman, saying to his friend “Watch this!” Did he not care, seeing the policeman as an enemy, or imagine the policeman would get up after, like in an action flick? Imagine the exhilaration…

That blogger. She considers trans folk, my lot, sharing our joys, sorrows and fears, in disgust, and shares those comments which she finds most disgusting. It is a risk I take, sharing as I do here, possibly because I have difficulty imagining someone seeing things so differently from me. “I have suffered!” I would say, and of course your heart would go out to me.

Arthur Melville, An Arab interior

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