I cry, I don't know why.

I just feel things so deeply and want to solve everyone’s problems

I don’t know but I can’t help it, it’s just in me, I can’t distance myself from their suffering, because we all suffer.

It makes living life really hard. If I get too carried away I desire to deny being compassionate and having connections with people because they hurt. Then I picture my life as always worrying about sad things and the problems of others and then there’s no more me.

How can I live life knowing other people work so hard for so little and people and animals suffer?

  • " solve everyone’s problems " what kind a problems are you thinking about ? money ? health ? – PL_Pathum Aug 9 at 8:38

What you are experiencing is too much empathy. Many people believe that empathy is a universal virtuous trait that should always be increased, but this is not so.

To be very clear, empathy is distinct from compassion. The two are not the same thing although they are often conflated and misunderstood. The definition of compassion is very simple: the wish for others to be free from suffering. That's it.

Empathy is different from compassion. Empathy is the capacity to put yourself in someone else's shoes and feel what it is they are feeling. To imagine what someone else is feeling and experience some amount of it yourself.

So what is the relationship between compassion and empathy? Well, to some extent you need to be able to recognize someone else's suffering in order to develop the wish for them to be free of it. However, once this recognition is accomplished it does not require you to keep feeling what they are feeling. To suffer with them. When people in the west talk about "compassion fatigue" they are really talking about empathy fatigue.

So in summary, empathy can be both good (allowing us to recognize the suffering of others) and bad (rendering us powerless/overwhelmed or biased towards those we empathize with) depending upon the context. It sounds like you are definitely experiencing the latter and should stop empathizing so much. In order to do so, you first have to become clear on the differences between compassion and empathy. Compassion is a universal good that should always be increased. There is no such thing as compassion fatigue, but there is such a thing as empathy fatigue.

Have a look here for a modern account of how a western psychology recently discovered something that Buddhists have known for centuries ;)

Against Empathy: The Case for Rational Compassion

You can also find an interesting interview with the author here.

The fear of the lottery winner. It Might Not Be Mine. This is suffering. When we have more than others, we suffer in their suffering. Some turn a blind eye--that is just delusion and more suffering.

Mendicants, before my awakening—when I was still unawakened but intent on awakening—I thought: ‘Alas, this world has fallen into trouble. It’s born, grows old, dies, passes away, and is reborn, yet it doesn’t understand how to escape from this suffering...’

And with that awareness of suffering you could go indeed go forth. Gotama was sheltered from suffering by palaces and went forth upon first seeing others suffer.

However, it might be more immediately practical to address one's own suffering first. When the airplane oxygen masks flop down, we are instructed to put on our own mask first so that we may help others. Some of the tears we cry for other's suffering may actually be tears for our own suffering. Following the path of one's own tears, one can usually find some craving, some holding on to, some clinging. It might, for example, be delight in good fortune. If so, with metta embracing equanimity, one can relinquish the hold on delight, to let it be and be gone. 🙏

It would be helpful for you to be more specific about the types of suffering you’re talking about? Many higher belief systems such as Buddhism recognize that suffering is a part of Life. No matter who, rich or poor. It is necessary for growth. They teach not to take on another person’s suffering as your own, because they are on their own trajectory, suffering to learn the lessons they are in this life to learn. Let them learn it! You also can never assume how much someone is suffering just by looking at them. Not every homeless person is suffering in the way you might think. Any well dresed person on the street might be suffering perhaps more than you could possibly know because you don’t know them and are making assumptions about what their world looks like. If your talking about 3rd world hunger & feel guilty that you have food, why not alleviate some of that guilt by volunteering at a charity or other helpful organization? But the saying goes if you want to make a difference start locally. Start with yourself...as another user mentioned; don’t confuse your own suffering with that of others. Know the difference and explore your suffering so that you can more specifically help yourself and others. You may also be using the pain of others as a way to avoid something in your life -connecting with the pain, just not your own. There is a personality type where you feel others pain too intensely, called “Empath.” If you are a true Empath there are tools you can learn and train yourself to do to block out some of these feelings so that you can function. But there’s nothing wrong with caring about how others are feeling so I think it matters less that you put a label on it and more that you act on it. If it keeps you from functioning and living your life look for professional help. I hope you feel better.

Your Answer

 

By clicking "Post Your Answer", you acknowledge that you have read our updated terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy, and that your continued use of the website is subject to these policies.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.