The Curse of Understanding

Or, why I hate talking politics part II

Here’s the problem. I’m cursed with the ability to understand everyone’s point of view. Well, almost everyone’s. That doesn’t mean I agree with all of them. Some I’m repulsed by. But I understand.

I understand conservative pro-life anti-gay-marriage Christians. I understand liberal pro-choice gay pagans. I understand lazy suburbanites and urban activists. I understand Jewish settlers and Palestinian suicide bombers, though I shudder to understand the latter. I understand service to God being paramount to all earthly things, and I understand religion being a secondary, perfunctory function. I understand the value of fashion and esthetics, and I understand the triviality of same. I understand wanting to let people make their own mistakes, and I understand wanting to prevent them from making mistakes that might ruin their lives. I understand identifying totally with a single group, and I understand rejecting all categorization.

I’m not gifted with some superhuman power of empathy. I’m not saying I feel every facet of what it is to be any of the above. But I understand how you can be a sane, thinking, loving, educated human being and be or feel any of those things. I can’t see people as simply labels, no matter how tempting it may be to do so. And that’s why political debates pain my the way they do – because I have no way of imparting that basic understanding to anyone else. And without it I’m not sure if communication is really possible.

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  1. do you know your myers-briggs type? 🙂

    1. Either INFJ or INTJ, depending on when I take the test.

      1. i was getting a distinct INF sense. the J surprises me from what you said here but not other things. 🙂

  2. Human nature doesn’t always allow for logic. Of course there’s exceptions *winkwink* *points at Avdi* *winkwink again*, but the tendency of humans is to label everything so they can understand it, because without a label they just can’t. I wouldn’t worry about it too much. And this is why I stay apolitical for the most part! (but not enough to not cast a vote; that would just be stupid of me)

  3. Prejudice and labels are a product of brain wiring that cannot be avoided completely – you learn to react to traffic lights instinctively, not rethink each time what green or red mean, because your brain wants to organise information and part of how it does that is by forming easy associations. Anyone who tells me they never label and have NO prejudice at all, I consider not to be fully honest with themselves.

    However, that reaction to classify can be controlled and its effect on decisionmaking limited.

    I understand how being able to take differing perspectives can be frustrating. Often if you defend anything, or object to it, on principle and on being able to see it at all, people paint you as dramatically supporting that particular view.

    Ultimately, anyone who is going to make you feel bad for disagreeing with them or for being able to take other views isn’t worth your time. The ones who outgrow it can always be reassessed for value in your life later.

  4. Wow… and I thought I was the only one like this. Dude.

    I’m almost exactly the same way. I’ve got this acute sense of empathy. Not only can I often times see both (all?) sides of the situation, I also can observe other beings/characters/whatever and can feel what they feel. I used to cry at certain Sesame Street songs because I could acutely feel the loneliness that they just mentioned in passing. Certain things (always silly, little things, not big deals) just shake me to the core… certain words or situations that just don’t sit right with my soul. I’ve always been this way… getting disturbed at trivial things.


    FYI, I’m an ENFP.

    1. It’s nice to to know I’m not alone 🙂 Actually, I don’t think we’re the only ones. I’m betting the success of on that hope.

      Looking back, I think I too have a history of [over-]identifying with little things like that, feeling bursts of sympathy or sadness for something that wasn’t even real. I hear ya.

      I’m an INFJ or an INTJ, depending on when I’ve taken the test.

      I hope I can be of some encouragement to you as another empathetic soul in a decidedly un-empathetic world.

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