Empathy towards non-empaths
By Jessika Endsley
I have a very low level of empathy. My Empathy Quotient score is a 4, and the average person on the Autistic Spectrum scores around a 20. This is for an unknown reason, even to me - I simply do not empathize. Oftentimes, when I do empathize with people and things I allow in my "empathy cell," it is very uncomfortable. And due to my specialized interests - criminal psychology (although irrelevant to this blog) suicidology, I often empathize with people who are very difficult to empathize with. I empathize with something that can feel no empathy whatsoever - psychopaths. Especially the serial-killer variety. These people have no concept of empathy.
This has been my area of concentration for many, many years. I would definitely say it got much more intense when I was fourteen/fifteen, and then amplified into a hopeful career path by the age of 17. I knew what I wanted to do. I have read over 100 books since then about psychopaths, "Science of Evil" by Baron Cohen being one of the more objective ones, multiple "look at these monsters here's your gore fix" serial killer books, true crime novels, and have gone as far as to write murderers on Death Row. It is a fixation. "Battle not with monsters, lest ye become a monster, and if you gaze into the abyss, the abyss gazes also into you". This is a very true statement by Nietzsche, although I refuse to follow his advice. Empathizing with (violent) psychopaths will make you question your sanity, will make you question what you are capable of, make you question if you yourself are a psychopath.
Who really can put themselves in the shoes of someone who commits murder after murder because they enjoy it, someone who stalks other human beings in a predator-prey dynamic - and not gain a keen insight into the lizard brain, the human vice that was once a virtue, and the very root of all humanity? No one. And no one really does. Few are willing to enter that world and the few who do it and do it well are never the same. When you put your mind into that of a violent psychopath, you become anything but yourself. How different, really, can a person who empathizes with murderers be from the murders themselves?
There are hundreds of active serial killers in the US. The official number is "about 100" but naturally, everything the government allows out in the public is false in order to prevent mass hysteria. They are a tiny fraction of the psychopath population, and are of much less a threat to you until you are face-to-face with one. 300 or so serial killers compared to the rest of the US population is not much (and lucky me, I got to live next to one.) But they are there. They are watching, if you're their prototype. They could just be called to a meeting and that's what saved you. Or they just didn't fancy killing you. And yes, it is that black and white. And when someone were to discover they were near to a serial killer, either as a stalker themselves or as a close friend or relative, the empath will finally be at peace with the fact that they indeed are not what they have the ability to empathize with. And no matter how the empath prepares for what they already know, they will never be fully prepared, mentally or physically. Successful psychopaths are one step ahead.
Encounters with violence of any kind can be traumatizing. Others knowing about such encounter can further the trauma (as can hiding it in most cases) but because others are playing your trauma over and over in their own minds, and you know it, you're re-living it as well. Despite efforts to hide it, victims unknowingly broadcast their victimhood. A well-adjusted thinker may be able to overcome this victimhood much easier than those prone to feeling trauma for extended periods of times, but it will always be there, as will the mental, emotional, and sometimes physical scars.
There is a period in which one needs to cope. Coping requires non-delusional thinking and in some schools of thought, distancing from the traumatic event, and in others, full-on reenactment. This can take days, weeks, months, years. But one thing is always certain to accompany violent trauma, something I experience anyway without trauma, and that is not being able to escape full access to traumatic memories without your even while asleep.