Is it normal to not feel empathy

(226 Posts)
Polmuggle Mon 25-Oct-21 22:35:43

There was a thread recently about if you can see things with your 'minds eye'. This is similar - I'm wondering if you can feel things with your 'minds heart' or whatever the equivalent is!

I'm sat watching celeb gogglebox, and everyone on it - celebs and the regulars - are feeling genuine deep emotions, tears etc to a documentary about a child who has cancer.

It's moments like this that make me wonder if I'm unusual or lacking. It's not that I don't know it's sad, or know it must be horrendous for that family. It's more like, I can't quite relate to or can't quite feel the emotion, so it doesn't effect me. That's true in real life as well - I care, but don't feel anything. Like I have sympathy but not empathy.

I don't know if I'm describing that right, but does anyone else get this?

OP’s posts: |
Paddingtonthebear Mon 25-Oct-21 22:38:26

I used to feel like that but it’s really changed since I had a child.

Sofiegiraffe Mon 25-Oct-21 22:41:20

Empathy has different facets and isn't just about the ability to actually feel what another is feeling; it can also simply refer to the capacity to put oneself in the shoes of another and imagine what they might feel like; in an effort to understand their perspective. There doesn't have to be a felt sense, if that makes sense.

Shouldbedoing Mon 25-Oct-21 22:42:00

Yes. More 'soft' since I've had kids

MacMahon Mon 25-Oct-21 22:42:50


SylvanasWindrunner Mon 25-Oct-21 22:44:43

I was a lot 'harder' before I had DD. Now if I watch stuff like that, I am a sobbing mess.

WeRTheOnesWeHaveBeenWaitingFor Mon 25-Oct-21 22:45:56

These things are individual, everyone is different unless it stops you maintaining relationship or stops you doing the right thing I wouldn’t worry.
I’m the opposite, I can cry at a toilet roll advert and will feel very emotional when I hear other people’s problems but I can be quite cold about things in my own life and don’t like to talk about my problems or dwell on them.


Pinkbonbon Mon 25-Oct-21 22:47:27


Like, when mufassa died in the lion King it didn't make you shed a tear (ultimate psychopath test lol).

If its just some things that brings you to the verge of tears but not everything that could, then that's normal. But if your talking about absolutely nothing bringing out that kind of emotion in could be a psychopath. It's not that rare. It's one in 100.

Narcissists and sociopaths have impared empathy too but they are sometimes able to get upset IF they relate to the specifics of the situation.

wobblywinelover Mon 25-Oct-21 22:48:37

This is probably why the world has ended up the way it has

northwesternskies Mon 25-Oct-21 22:49:50

Similar to previous posters, I would have related to you before I had children. I lost my first daughter and I think the emotions around this just completely opened me up to feeling a lot more empathetic to other peoples pain.

ComDummings Mon 25-Oct-21 22:51:26

I think to a degree it’s normal. As others have said though I’m more in tune with my emotions since having children and I was a bit ‘harder’ before I had them.

MacMahon Mon 25-Oct-21 22:53:45

I’m genuinely surprised at how well-received this going! The OP sounds like something out of the DSM.

WTF475878237NC Mon 25-Oct-21 22:54:13

I find some people are more cut off from their emotions and therefore cannot empathise with others. This can be because it's how they've always been, or for reasons like trauma or not being shown emotions were normal and okay in childhood etc.

NeverTheHootenanny Mon 25-Oct-21 22:56:54

Can you feel guilt OP? Like if you’ve done something that hurts or upsets someone, would you feel bad about it even if you can’t fully empathise with their feelings?

Hopeisallineed Mon 25-Oct-21 22:56:56

Since I had DC, I cry at toilet paper adverts. 😩

3scape Mon 25-Oct-21 22:56:57

Some people don't feel the sympathy or compassion either, that puts you emotionally ahead of a lot of people. You are detached from the situation you describe, I don't think it's unusual to have some emotional distance too. Or else everyone would be constantly overwhelmed.

PegasusReturns Mon 25-Oct-21 22:59:11

Being brutally honest I don’t feel much either OP.

I’m not very interested in people, although I’ve learned you have to make attempts in order to succeed.

I don’t feel sad and never cry, except very occasionally if I imagine something I’ve heard/seen relating to one of my DC.

I often imagine there’s something wrong with me. I was very neglected as a child and I suspect that’s the issue.

parietal Mon 25-Oct-21 22:59:41

Yes, it is quite possible to have less intense emotional feelings. Some questions you might want to think about

- do you feel your own emotions intensely? do you easily cry / get angry etc at real-life situations? Or are you generally a calm, unemotional person?
- are there any contexts / movies etc that do make you feel emotions deeply?
- do you feel emotions but find you can't always put a name to the emotions and they get muddled inside you? that is called Alexithymia
- do you feel detached from the world in other ways?

(no need to answer these in the thread if it is too personal, but you might want to think about them).

there are individual differences in how intensely people feel emotions, and there is nothing wrong with being a calm person who doesn't feel stuff intensely. Remember, all the people on gogglebox are chosen to be good at showing off their emotions, otherwise it wouldn't make good TV. So you shouldn't feel something is wrong with you if you aren't like them.

PegasusReturns Mon 25-Oct-21 23:00:55

Actually I’ll clarify by saying I’m not very interested in peoples emotions. I find behaviours and thought processes quite fascinating.

InFiveMins Mon 25-Oct-21 23:01:27

I'm the same as you, OP. Looks as though we are in the minority. I don't cry at anything, nor do I feel sadness when I watch these "heart-wrenching" programmes. It's like I do care - I don't wish harm on anyone - but I don't actually feel anything, never cry.

YourBonesAreWet Mon 25-Oct-21 23:02:17

I’m the same. I have never cried at tv programs and only once at a film. I feel a bit broken really. I vocalise empathy when it is needed in a conversation but never really feel it.

RobinPenguins Mon 25-Oct-21 23:04:00

Yes I’m a bit like this. I do care, but it doesn’t move me to tears. I don’t think it is ok for people to suggest we’re to blame for all the ills in the world just because we don’t cry easily though. If you can’t understand that people react differently to things then you’re the one lacking empathy…

Jobsharenightmare Mon 25-Oct-21 23:04:02

I have a friend who had a bad childhood so now pretends to feel bad for other people (like masking really) but quite simply can't feel much of anything. That includes pure joy.

fruckkkit Mon 25-Oct-21 23:04:11

I find I'm more empathetic to things I can actually relate to. I don't have children, but I do have pets, and anything to do with animals breaks my heart, but anything to do with children, whilst I absolutely know that things are awful / sad etc it doesn't actually hit me in the same way, and I think its because I can't imagine how I would feel if it happened to me, I just don't have that life experience / connection to relate to.

I don't think it's particularly odd tbh.

Beefmeupscotty Mon 25-Oct-21 23:06:53

I think I've spent so many years holding it all in, that I find it really hard to cry. I feel sad, but no tears will come out.

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