Life Awakening

AWAKEN FROM LIFE is about discovering who you are and about defining your true self so you can seize the helm of your life! This book is changing lives. Let it change yours!

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Story of Hope Love Destiny

If you like inspirational memoirs about the power of hope, or just want to read a candid expose of my previously misaligned life, FINE…LY: My Story of Hope, Love, and Destiny is the book for you!! It’s a page turner!!

Available in Paperback or as an E-Book

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This memoir written by a woman author tells a compelling, impactful true life story about hope and love, and how she found her destiny. An excellent book for women!

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Inspiring Authors Message

Author, Randi G. Fine 

Living Life to the Fullest

Inspirational Author’s Message

The most difficult people in our lives end up being our greatest teachers.   The hurdles they place before us and the challenges they present to us are only lessons that we must learn for our greater good.   Think of the oyster…without the irritating grain of sand there would be no pearl. ~ Randi G. Fine

We all experience times of joy and times of suffering as we move through our lives. Life is a breeze during the happy times; we get to sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride. But we must ask ourselves how good joy would feel if we had no adversity to contrast it? The phrase, “nobody said life was easy,” was coined with good reason. The truth is, life is hard work…but the beauty of life is that it has many facets.  We are constantly challenged to learn and grow.  And as we rise to those challenges we become stronger, wiser and better human beings. The universe holds all the answers we will ever need. It’s all there for the taking if we watch, listen, and trust our intuition. I invite you to follow me on my journey as I explore the many paths to happiness, and the many avenues that will lead us to living life to the fullest. I wish you serenity and joy in your life. ~ Randi

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Healing From Narcissistic Abuse Requires Changing Your Inner Dialogue

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Changing the Way You Talk to Yourself

Excerpt from Randi Fine’s Upcoming Book, Close Encounters of the Worst Kind: The Narcissistic Abuse Survivors Guide to Healing

Each of us has a subconscious inner voice, called an “inner dialogue,” that strongly influences our life.  Since it has always been such a consistent part of our waking lives, most of us do not even realize it is there.

Our inner dialogue controls everything we do. It shapes our perception, makes decisions for us, cautions us, forms our values and opinions, tells us who we are and what we like, monitors our behavior, evaluates situations, and makes judgments.

When our inner dialogue is positive, it empowers us. When our inner dialogue is negative it discourages us. Negative dialogue forms limiting beliefs.

Limiting beliefs can come from powerful outside influences such as parents, religions, families, educators, culture, media, and society. They can also develop on their own after repeated exposure to stimuli, or as a result of trauma or abuse.

Limiting beliefs sabotage our lives. They tell us untruths and lies, make us feel bad about ourselves, impede our success, and cause us to repeat unhealthy patterns. They even govern our moods and reactions.

Years of degradation, manipulation and brainwashing by your narcissistic abuser has infused your mind with many limiting beliefs. You will be surprised at how many of the following you can claim as your own:

  • I do not deserve: happiness, success, love, recognition, success, money, relationships, friendships with quality people
  • I do not: trust myself, know what I want, feel worthy, have self-control, like or love myself, matter
  • I am not: good enough, smart enough, worthy enough, thoughtful enough, motivated enough, competent enough, rich enough, outgoing enough, thin enough, pretty enough, skilled enough, important enough
  • I cannot: do it as well as others can, reach goals, make money, survive on my own, start a business, get a degree, change who I am, change how I think
  • I should not: think of myself first, love or like myself, feel good about myself, feel angry, ask for what I want, expect others to come through for me, trust anyone, let my guard down
  • I should be: more successful than I am, farther along in life than I am, more educated, more social, a better person
  • Nobody: listens to me, cares about me, wants me, believes in me, likes me, accepts me
  • No one will like or love me if: I am not perfect, I am not successful, I am not a pleaser, they get to know me, I speak honestly, I am not beautiful, I don’t earn their approval
  • Everyone else: judges me, is better than me, rejects me, hates me, thinks I am stupid
  • I always: make mistakes, procrastinate, say stupid things, anger people, quit things, frustrate people, feel guilty, look foolish
  • I am: a quitter, a weirdo, lazy, an unlovable person, an unlikable person, a failure, responsible for others’ happiness
  • It is my job to: smooth things over, make others happy, make others feel better, apologize, keep the peace
  • There’s no point in: getting my hopes up, trying at all, trying again, being honest, having goals, asking for what I want, showing people who I really am
  • Happiness is: a myth, unattainable, for others
  • I must suffer to: show how much I care, get attention, make up for bad things I’ve done, prove my point
  • I must be fearful of: other people, life, relationships, men, women

Reread the above list and highlight all the limiting beliefs that apply to you. Explore each one by asking yourself the following questions:

  1. Why do I have the limiting belief?
  2. Is the belief true or false?
  3. Is the belief relevant to my life now?
  4. Am I willing to let the belief go?

Before you can change your subconscious inner dialogue you must bring it to your conscious mind and then challenge it. That involves monitoring your thoughts, emotions, actions and reactions to see what triggers you and what non-productive patterns you are stuck in.

Limiting beliefs change when they are replaced by positive dialogue. You can reprogram your mind through the use of positive affirmations such as:

  • I deserve to love and be loved
  • I love and accept myself totally and completely
  • I choose happiness and peace in my life
  • I am whole, healthy and complete
  • I am worthy of success
  • I deserve to live a life of abundance
  • I am the only one in charge of my life
  • I am a beautiful person inside and out
  • I am a survivor
  • I am worthy of all the good things in life
  • I can face any challenge

These are just suggestions. You can create your own affirmations or find other ones that resonate with you.

Repeat your affirmations often. Say them to yourself in the mirror. Post them in places where you spend a lot of time. Especially use them whenever you catch yourself having limiting beliefs. The more often and regularly you repeat your affirmations, the faster your inner dialogue will change and the better you will feel about yourself.

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Accepting not Expecting Picture Quote

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Accepting Not Expecting Picture Quote

We cannot turn a blind eye to the true colors of others and then complain when the picture they paint does not meet our expectations. ~Randi G. Fine

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Positive Perspective Picture Quote

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Positive Perspective Quote

The future may be fearful or alluring. It is all in the perspective you choose. Do not let the hurdles in your life extinguish the flames of you passions, dreams, and heart’s desires. ~Randi G. Fine

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Roles of Children in Narcissistic Families

npd childrenRoles of Children in Narcissistic Families

Excerpt from Randi Fine’s Upcoming Book, Close Encounters of the Worst Kind: The Narcissistic Abuse Survivors Guide to Healing

When there is more than one child in a family, narcissistic parents assign each of them roles. Only one child can be favored at a time, but the roles can be reassigned or switched at the parent’s will. If there is only one child in the family, she may have to play more than one role.

The three roles given in narcissistic families are: “golden child,” “scapegoat” and “lost/invisible child.”

The Golden Child

Initially one child is given the role of golden child. She is the parent’s “chosen one.” The golden child is seen as an extension of the narcissistic parent. He lives vicariously through her.

This child represents the parent’s perfect image of himself. She is either physically beautiful or has a talent that the parent finds impressive; something that gives him bragging rights. This child is chosen specifically for exploitation.

The golden child can do no wrong. If the parent finds fault with the child, a perfect reflection of his own self-image, that would have to mean that something is wrong with him. So he elevates this perfect specimen that he created to a level of omnipotence higher than his own. He idolizes her as if she were god-like. But unlike an omnipotent god or goddess who reigns free and unencumbered, this child is his possession.

The narcissistic parent tries to engulf and enmesh with the golden child as if the two of them were one. No boundaries between parent and child are established. This makes it very difficult for the child to separate or form her own identity.

The expectations placed on the golden child are lofty. Whether through physical appearance, social graces or performance, one of her primary jobs is to always make the parent look good. Her other primary responsibility is to keep the parent happy.

When the golden child does not live up to her responsibilities, her parent turns on her. Fearing that if she does not play her role perfectly she could easily become the scapegoat child (which, after watching the implications of this role, is not something she wants to be) she quickly snaps back into her assigned role.

The golden child learns from a very early age that her superficial qualities of pleasing and looking good, not her inner qualities, are what make her likeable and lovable. This handicap follows her wherever she goes, permeating every facet of her childhood, adolescence and adult life.

The Scapegoat Child

Life is very different for the scapegoat child. Where the golden child can do no wrong, the scapegoat can do no right. And though only one child at a time can be the golden child, some families have more than one scapegoat child. As I said, these roles can shift.

The scapegoat child is considered a “bad seed.” She is seen as an inferior person. Her primary job is to carry the shame and anger of the narcissistic parent on her shoulders. She is blamed for everything that goes wrong in the family.

The narcissistic parent is unrelentingly critical, cruel, and abusive to this child. Not only is she unappreciated, she is humiliated in front of other family members, often called crazy, and made to feel unaccepted.

Since the scapegoat child is the most truthful, well-meaning, personally sacrificing member of the family she is constantly getting hurt. She remains authentic no matter how many times she is used and abused by her parent.

The narcissistic parent sees the scapegoat child as having no needs of her own, though she is expected to do all the caring. Her entire childhood is spent trying to live up to the expectations of the parent. That proves futile every time. No matter what she does she is never good enough.

Many of her ideas and achievements are worthy of praise but the parent never gives her the accolades she deserves. Her successes are either attributed to someone else or given no worth at all.

The scapegoat child is the most honest member of the family. Unable to repress the injustices placed upon her, she is the one most likely to argue, act out or rebel. Since she is labeled a troublemaker whether her behavior is good or bad, she has little to risk. This child seeks attention. Whether negative or positive it is still attention.

Preferring that the attention be positive, the scapegoat child is tenacious in her efforts to gain admiration from her narcissistic parent. Sadly she never succeeds. She is forever deemed an underachiever or loser. The scapegoat child actualizes these self-destructive labels and the defining mindset follows her throughout life.

The scapegoat child ultimately has more freedom than the golden child does, so in that aspect she fares a little better in life. Because of her lack of enmeshment with the parent, she has a better chance of physically getting away from him and developing a sense of self. The problem is the sense of self she manages to develop will not be a positive one. Deep within, she will always feel like an unlovable loser.

Invisible/Lost Child

The invisible or lost child does not receive praise or blame from her parent. This child is treated as if she does not exist. She is the forgotten one, the neglected one, the unrecognized one. The narcissistic parent is not the least bit interested or aware of this child’s needs. He has absolutely no use for her.

The basic needs of the invisible child are ignored to varying degrees. She may be sent to school with old, dirty, outdated or mismatched clothes. Her hair may be unkempt. The parent may fail to teach her proper hygiene. She may not receive adequate medical or dental care. Narcissistic parents who want to conceal the abuse may provide just enough care to keep others from noticing the neglect.

Because the invisible child is treated as if she is a “nobody,” she expects nothing nor asks for anything. She is the quietest sibling in the family because no one is listening anyway. The golden child gets what she wants without trying, the scapegoat child is busy saying “look at me,” but the invisible child’s voice is lost to the parent’s other focuses.

For self-preservation this child withdraws into herself, isolates. She shuts down as if she is hiding from the world, escaping into her own mind. Her withdrawal causes her to miss out on healthy social interactions. Her friendships are few if any. She never feels as if she fits in with any groups.

Invisible children find it difficult to let others into their private world. They do not develop a healthy connectedness to other people or society. Never having anyone to rely on except themselves, these children become very independent—lonely and isolated, but usually self-sufficient.

Never feeling valuable as a child, she will live life feeling invisible, unlovable and unworthy. Prone to severe depression, the invisible child may easily fall prey to substance abuse, eating disorders and other addictive behaviors.

The three roles—golden child, scapegoat child, and invisible child are given by narcissistic parents for self-serving needs. They are not meant to benefit the children in any way. But these roles are not the only roles children in narcissistic families play. As a way to bring some semblance of order to their chaotic world and ease their pain, children in these families adopt roles of their own.

The four additional roles adopted by children in narcissistic homes are: “hero/responsible child,” “caretaker/ placater,” “mascot/clown,” and “mastermind/manipulator.” Children may adopt one or more of these roles. “Only children” usually take on a variety of roles for emotional adaptation.

The Hero/Responsible Child

The hero/responsible child is often, but not always, the oldest sibling. This child becomes overly conscientious and independent. She assumes the role of responsible parent at an inappropriately young age.

With a perfectionist nature, the hero child strives to achieve the highest level of success recognized as impressive by her family. She is the perfect student, best athlete, or most talented. A shining example of what outsiders assume could only be attributed to perfect parenting, her job is to mask the true dysfunction of her family to the outside world.

Since the hero child relies on outside approval as her compass for success, and her worth is always defined by others, nothing she accomplishes ever feels good enough. Nothing others do is good enough either. She does not like to engage the help of others and tends to be controlling, because she believes no one can complete a task as well as she can.

Proficient at all she undertakes, the hero child suppresses her emotions to a degree that she can no longer feel them. Deep inside, she secretly harbors feelings of insecurity and adequacy. Fearing her true self will be exposed as defective and incapable, she compensates by compulsively driving herself. Never feeling good enough within, true success can never be attained. When one goal is reached, she must strive for another.

Due to her perfectionist nature she tends to be judgmental and critical, both about others and herself. With her primary defense mechanism being denial, she does not take criticism from others well. It exposes parts of her she does not like, therefore is difficult to accept.

As an adult, the hero is likely to continue being successful in all she does, though that success will never make her happy.

The Caretaker/Placater Child

The caretaker/placater child is the family’s emotional rescuer. She manages the ever-changing, explosive moods of her family. Her talents are listening, supporting, nurturing, and counseling.

This child has a sensitive, calm and understanding nature.  Her gentle soul cannot tolerate conflicts, discord, or pandemonium. When family upsets arise or she senses they are about to, she immediately jumps into pacifying mode.

The caretaker asks for no emotional support herself, though as a very sensitive child she needs it the most. She does not know how to get her own needs met so she avoids them and focuses on the needs of her family members instead.

This child is a “pleaser.” Her self-worth is defined by what she can do for others. She selflessly gives out love, but does not know how to receive it back. Loving gestures and positive attention directed at her feel uncomfortable, causing her to quickly reverse the roles. She is only comfortable being the giver, not the receiver.

The caretaker assumes the role of rescuer throughout life and into adulthood. Friendships and partnerships become projects. Whatever the nature of the relationship, her job is to fix people; to save them from themselves. These relationships are often one-sided, toxic and tend to become abusive.

As an adult, the caretaker is likely to choose a career in a helping or caring profession since this is where she is most practiced and comfortable. While others will greatly benefit from her compassionate nature, she will always find it difficult to accept and meet her own needs.  Easily taken advantage of, she is likely to suffer the “doormat” syndrome.

The Mascot/Clown Child

The mascot/clown is usually but not always the youngest child in the family. This child takes responsibility for the emotional well-being of the family, but in a very different way than the caretaker does. The mascot assumes the job of social director, constantly kidding and clowning around to divert the family’s attention away from its prevailing pain and anger. She is the one the family counts on to lighten the mood and make them feel better.

It appears by her happy-go-lucky attitude that problems just roll off her back, but her resiliency is only a defense mechanism. The mascot deflects the reality of her tragic circumstances and expresses her pain through comic relief. Masquerading as the cut-up at home and class clown at school, she ambiguously expresses her feelings of powerlessness, sadness, anger, and resentment.

She exemplifies herself as an object of ridicule through self-deprecating humor, ditsy behavior, or foolishness. Representing herself as a caricature of a human being, no one (including herself) takes her seriously.

As adults, proficient at mitigating suffering through humor, many mascots become entertainers. Sadly, they will never enjoy the happiness they give others. After a lifetime of repressing their own pain they are likely to suffer from chronic depression. Never having developed an authentic self they will always struggle with feelings of emptiness and loneliness.

The Mastermind/Manipulator Child

Unlike the other three roles, the mastermind/manipulator has no positive virtues. She is sinister, selfish and abusive.

The mastermind controls the family. She is cunning in her survival skills. She copes not through passivity or deflection, but through manipulation.

The mastermind’s manipulations are driven by haughty feelings of entitlement, quite like the narcissist himself. She is opportunistic, callous, and unrelenting when it comes to fulfilling her own needs, though shrewd enough to operate just below the radar.

Recognizing the dysfunction of her family, she uses it to her benefit. This child capitalizes on the weaknesses of her family members to get what she wants. In that pursuit she will lie in wait, create conflict among family members, or pour on insincere charm. She has an innate sense of how to manipulate others, especially those in charge, and get away with it. Family members do catch on to her ploys but are no match for her manipulative abilities.

The mastermind may also be a jokester just as is the mascot, but her humor is more sardonic and caustic than soothing. Her sugar-coated, backhanded insults serve to cover up her own feelings of insecurity, inadequacy and lack of emotional safety. Masterminds are well-known for saying, “What’s the matter with you? Can’t you take a joke?”

This is a role she will take with her into adulthood–once a manipulator, always a manipulator.

Unless identified, dealt with and modified, the hero, caretaker, mascot and mastermind roles assumed by children in emotionally abusive narcissistic homes will become lifelong mindsets. Relationships, friendships, parenting, scholastic endeavors and careers will all be impacted by these dysfunctional adaptations.

Children raised in families with narcissistic parents suffer tremendous emotional abuse. Healthy coping mechanisms are never taught, therefore never learned. In order to adapt and survive in this painful, hostile, confusing environment these children must find ways to cope. Unless addressed and altered, their childhood coping methods, always maladaptive, are the ones they will use for the rest of their lives.

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Love Compassion Humility Quote

affirmation517     Inspirational Quote

It is foolish to try to shape the World. Shape yourself as the embodiment of Peace, Love and Reverence. Then you will see all as Love, Compassion and Humility. ~Atharva Veda


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Tips for Finding Help with Your NPD Abuse Recovery

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mental healthWhy Seek Professional Help?

Written by Randi G. Fine

Excerpt from my upcoming book, Close Encounters of the Worst Kind: The Narcissistic Abuse Survivors Guide to Healing

You have suffered enough. You deserve to be free of the painful burdens that have been unfairly placed upon you.

Life is not easy for anyone. There is a great deal of suffering in life, but life is not supposed to be about suffering. Life is about facing challenges, triumphing over them, and growing from them.

Overcoming narcissistic abuse is one such challenge; a complicated one that takes tremendous inner strength. You have only been challenged this way because you have the strength to rise above it.

Throughout this book I have given you many tools to help you succeed. But there is one invaluable thing I cannot offer you through the written word. That is the one on one support of a competent mental health professional. I cannot stress strongly enough how essential that is to your healing process.

Your brain has been conditioned to accept abuse. You can greatly increase your awareness of what happened to you, but you will never be able to apply logic to it. You may make progress in healing on your own, but you will not fully overcome what happened to you. And failing to thoroughly understand what you endured puts you at a greater risk of returning to your abuser, or becoming vulnerable to new predators with similar or worse agendas.

In Chapter Twenty I explained the importance of pre-qualifying the professional whose guidance you wish to seek, prior to seeing him or her. Look for professionals with NPD abuse experience, not just education or degrees. Be sure the person is trained to recognize narcissistic abuse or has experience with narcissistic abuse syndrome. If they do not you are wasting your time and your problem could get worse.

Avoid therapists who use a “humanistic” or “existential” approach. These clinicians hold both perpetrators and victims in equally positive regard.

Humanistic psychologists believe that people are basically good—that all human beings share characteristics such as love, caring and self-worth, and have an inherent need to make themselves and the world better. This philosophy in no way addresses the distorted thinking of the personality disordered therefore is the wrong approach to use with individuals abused by narcissists.

The most popular approach used by mental health clinicians today is cognitive-behavioral therapy. There are aspects of cognitive-behavioral therapy that are very beneficial to the process of narcissistic abuse recovery, but it should not be the first or only approach used. It may not reveal or address your core issues.

Cognitive behavioral therapy may be beneficial in helping you shift the disrupted thinking patterns upsetting your life from negative to positive. I have given you some cognitive-behavioral therapy type exercises in Part Five of this book for that reason. However, I have strategically placed them near the end of the book; to be used after you have learned all there is to know about the nature of your abuse and abuser.

I believe that to heal from narcissistic abuse you must first understand the tactics used to confuse and control you; therefore insight-oriented (psychodynamic) therapy should be the initial approach. The focus of insight-oriented therapy, in a nutshell, is to guide you towards the awareness and understanding of how your past dysfunctional relationships relate to the unresolved conflicts you are presently having. In my opinion, without that fundamental understanding you may be able to temporarily alleviate some symptoms, but you cannot possibly recover from this type of emotional trauma.

Telephone consultations are the best way to pre-qualify someone if you aren’t familiar with the person’s expertise. Most mental health professionals do not charge for these screenings.

Personal or professional referrals are best, but you can also search online.

Mental health professionals include:

  • Psychologists/Psychotherapists
  • Psychiatrists (the only ones who can prescribe medication)
  • Licensed Social Workers
  • Mental Health Counselors
  • Life Coaches
  • Hypnotherapists

A good mental health professional can help:

  • Sort out your confusing thoughts and feelings
  • Reinforce the truth
  • Separate reality from fantasy, truth from lies
  • Affirm that you are not the problem
  • Validate your experiences and feelings
  • Keep you focused in the direction of healing
  • Prevent you from falling into manipulative traps
  • Build your self-esteem
  • Develop and reinforce your healthy boundary system
  • Make decisions about how to proceed with your relationship
  • Monitor your progress
  • Evaluate your decisions
  • Make you feel better and empower you
  • Suggest ways to stay safe in your relationship or when leaving it
  • Be there when you need someone to listen and understand

Working with the right therapist on a weekly basis, you should experience some relief within a month or two. If you don’t feel like the person you are seeing is the right fit for you or you are not progressing, stop seeing him or her. But please don’t give up on the process—find someone who is better equipped to help you.

Do not set a time limit for your treatment. Everyone responds differently. Continue working with your counselor or therapist until you feel strong enough and stable enough to manage on your own.

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Inner Beauty Picture Quote

Inner Beauty Quote

“When we expand our capacity to recognize beauty in everything around us, we cultivate a heart of beauty within us.” ~Randi G. Fine~

Read article on the beauty of imperfection:

Imperfect Beauty

Listen to podcast:

The Beauty of Imperfection

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Faith and Divine Guidance Quote

Inspirational Faith Quote

The belief that you are never alone and that you always have divine guidance, will carry you when you find it hard to carry yourself. Have faith in the perfection of the Universe. As difficult as life sometimes seem, understand that there is a greater plan for everything that happens. ~Randi G. Fine~

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Love More Fear Less Picture Quote


Love More Fear Less

The more we understand the less we fear…

The less we fear the more we love…

The more we love the more we grow…

The more we grow the more we understand…

The more we understand the less we fear…

The less we fear the more we love…

~Randi G. Fine~

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Empathy Connects Us To The Heart Of Others

 See column on the right side of this website labeled Narcissistic Personality Disorder  for a complete  list of all NPD related articles and videos.

Where Has Our Ability to Empathize Gone?

      Excerpted from my August 2, 2012 show on A Fine Time for HealingIs  Our Ability to Empathize Eroding?

Written by Randi G. Fine

Empathy is the ability to emotionally put oneself into someone else’s shoes—the capacity to share and understand the feelings, emotions, and perspective experienced by another person, both negative and positive. Empathy is the identification and relationship that connects us as human beings.

We show empathy through statements such as, “I can see you are really uncomfortable about this,” and “I can understand why you would be upset.” We show empathy through a hug, a reassuring touch, and even through a “high five” when our empathy relates to someone’s success.empathy

Empathy is not the same emotion as sympathy. Where empathy allows us to vicariously experience and identify with other’s feelings, sympathy is a feeling of pity or sorrow for the feelings of others. With empathy we feel with someone else, with sympathy we feel for someone else.

There are many theories concerning the nature versus nurture aspect of empathic development. Are some people born virtuous and some people born evil?

Dr. Paul Zak has studied the biological basis of good versus evil behavior over a number of years and has made a very interesting discovery. He found that when people feel for other people, the stress triggers the brain to release a chemical called oxytocin. Likewise, a study at Berkely concluded that a particular variant of the oxytocin receptor gene is associated with the trait of human empathy. In the study, those who had this gene variant were found to have a more empathic nature. Dr. Zak says that this study demonstrates that some people, about five percent of our population, may have a gene variant that makes them less empathic. In other words, he says, some people are more or less immune to oxytocin.

So there is scientific evidence that the goodness trait is encoded in our genes. But nature is not the only influencing factor. We may be born with the capacity to have empathy, but our ability to apply it, to care and understand, is a learned behavior.

Social psychologists say that empathetic behavior is built from the secure attachment babies develop with their parents or primary caregivers, and by modeling their parents’ empathetic behavior towards them and others.empathy3 Sincere empathetic behavior develops in children whose parents constantly show, teach, and reinforce it. It is a gradual emergence that occurs with the consistency and caring shown to them during the formative years of their social and emotional development. In many cases, but not all, adults who lack empathy have been victims of childhood abuse or neglect.

Those who have had extremely painful childhoods, ones that have involved emotional, sexual, or physical abuse, often lose touch with their own feelings while shutting themselves off from the pain. Their underdeveloped coping skills leave them saddled with distress, whether their own or others, and their lack of ability to experience their own pain prevents them from feeling the pain of others. As adults their elaborately built defense mechanisms block guilt and shame while also blocking their conscience. They live life through fear, threats, punishment, and isolation rather than empathy and kindness.empathy7

In many cases the opposite is true—the person over-identifies with others’ pain, is overwhelmed by it, and becomes overly empathetic to the point that they absorb the feelings of everyone around them. Their internal pain and suffering is triggered when they see others in pain and suffering, therefore become preoccupied with everyone else’s pain and make it their own. I did that for most of my life. Often it was to deflect my own pain but ironically it caused me to suffer more. I had very poor coping skills and my boundaries were out of whack if existent at all. I also modeled the behavior I observed as a child.

I do think that overall, my generation, a generation that relied on human interaction, a generation where families visited relatives and friends every Sunday because there was nothing else to do, is more empathetic than the generations that have followed.

In fact, an eye opening new study presented by University of Michigan researchers at an Association for psychological science annual meeting claims that college students who started school after the year 2000 have empathy levels that are 40% lower than students thirty years prior. The sharpest drop occurred in the last nine years. The study includes data from over 14,000 students.

One reason that this is happening is because students are becoming more self-oriented as their world becomes increasingly more competitive. Some say that social networking is creating a more narcissistic generation.empathy2 According to lead researchers, it is harder for today’s college student to empathize with others because so much of their social interactions are done through a computer or cell phone and not through real life interaction. With their friends online they can pick and choose who they will respond to and who they will tune out. That is more than likely to carry over into real life.

This is also a generation that grew up playing video games. Much of their formative years development has been influenced by input from computer generated images and violent cyber-interactions. There has to be a connection. This may partly explain the numbing of this generation.

Another point of view was presented by Christopher Lasch, a well-known American historian, moralist, and social critic, in a book he published in 1979 called, The Culture of Narcissism:  American Life in an Age of Diminishing Expectations. Lasch links the prevalence of narcissism in our society to the decline of the family unit, loss of core values, and long-term social disintegration in the twentieth century.

He believed that the liberal, utopian lifestyle of the 60’s gave way to a search for personal growth in the 70’s. But people were unsuccessful in their attempts to find their selves. So a movement began to build a society that celebrated self-expression, self-esteem, and self-love. That’s all well and good, or so it seems, but as a result of the “me” focus, more narcissism was inadvertently created. It all backfired–aggression, materialism, lack of caring for others, and shallow values have been the result.

There are certainly many of us who have not become this way—studies speak for society in general.

Today we live with constant internal and external pressures of life. On a daily basis our society faces terrorism, crime, economic crises, widespread job insecurity, war, political corruption. We see the disintegration of morality wherever we look.

As a writer, author, and inspirer I was greatly disturbed by the overwhelming success of a book (I will not promote the name except to say that it has the word “gray” in the title) based on pornography and smut.  It astounds me that millions of people have read it.  My publisher would have instantly rejected a manuscript of such low moral content and offensive subject matter. Where has our appreciation for quality literature as a society gone to?

And what has happened to our legal system? It has been demonstrated time and time again that the rights of the innocent take a back seat to the rights of the offender. Our laws do very little to control criminals. In fact, it seems as if criminals control the law.  If ever an empathy disorder could spur unthinkable violence to erupt in a seemingly normal person, now is the time.

Scientists have studied empathy from many approaches and together have found both physiological and psychological roots for it. Since humans are composed of body, mind, and soul, that makes perfect sense. Many things influence our behaviors.

Simon Baron-Cohen, a developmental psychopathology and autism expert, researched the genetic and environmental aspects of empathy back in the 60’s. He was curious as to why some people lack empathy in their dealings with others. His book Zero Degrees of Empathy: A New Theory of Human Cruelty is an expose of his opinions, personal experiences, and findings. The object of the book is to present a way of understanding why people do bad things. Through his book he explains away the intangible concept of evil and explores a more explainable theory—the theory that there are levels of empathy and they lie within a spectrum.

Baron-Cohen says that a person’s level of empathy comes from an empathy circuit lying deep within the brain. The function of this circuit determines where a person falls within the empathy spectrum.  He measures a person’s level of empathy by degrees, six degrees being a high functioning empathy circuit and zero degrees a low functioning one.

He classifies people who have psychopathic and narcissistic personality disorders, those who lack the ability to feel others’ feelings and cannot self-regulate their treatments of others, as zero-negative.

The best and most common way that empathy is assessed, with empathy defined as “the reactions of one individual to the observed experiences of another,” is through a questionnaire called The Interpersonal Reactivity Index. The questionnaire uses 5-point scales (A = does not describe me well to E = describes me very well). This scale is used to evaluate a person’s perspective of his or herself.

There are four categories of assessment. The first category is Fantasy, as in the statement, “When I am reading an interesting story or novel, I imagine how I would feel if the events in the story were happening to me. The second category is Perspective-taking, as in the statement “Before criticizing somebody, I try to imagine how I would feel if I were in their place.” The third category is empathetic concern, as in the statement, “When I see someone being taken advantage of, I feel kind of protective towards them.” And the fourth category is personal distress, as in the statement, “When I see someone who badly needs help in an emergency, I go to pieces.”

Since empathy begins with awareness of another person’s feelings and receptiveness to the subtle cues that others give off, which happen to be abilities that women are naturally adept at, females generally score higher on these types of tests.empathy6

Those who have experienced the widest range of emotions and those who are most in touch with their feelings are also more able to empathize with what others feel. These people are not typically a threat to society. But there are also those who are completely devoid of empathy. These are the people that are dangers to our society. They are ticking time bombs that may explode at any time.

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