Mother was not necessarily known for her empathy.
Empathy is the capacity to recognize emotions that are being experienced by another sentient or fictional being. One may need to have a certain amount of empathy before being able to experience compassion. The English word was coined in 1909 by Edward B. Titchener as an attempt to translate the German word “Einfühlungsvermögen“, a new phenomenon explored at the end of 19th century mainly by Theodor Lipps. It was later re-translated into the German language as “Empathie“, and is still in use there.
Somewhere, Mother missed out on this trait. When my sister Abby and I were young, if we needed some sympathy, we sought out our dad or each other. Seeking to find empathy, or any other form of compassion or understanding, from our mother was not an option. She would inevitably weigh you down with her own troubles instead of trying to build you up. Everything was about her and the twisted world she had built up in her own mind.
I remember well my sixteenth birthday. Many people have their “Sweet Sixteen” birthday party or, at the least, it is just an enjoyable day and evening for them. Now at least on my sixteenth birthday, I did not get braces…but the day was nearly as traumatic.
At the time of my sixteenth birthday, which was just two weeks before Christmas, I did not have a boyfriend, my dear sister Abby was away at college, and I was stuck at home for the evening with Mother. I was on a bit of a pity party but knew not to share much information with her. She kept pecking at me saying she knew how upset I was because I didn’t have a boyfriend. She also “explained” how I had no one to blame but myself for that fact. Needless to say, this did nothing for the emotional roller coaster I was on.
The night went downhill from there with me doing my best to steer clear of the negative vibes and mother trailing after me telling me how to get a real boyfriend. Now, I have never been so desperate that I would take dating advice from a mentally unhealthy, alcoholic, pill popping parent, but she was unrelenting.
You need to be more like your sister…more outgoing, more fun. More care-free.
What? Me…not fun? The insults kept flowing and I felt like I had taken up residence in the Heartbreak Hotel that Elvis Presley sang about.
The evening finally ended as she fell into a “medically induced” stupor and I fell asleep from sheer exhaustion. The next day, off I went to school knowing that I would be spending the weekend with my Dear Dad. We celebrated as a family, went out to dinner and I felt somewhat better. I’m not sure exactly how my Dad knew, but he seemed to have a sense about what was going on. He pulled me aside and told me how happy he was that I wasn’t involved with “any stupid boys”. He reminded me once again about how much trouble they could be and that I had my whole life to live and they would just complicate everything.
Wow! Once again, I was rescued by Dad.
Just like that I went from living at Heartbreak Hotel to living at Compassion Cottage. That’s what a great Dad can do!