Misery and Company: Sympathy in Everyday Life by Candace Clark

By Candace Clark

In a type of social journey of sympathy, Candace Clark unearths that the emotional adventure we name sympathy has a historical past, common sense, and lifetime of its personal. even supposing sympathy could seem to be a traditional, reflexive response, everyone is no longer born realizing whilst, for whom, and in what situations sympathy is suitable. relatively, they examine tricky, hugely particular rules—different principles for males than for women—that consultant while to consider or demonstrate sympathy, while to say it, and the way to just accept it. utilizing vast interviews, cultural artifacts, and "intensive eavesdropping" in public areas, resembling hospitals and funeral parlors, in addition to interpreting charity appeals, blues lyrics, greeting playing cards, novels, and media reviews, Clark exhibits that we research culturally prescribed ideas that govern our expression of sympathy.

"Clark's . . . examine equipment [are] artistic and her glimpses of U.S. existence revealing. . . . and you've got to like a social scientist so respectful of leave out Manners."—Clifford Orwin, Toronto Globe and Mail

"Clark deals a thought-provoking and fairly fascinating etiquette of sympathy based on which we should act with the intention to guard the sympathy credit we will name on in time of need."—Virginia Quarterly Review

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A homemaker, a married forty-eight-year-old white woman, said, “I feel for other people. I can put myself in their place t o some degree. I think I’m tuned in to other people, too. I think I have a good feel for what other people are feeling” (interview). In everyday life, these three ways of experiencing others-however distinct they are analytically as three types of empathy-may occur sequentially or all a t once. The respondent I call Rebecca Jones reported a case that illustrates their fusion: A mutual friend had told me Betty had cancer, so I decided I had to visit her.

Adam Smith ([1759] 1853) and his colleague David Hume ([1739] 1948) believed that empathy comes more easily for others who are similar to us in nationality, ethnicity, and social status. Conversely, we may make little effort to empathize with the problems of the poor, drug addicts, prostitutes, and others to whom our society accords low esteem. Also, empathizing with another’s troubles-especially empathizing emotionally-may be easier if one has experienced a similar problem oneself, as politician Jesse Jackson has pointed out.

I was close to them. ” you know, ’cause I was used to having them around. I was at a very young age. I didn’t think there was anything wrong with it at first, because it was very strong. Then after a while, I figured, “Well, the loss isn’t to myself. ” And you take that into consideration as you realize exactly what it all means. (Interview) Because self- and other-targeted emotions frequently arise together, respondents often had difficulty sorting them out. After I weeded out statements about cultural values, feeling rules, and self-targeted emotions, I also saw that people experienced sympathizing not as a single, simple emotion but as a variable, multifaceted emotional worry, complex.

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