This is topic Too Much Empathy? in forum Books, Films, Food and Culture at Hatrack River Forum.

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Posted by Pixie (Member # 4043) on :
It happens every time: I read a book and end up feeling so deeply for or like the characters that their thoughts or quirks stick with me for days and, in the process, tend to have a little too much influence over my own thoughts or feelings. Does this happen for any of you, too? If so, is it usually something you enjoy or is it something that bothers you? If it bothers you, what do you do about it?

This overly-empathetic mood hit me today rather strongly. I went to Barnes and Noble to get rid of the gift cards I received as gifts for Christmas and, as usual, I spent more than was just on the cards. I finished McCoy's "Still Waters" in about three hours and have already started on Yukio Mishima's "Spring Snow". Just... I couldn't help feeling for the characters and ... well, the feeling's of loneliness and that desire for "something more" without being able to have it (at least not at the moment) really hit a little too close to home for comfort.

Usually I just make note of things like things and wait until they they pass but it startled me today because, while I usually feel for the characters, I don't always feel so much like the characters. It simply made me wonder: why do simple words upon a page have the ability to change how we feel or think about things? Are the feelings or thoughts even really there or are they just empathy gone wild? If the former, are the feelings not really so sudden as they seem but, rather, are they simply telling of what was already there but hidden?

Just some food for (maybe not so deep) thought.
Posted by Maccabeus (Member # 3051) on :
While this has never happened to me, I often find myself thinking or writing the way the author does.
Posted by Christy (Member # 4397) on :
I am very empathic, although not so much applying the characters thoughts to my life as identifying with the characters as I read. I cry almost every time I finish a stand alone book or series because its like the character "dies" for me. I throw books across the room when bad/depressing things happen to characters, and laugh out loud when they are excited.

A good story evokes emotion in a reader, otherwise we wouldn't enjoy reading. I think its amazing how different people react to the same words, though. Why do some people empathize more with the character whereas others really are affected by the phrasing or tone.
Posted by Anthro (Member # 6087) on :
In books, it happens to me sometimes. And in movies too. Mostly, I just feel, I dunno, torn in two when I see a deliberate act of cruelty.

Example: For those of you who've seen the movie Never Been Kissed, in her flaashback, remembering what happened to her on her prom--that had me feeling horrible for days, just the happy look on her face before and then after it happened. . .
Posted by Synesthesia (Member # 4774) on :
I hate reading about people getting embarassed, like declaring their love for someone only to have them reject them.
It's painful for me.
Worse is reading or seeing someone GETTING THEIR FINGER CUT OFF and feeling it on my own hand. arg!
I do the same thing in real life.
Posted by Bob_Scopatz (Member # 1227) on :
I'm currently reading Don Quixote and I find myself wearing armor and mistaking common objects for giants, or knights, or what-have-you.

Life is a lot more fun these days.
Posted by Javert (Member # 3076) on :
I will occasionally connect with a book, but I'm never able to reach that same level when watching a movie.

However, I will find myself getting embarassed along with characters in TV or movies when something horrible happens. I don't know why, but when something humiliating occurs I become so embarassed I turn away. Not only do I turn away, I NEED to turn away...or at least close my eyes. And this happens even if it's a comedy and I'm laughing at the same time.

I've been able to stop my self recently, though it is hard.
Posted by Synesthesia (Member # 4774) on :
I've been stomping around like an Orc because of L of the R.
And I am unhealthily obsessed with swords and horses these days too.
Posted by Javert (Member # 3076) on :
I second that. Ever since Pirates... came out I've been chomping at the bit to get a sword, and LOTR got me even more into it. I think I'm going to have to seriously consider taking a fencing class.
Posted by mackillian (Member # 586) on :
I can't watch or read the part about the hobbling in Misery. Kills me.
Posted by Julian Delphiki Jr. (Member # 5882) on :
I too have found that I take on the thinking of a character in a book that I am reading. However, this only happens when I read one of Card's books. For some reason, when I was reading Carter Beats the Devil, I did not feel that sort of connection with the characters. However, I have loved every book I read, or rather finished.

Posted by Javert (Member # 3076) on :
I think Crichton is good at connecting the reader to his characters as well. But it's slightly different.
I find when reading his works I really want to see the antagonists get what they deserve. I'm not so much connecting with the characters who are having bad things happen to them as I'm wanting to see the "bad guys" pay for what they did.
Posted by Ryuko (Member # 5125) on :
That happens to me a lot, but I'd be careful around Yukio Mishima's books... Ancient, painful, ritualistic suicide is not my bag... [Angst]
Posted by Teshi (Member # 5024) on :
Great movies and books I have to be very careful around, or they consume me for days on end. They can take away my sleep, keep my mind on one subject for hours, distract me off schoolwork, make me ache inside.

I am definately one with too much empathy.
Posted by Book (Member # 5500) on :
Yeah, I can't stand watching characters get embarassed, either. I usually leap to my feat and change the channel. It seems to happen on Frasier constantly. I think I need to develop more contempt for TV personalities.

Oh, and by the way, in the movie Misery they changed the hobbling so that she does it with a sledgehammer instead of an axe.

So that really totally changes everything.

Or not.
Posted by WheatPuppet (Member # 5142) on :
I actually get a charge out of sitting in a public place and watching people to try to empathize with them. It's wierd, it's sort of a new habit.

On the physical sensation side, I can't handle thinking about anything in the vicinity of a bone in a living person being sawed. I can't touch surgical bone saws (even replica Civil War ones at reenactment events). It's one of the few things I've found that elicits that reaction.
Posted by Synesthesia (Member # 4774) on :
Augh! Me neither, Mack! It's horrible!!! It makes my FOOT HURT TO SEE THAT!!!!!!!
I hated reading this scene in Women of Brewster Place.
Took me ages to get over it.
Worse is reading about someone being raped or abused. Hate that.

Yes, I do hate shows in which people make fools of themselves, jump to conclusions and it's supposed to be funny.

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