Pass me a tissue, please…

I’ll admit it: I cry during movies… and books, music, and podcasts. Depending on how my hormone levels are, I might preemptively grab tissues and just watch the movie alone.

Though a lot of people smirk when they see me watch movies in tears, I’m really fine with it. Truth be told, people who cry over movies tend to have something that a lot of others haven’t really cultivated: empathy.

It takes a special type of person to have empathy. Many people out there — narcissists and sociopaths, for example — are born without it and live their entire lives without ever really putting themselves in other peoples’ shoes. This means they can’t really feel for other people. Though a lack of empathy could come in very handy for a used car salesman, it’s not always a good thing.

Actually caring about others’ situations takes strength — a lot of it. Life is brutal to some people and if you’re able to actually put yourself in someone else’s shoes and feel that pain, it says something about you.

You’re strong enough to actually withstand that pain, but to feel it nonetheless. You’re strong enough to be strong for others. You’re strong to the point that you understand where they’re coming from and are able to actually feel what they’re feeling.

It’s never a wimpy thing to actually care for another person, even if that person is a fictional character in a movie. It shows that you actually have a heart, and that it’s a heart that can break itself for others. Though it can be broken, by the end of the movie, you know it’s been patched back together.

Being able to recover that quickly says something else about people who cry during movies: they can bounce back like no one else’s business, and are strong enough and smart enough to actually separate reality from fiction.

Of course, that’s not the only reason people cry at the movies. There are also tears that flow because you’ve been where a character has been — tears of memories that are painful. I have often found it cathartic to see movies that have people going through things I have, simply because it allows me to let some of my bottled up feelings loose in a healthier way. I’d like to see how anyone could doubt someone’s strength when they actually confront things that have hurt them in the past.

Then, there’s the kind of tears that flow when you’re really just overwhelmed with the artistic genius of a film. It’s not just something pretentious people do, either. It’s called Stendhal Syndrome in its more advanced forms and it means that a work of art moved you to the point that you’re having both physical and emotional symptoms.

Having gotten it after watching the movie Casshern, I can honestly tell you that it takes a lot of strength to jerk yourself out of that physically-altering sense of awe.

140 COMMENTS

  1. You undermine your statement at every point in the article. You introduce it as yourself being overly sensitive for every form of media, then reduce it further saying it may just be hormones. You follow that up with it might not be empathy, but an appreciation of great art. You then try to convey empathy as the ability to understand fiction from reality. Ultimately you conclude with a metephor that equates emotional strength to physical strength. This article was incredibly unhelpful in further understanding a condition, was not empathetic and in the end felt like a diary entry.
    Focus and real life empathy will help immensely in writing this article.

  2. Many of us who are highly sensitive and more empath like didn’t ask to be this way. Watch the documentary “Sensitive” if you are curious as to what this is all about, and a sequel is coming. Although some may not like her Alanis M. is highly sensitive. We live more guarded lives, we can tell what others are feeling, and even thinking, its because the human experience is essentially shared. Some of us are introvert types, we see how people can be “problems”. Asian societies might have a tendency to embrace the empath, American is more of a bullying culture so many of our sensitive people have a bad growing up experience. Bullys being often of the narcissistic tendency have their own sensitive side but it’s for feeling people out for using, the true empath gives energy, the narcissist takes energy. And .. so is the world, giving and taking energy, ebbing back and forth. Crying is just a way to freely release bad energy that builds up within us, we feel deeply, we love deeply, we live deeply. We were born this way.

  3. “Empathy is biased; we are more prone to feel empathy for attractive people and for those who look like us or share our ethnic or national background. And empathy is narrow; it connects us to particular individuals, real or imagined, but is insensitive to numerical differences and statistical data. As Mother Teresa put it, “If I look at the mass I will never act. If I look at the one, I will.” Laboratory studies find that we really do care more about the one than about the mass, so long as we have personal information about the one.”

    As Paul Bloom explains in what is previously cited, empathy is actually a reflection of how biased our emotions are towards others, depending on who we do or don’t identify with. We feel more empathy towards people close to us, people of our same race, people of our same nationality, and we don’t apply this empathy to whom we consider to be “outsiders” (pure judgment). For example, you will care more about a child stuck in a well than about 500 children that just got killed in a bombing in Syria.
    Empathy is not the same as compassion, and empathy doesn’t make us better people, compassion does. To feel what the other is feeling will not improve the other’s situation, while compassion will ACTUALLY lead you to act. Feeling other people’s pain is emotionally consuming, and it is directed mostly towards negative aspects of situations. It is more likely to feel envy towards your colleague who got that promotion instead of you. On the other hand, if you were the one that got the promotion, you would then use empathy to understand how this colleague is feeling.

    I recommend this article for further information on the topic of empathy and why it shouldn’t be used to describe yourself positively: http://bostonreview.net/forum/paul-bloom-against-empathy

  4. Interesting topic! I just want to strike through something or just take a point of view.

    “Many people out there — narcissists and sociopaths, for example — are born without it and live their entire lives without ever really putting themselves in other peoples’ shoes.”

    People are not just born without it. Many of them are technically victims of lack of empathy. And everyone of us have a chance to effect other people. Empathy is a choice. We can train it and help others find it. It is all about getting together as humans, looking into each others eyes, and listening.