At the risk of portraying myself as a monster, I have a question. When you ask people how they're doing, do you actually care?
Let me unpack that.
First, I don't mean the casual, 'How's it goin'?' Obviously.
Second, I don't mean that question specifically, but questions in the family of inquiring about other people and their well-being and the well-being of their friends and family.
I recently binge-watched a show called Mindhunters on Netflix, about the the FBI guys in the 70's who interviewed serial killers and started profiling them. And it's weird to hear some of the ways they describe these people and to hear some things that could apply to yourself. Now, I don't think I'm a sociopath and one must allow for the influence of binge-watching a show. But still, creepy, and gets me wondering where I might be on that spectrum.
And it's not just that. Here's one. I'll be sitting with a friend, and it will occur to me that they told me about their sick mom a while back, and it will further occur to me that I could ask how they are doing. So I do. Sometimes, after doing this, I will kind of pat myself on the back for remembering to behave like a normal human being. I feel like Eleanor on The Good Place. Because, you know what? I don't care. I mean, I care in a general way - I don't wish ill on their mother. But I don't really care if she dies. I'm just being polite. Or if a friend is stuck in a crappy job, I will wish that they could get out of there. But it's a logical thing - I don't know that I'm 'feeling' for them.
Same thing with kids and mortgages and oh, lots of things. I get that you care about it, and I will listen and ask questions, but it doesn't affect me emotionally.
Now, there are things we can talk about that I will care about. I enjoy a good conversation about the psychology of why people behave the way they do or what we both like about the same TV show or the theology of what-have-you. But that's kind of self-serving: 'Here are the topics that I would prefer to talk about'.
Here's another. I don't really miss people. This really pissed off my first girlfriend. After not seeing each other for a week, she'd ask if I'd missed her, and I'd say no. Because that was honest. Also stupid. Or my Dad, who died a few years ago. I had some brief moments of emotion right after he died, but then I was done. And I don't miss him.
Some of this is probably related to being adopted - attachment issues. But there also seems to be a distinct lack of empathy.
So, am I a monster? I ask this tongue-in-cheek, but it's one of those things where I know what I'm like, but I don't know to what degree other people are like that. It seems like there are people who are very empathetic and really care about all of the details of people's lives. But are there people on the other end of the spectrum who are more like me, and is that just fine?