Empathy And Laughing At Others’ Misery

A lot of people lack empathy and don’t understand the connection between one’s past and one’s present. Based on the world we live in, I don’t think it’s an outrageous statement to make.

Most people lack empathy for themselves, therefore they are unconscious of their own emotions and motives – and by extension they can’t empathize with others. I often hear people say, “Oh, he’s just this weird smelly man.” Or, “He was such a good boy when he was little, and now he’s so mean, I don’t know what happened!“ Or, “She’s just a dumb, filthy whore, how pathetic.” Or, “Haha, he’s so stupid! How could he do this kind of stuff, that‘s retarded.” And so on...

Every person was a child once. However, a lot of people fail to understand that. Since they haven’t processed their own past, they see others as they are right now – and that’s it. They can’t comprehend that this person was a child once, and a lot of things happened before (s)he became a person that they are today. They didn’t just fall from the sky being 40 years old and grumpy or stupid, or aggressive, or ignorant, or scared, or promiscuous, or lonely – or smart, or funny, or creative, or empathetic, or kind. A LOT of things happened before that, leading to the point where they are today.

This “weird smelly man” probably was neglected and abandoned a lot as a child and hasn’t developed proper self-care and social skills, so he’s probably lonely and miserable.

This “mean guy” probably suffered a lot of abuse and control from others in his early and later life; therefore he had to obey and seemed “nice”, but actually was very scared and hurt, and his meanness in adulthood is a defense mechanism from a potential attack.

This “filthy, pathetic whore” probably didn’t have loving, protecting parents, and was sexually abused, presumably several times; therefore she tries to normalize what happened to her by acting promiscuously – and, in her own way, tries to feel needed, valuable, and loved.

This “stupid person’s” preferences probably were ignored and he was forced to do stuff that he didn’t like, and he never had a great teacher, and he was punished for making mistakes; so he just gave up and stopped trying, and dissociated from his true emotions, interests and talents.

Trying to understand oneself and others is much harder than just saying, “Oh, he’s just weird” or, “She’s so dumb.”

People who haven’t processed their own life tend to make fun of others, laugh at their pain, put them down, and demean them in various other ways.

This behavior says two things about such people:
  • One: these people feel insecure and unhappy about their own lives.
  • Two: somebody treated them the same way they are treating others and they haven’t processed these horrific experiences.
People laugh at others’ pain and misery, and demean others because they themselves feel unprocessed pain and are unhappy.

If you understand your own pain, it’s impossible to laugh at other peoples’ misery or harm others.

Self-archeology leads to self-empathy – and that by extension leads to more empathy for others, especially for children.

P. S. Empathy doesn’t mean that we necessarily agree with other person’s actions. Empathy means that we UNDERSTAND WHY one acts the way they act. More on that – in other blog posts!

Support my work by becoming a Patreon subscriber for $5/mo or more and get access to bonus articles. And check out my book Human Development and Trauma: How Childhood Shapes Us into Who We Are as Adults. Thanks!


  1. Great post! Thanks for sharing Darius.

  2. I'm glad it was valuable to you, Marc!

  3. I am very glad to find your website, Darius. I am already familiar with the work of Alice Miller, Darlene Ouimet, Daniel Mackler, NVC, and more.

    After reading this post, I thought about how I was treated in my family whenever I expressed feelings as a child. It is something I am going to write about at length in the near future. Nobody saw the abuse and lack of empathy in my family because at first glance my parents seemed like such reasonable, mature, and intelligent people. But when a child is upset and a parent responds to that upset not with empathy but with a sort of "gentle" mockery, telling a child, "Oh, don't be so dramatic," I think this just as invalidating as when they are cruelly teased or even beaten for expressing their feelings.

    And then when that same parent (my father) remarries and brings in a stepmother who is not nearly so gentle, but he always makes excuses for her behavior and tells me that she does it because she "cares" about me... and it takes me decades to realize that it was HE who betrayed me....

    There is something needing to be explored in the not-so-apparent cruelty of the sentimental parent. This was my experience and it has taken me decades to come out of the fog on this.


  4. Hi, Sophia, welcome to SelfArcheology.com!

    Thank you for sharing your personal experiences - I'm sorry to hear that you've experienced abuse as a child... It really takes time to recover from the abuse we've experienced in our early life. I'm glad to hear that you're out of the fog.

    Warm regards,

  5. Darius,

    Recently I've been taking a Nonviolent Communication Course to help in learning about what empathy is and how to develop it. It's been a real eye-opener to me to see just how everyone in our culture is taught to discount feelings and needs, their own as well as other people's. Epidemic.

    It's not only people who are usually seen as abusive. Even people who I find to be pleasant enough under most circumstances have never learned how to honor feelings as guides to determining whether or not our needs are being met. I am looking to learn how to share this knowledge with others in such a way that it can improve our society.

    The thing I find missing from the discussion on meeting needs is the question of the early childhood needs that help us to develop into healthy people. Sure, in a NVC setting we can talk about how to learn to meet needs that occur in the present, but they don't really talk about how to heal from and meet needs that we should have had met as babies and children. I would like to help figure out how to incorporate this into NVC discussions.


  6. My husband is incarcerated and I am pregnant he has hit me time and time again and thinks it funny to scare me. Total disregard to trama I have experienced and calls me names. I have only been married a short while and I knew how he was before I married him. He has been in and out of institutions since he was 11 he is 30 and did 7yrs in prison. I love him but he abuses me. I'm scared of him. Everyone in his life gives up on him and I try to be the one who stays but I don't want to stay and be abused never understood and I haven't healed crummy last since we have been together bc my problems and issues are nothing to him so my physical mental and emotional state have been abused.

  7. It all makes me so sad. I have a younger uncle that was addicted to crack and when he would try to improve his life others would point out all his flaws. I continually told him that it is his life and that they don't want him to improve because then they have to look at their own lives. He is now sober for going on 8 years. He started using at 13 after being bullied & picked on. People are so cruel and pathetic covering up their own insecurities by intimidating or demeaning others.

    1. I would be a hypocrite saying this but I 100% agree. I love looking at my own flaws but I somehow get distracted because it feels like people turn their heads the other way instead of ahead.

  8. Came across your great little write up after reading about the poor young soul who has just blown his head off using fireworks as a joke. The comments were horrendous. About 80% laughing at him, calling him a moron, talking about Darwinism.

    Found such a lack of compassion and empathy both depressing and puzzling. I haven't self-analyzed as you suggest, yet I can't believe people being so callous to someone who has done nothing to them, and whose death in no way impacts them.

    Tragic. Hope more of the truly 'needy' find your website and consider their actions.

  9. Completely agreed.

  10. My husband laughs at other people's pain & has shown me a lack of empathy in the past. I've tried many many different avenues to try & get him to realize/understand that that's not the healthy response a husband should be having when it comes to his own wife. I love him & want him to be a good loving husband with healthy respones towards his wife.

  11. It's tragic really! My husband LOVES to laugh at other people's misery! It's his favorite past time. He is very insensitive but acts seemingly sensitive to people he sees a couple of times a year, so if I ever say he was, noone would ever believe me. He is in distress all the time and is on a constant downer (xanax), his life was f'd up for a very long time and he was the black sheep of the family (his family is huge), so maybe that is his excuse. I mean i was raped, beat down, and teased, yet I'm the complete polar opposite to him when he is feeling low. I jump into action and do whatever I can to help, with me he does one of two things, laughs or acts like he is the more reasonable one and I'm just crazy. Sometimes I feel like he loves it when I'm down because he seems to rejoice when any of his exce are doing badly, so it seems like this is a natural pattern for him with his lovers. No matter which way you bring up a proper mechanism of communication, he either tries to not talk about it or just gets furious.

  12. GenX laughs at other people's pain in general. We laugh because we know how extreme it is and know you'll pull through. Knowing the end result, we're laughing at the embarrassment and the shame of being in pain and the extreme level of the reaction compared to the minimalness of the long term outcome. We don't laugh at serious injury, but fleeting screams and outward reactions crack us up because we *know*. We know you'll get up and be fine and we know that the fastest recovery is laughter, which is contagious. So we laugh to reframe it and to help you laugh at yourself.


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