Wow, lots you are saying and asking. Is not so easy to get to in clear terms sometimes.
I am sorry that you have had experiences that have you in any way more cynical. If around people who only blame and take absolutely no responsibility for their own actions, it can be draining and the empathy for them can be shaken. There are legitimately times when others do make a terrible difference in how we act and legitimately so. Then it is our responsibility to get better influences. For those who do not even assume that responsibility it can get tiring. If that not as empathic part of you comes forward the more you are around hostility or people who drain you, maybe it is called safety. We all need that at times. Some people are unsafe temporarily and they will try to understand your need for safety if you ever explain it to them. Those who won't may not be in that temporarily unsafe category but maybe there pretty often maybe?
If people have become predictable to you, are you around many who can really flow with their feelings much? In that i don't mean impulse ridden people who do things that are flagrantly inconsiderate and often painful to others. I mean those who have both impulse control yet enough feelings to not be too robotic with everything (have their feelings with them) may have some spontaneity? Not sure if getting at all to what you mean by people being predictable or not. For me, i have known the impulsive people harmful yet predictable. The truly spontaneous yet considerate ones who are not so predictable and that being a good thing, i haven't known enough to be honest. I hope you get to know people who surprise you in good ways. If it is more that they lie to themselves and others and that itself is too predictable, i hope you get to know more who at least will try. Many don't want to face themselves or uncomfortable old feelings they need to face to change and they act by formula through much of life. If that is more what you mean, good luck finding those who try to listen to that which is around and that which is inside. We all flub at times on being fully honest with ourselves, but some are much better than others at hearing and taking it to heart when approached with the right care and honesty.
For that sitting in a circle and finding some of it superficial, things being too ritualized can get pretty cognitive and that can be when some think they are in touch with something whereas they are putting themselves into some state where they are battering any true empathy down. It's too much that California guru thing or so i call it. That you have suffered and have your own feelings is more important than any ritual. Ritual and empathy are pretty opposite aren't they? Having some guru or group tell you how to do it isn't as much as first of all you having you and your feelings. So on what you said about that, yeah get you on that i think. Maybe groups can do things where the group can strengthen empathy, yet i wonder if it would be by letting ritual go and letting feelings flow. Does that sound too hippie? Sorry if so. Hmm, putting that in other terms. If you planned a smile, is it the same as a spontaneous one? How can you "plan" empathy? Empathy is a reaction, not a plan.
Good luck with answers, both intellectual and emotional ones. And good luck with finding people who can sometimes surprise you maybe not with the big stuff, but are heartfelt enough that you may not be able to predict where it goes as much as that it will usually go well.