What’s Is Empathy?
Empathy is a skill gradually developed throughout life which improves the more contact we have with the people we empathise with.
Should we be concerned that our own emotional background may affect or distort what emotions we perceive in others? Yes, because we filter our world and feelings through our own belief system!
As I removed my negative beliefs I was amazed to experience a true empathy with others, before experienced as pity or sympathy. I thought I had empathy until I came to understand what it really meant.
Empathy is the capacity to think and feel oneself into the inner life of another person. When you empathise with me, my sense of identity is connected to yours. As a result, I feel more important in some way and less alone. As a result, I may also start to empathise more with you.
In a healing situation, having someone else really understand how we feel can be a blessed relief, as those of us with emotional problems often feel very much alone in our differentness from other people.
Empathy is the ability to feel and understand the emotions of others. If we can empathise, we can engender trust, as we all desperately want to be understood at the emotional level. Empathy is kindness, it is non-judgmental, so people feel more comfortable and relaxed with us.
However, we must be careful not to confuse empathy with sympathy, or pity: Sympathy is the feeling of compassion for another, the wish to see them better off or happier, often described as ‘feeling sorry’ for someone. Pity is feeling that someone is in trouble and in need of help as they cannot fix their problems themselves.
Sympathy is: “I’m sorry for your sadness, how can I help?”
Pity is: “You poor thing, things are bad for you, you seem as though you need help.”
Empathy is: “I feel your sadness, I feel your pain.”
All great carers and nurturers major in empathy and compassion.
Empathy also means appreciating and accepting differences between people, accepting that we have different priorities and capabilities around emotions and that at times we all need to give and receive empathy. Knowing exactly what empathy means is the first step to being able to practice it.
Annie Moyes – 2012- All rights reserved
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