This article was written by Larry.
Empathy is the recognition and understanding of the states of mind, beliefs, desires, and particularly, emotions of others. It is often characterized as the ability to "put oneself into another's shoes", or experiencing the outlook or emotions of another being within oneself; a sort of emotional resonance.
What is Empathy? The origin of the word empathy dates back to the 1880s, when German psychologist Theodore Lipps coined the term "einfuhlung" (literally, "in-feeling") to describe the emotional appreciation of another's feelings. Empathy has further been described as the process of understanding a person's subjective experience by vicariously sharing that experience while maintaining an observant stance.
9 Empathy is a balanced curiosity leading to a deeper understanding of another human being; stated another way, empathy is the capacity to understand another person's experience from within that person's frame of reference.
10 Even more simply stated, empathy is the ability to "put oneself in another's shoes." In an essay entitled "Some Thoughts on Empathy," Columbia University psychiatrist Alberta Szalita stated, "I view empathy as one of the important mechanisms through which we bridge the gap between experience and thought." A few sentences earlier in her essay, she had emphasized that ... "[empathy is] consideration of another person's feelings and readiness to respond to his [or her] needs ... without making his [or her] burden one's own." Background While the ability to imagine oneself as another person is a sophisticated imaginative process that only fully develops later on in life, the roots of this ability are probably innate.
Human capacity to recognize the emotions of others is related to our imitative capacities, and seems to be grounded in the innate capacity to associate the bodily movements and facial expressions we see with the proprioceptive feelings of those same movements or expressions. Humans also make the same immediate connection between tone of voice and inner feeling. Hence, by looking at the facial expressions or bodily movements of others, or hearing their tone of voice, we are able to get an immediate sense of how they feel on the inside.
We experience this as anything from understanding, to directly experiencing or feeling their emotion (say, sadness or anger), rather than just noting the behavioral symptoms of that emotion. More fully developed empathy requires more than simply recognizing another's emotional state. Since emotions are typically directed towards objects or states of affairs (either real or imaginary), the empathiser first requires some idea of what that object might be. Next, the empathiser must determine how the emotional feeling will significantly affect the way in which s/he perceives the object. In other words, the empathizer must determine the aspects of the object upon which to focus. Hence s/he must not only recognize the object toward which the other is directed, but also then recognize the bodily feeling, and then add these components together.
The empathiser has to somehow find a way into the loop where perception of the object generates feeling, and feeling affects the perception of the object. This process occurs before taking in account the character of the other person as well as their wider non-psychological context (such as being short or being a lawyer). In general two methods of empathy are possible: either a) simulate the pretend beliefs, desires, character traits and context of the other and see what emotional feelings this leads to; or b) start by simulating the emotional feeling directly perceived and then look around for a suitable reason for this to fit to. Either way, full empathetic engagement is supposed to help to understand and anticipate the behavior of the other. Additionally, other subtle methods may be available, depending on the purpose of the empathic act. Empathy Versus Sympathy (and Versus Pity) Despite some divergent opinion on the matter, we may propose a subtle but important distinction between empathy and sympathy.
Whereas empathy is used by skilled clinicians to enhance communication and delivery of care, sympathy can be burdensome and emotionally exhausting and can lead to burnout. Sympathy implies feeling shared with the sufferer as if the pain belonged to both persons: We sympathize with other human beings when we share and suffer with them. It would stand to reason, therefore, that completely shared suffering can never exist between physician and patient; otherwise, the physician would share the patient's plight and would therefore be unable to help. Empathy is concerned with a much higher order of human relationship and understanding: engaged detachment. In empathy, we "borrow" another's feelings to observe, feel, and understand them--but not to take them onto ourselves. By being a participant-observer, we come to understand how the other person feels. An empathetic observer enters into the equation and then is removed.
Harry Wilmer22 summarizes these three emotions--Empathy, Sympathy, and Pity--as follows: Pity describes a relationship which separates physician and patient. Pity is often condescending and may entail feelings of contempt and rejection. Sympathy is when the physician experiences feelings as if he or she were the sufferer. Sympathy is thus shared suffering. Empathy is the feeling relationship in which the physician understands the patient's plight as if the physician were the patient. The physician identifies with the patient and at the same time maintains a distance. Empathetic communication enhances the therapeutic effectiveness of the clinician-patient relationship.
Empathy Introduction We as a race go through life sometime not knowing the pain that we cause as we live our daily lives. Empathy is the ability to charge that destructive nature. The wingmaker and the world server use empathy to help heal the pain. That this destructive nature has caused in the world today and we all work hard to bring peace and harmony to the earth and all it's inhabitants.