Most people would probably agree that our world needs empathy.
The dictionary defines empathy as the action and the capacity of understanding, being aware of, and being sensitive to the feelings, thoughts, and experiences of another person.
If we can feel our own pain, can we naturally fee the pain of other human beings or animals? Are we really wired for empathy, or do we learn empathy?
Psychologists talk of three types of empathy. Cognitive empathy is when you can put yourself in somebody else’s shoes. We cognitively understand what people are going through. Understanding that somebody is hurting is limited, as it doesn’t produce the kind of acknowledgment the other person needs.
Emotional empathy is when you feel and sympathize with the feelings and emotions of others. We need this capacity to maintain relationships and friendships. Some people are better at this than others, for example therapists. Emotional empathy can be treacherous for sensitive people. Feeling somebody’s else emotions and pain without boundaries can cause you to become ill.
To have healthy empathy, we must practice Compassion. With compassion we understand and we feel for someone else, but also are capable of holding a safe place for them to have their own emotional experiences. Compassion is felt more in the heart. We are extending our heart to someone else’s heart, thus making the other person feel seen, heard, and acknowledged.
Transformation is a process. As we heal, we also learn and develop more empathy. Feeling the pain of others is an essential component of good health.