Wednesday, August 25, 2010


Merriam Webster's Dictionary defines "empathy" as
1: the imaginative projection of a subjective state into an object so that the object appears to be infused with it

2: the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner; also : the capacity for this
My friend's definition is that he feels empathy is bullshit for everyone's experience, even if it's the same situation, is different because each person is different. Granted I wouldn't say his interpretation of the word is too off base, he's going by the book, literally with his definition.  Which I would agree but I say empathy is having the ability to relate on a level as close as you possibly can to someone's situation. granted the experiences are different but you should still be able to relate on a "human" emotional level.
The ability to put yourself in another person's shoes...literally.To show empathy is to identify with another's feelings. It is to emotionally put yourself in the place of another. The ability to empathize is directly dependent on your ability to feel your own feelings nad the other person's and identify them.

My definition is a bit more modern...Proper empathetic engagement helps one to understand and anticipate the behavior of another. The automatic tendency to recognise the emotions of others, one may also deliberately engage in empathic reasoning.Empathy involves understanding the emotional states of other people, the way it is characterized is derivative of the way emotions themselves are characterized. If, for example, emotions are taken to be centrally characterized by bodily feelings, then grasping the bodily feelings of another will be central to empathy. On the other hand, if emotions are more centrally characterized by a combination of beliefs and desires, then grasping these beliefs and desires will be more essential to empathy. The ability to imagine oneself as another person is a sophisticated imaginative process. However the basic capacity to recognize emotions is probably innate and may be achieved unconsciously. Yet it can be trained, and achieved with various degrees of intensity or accuracy.

I can, I suppose, attempt to put myself into another person's shoes, even though I cannot do it literally since we do not all experience situations, emotions and feelings the same.  I do "feel" (not physically) other people's pain, anger, extreme happiness (to the point it feels like pain)  It becomes emotionally exhausting to me at times, but I have learned to "reel it in"or keep it at arm's length or I'd go crazy.. It's not a "gypsy" thing or a psychic thing but a very real thing.  The closest I can compare it to is "instinct" or a connection.  When you know something is going to happen to that person, you can see it in your mind and feel it. When a friend is upset and you get upset because they are, that's empathy.  I know people who have it so badly that they can't watch intense horror or sad movies/TV shows because they get too involved with the characters emotions.

To get a better idea of what I'm talking about watch Dan in Real Life and watch the "non verbal" interaction between Steve Carrell, the kids, and Juliette Binoche..
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