Different Kinds of Empathy and What to Do With It.
Empathy! It has become such a buzz word.
I often hear people referring to themselves as being “an empath.” Being empathic has come to be a kind of qualification for doing all kinds of magical transformational healing on others, and also the secret code for sudden entitled withdrawing behavior. Do you recall hearing of people having to “protect” themselves from other peoples energy, because they are “an empath?”
Empathy is the sensitivity that allows us to perceive the experience of another.Beside the fact the being empathic is a key quality to what makes us all human, it is true that this quality is more developed in some than in others.
On one of the the two extreme sides, there is the seeming absence of empathy, usually as result of harsh stimulation during childhood. In such cases, the person handles emotional matters very business-like, factual and sometimes insensitively – think of Sheldon in the Big Bang theory as an example.
The other extreme is someone who feels the pain and excitement of everyone they deal with. They are so easily swept up in the emotions of the group, that they have no way of distinguishing between their own feelings and the feelings of those around them. You may personally know a person who resembles this.
Yet, what really is empathy, and what do we do with it?
According to the Dalai Lama, There are three kinds of empathy. Cognitive empathy – the ability to understand another person’s point of view; emotional empathy – the ability to feel what someone else feels; and empathic concern – the ability to sense what another person needs from you. It seems that these three kinds of empathy originates in different parts of the brain and can be developed independently.
It is all good to have a clear understanding of another person’s point of view, or emotional intensity or what they may need from you, however it is what we do with that information that matters. Having access to so much information can be an open invitation to self-deceiving games of manipulation, power play, false assumption and even control.
In order to use empathy wisely, we need the quality of compassion. Without compassion, frankly we have nothing to go by. After all, you may understand another’s point of view perfectly. You may have been in that situation several times, yet without compassion, the quality which has no judgement, private goals or agendas, you may unwittingly misuse this information, this empathy to your own advantage for self-validation, self-betterment, or self-importance.
“Through compassion you feel the depth of an experience. You feel it with love, with understanding and the peaceful anticipation of a positive outcome. Compassion doesn’t know fear and is free from judgment. It is a proactive quality, operating through selflessness. Compassion allows for an experience of limitation to be transformed through itself, to greater love and connectedness.” Guidance Cards – kiahealing.com
Empathy can be developed through meditation. Because the proper practice of meditation make use of the whole brain, this is a recommended way to develop all 3 types of empathy. However, since empathy is mere result of meditation, the highlighted importance on empathy falls away as a person naturally becomes more compassionate, sensitive to the needs of others and mature in one’s understanding of all that is.
For any practice of sensitivity we undertake, its counterpart of resiliency has to be developed too. Resiliency has a quality of humility, tremendous endurance and patience. This is the way to being effectively empathic, regardless of the circumstance.
May we cultivate compassion above all and naturally benefit and serve through the empathic resonance that connects us all.