How Can Empathy Save The World?
For many, empathy is just an other word for sympathy or compassion but for the person who has been blessed, or cursed, with a very deep visceral instinctive empathy those words can feel like day and night.
While the sympathetic and compassionate person has found a way to intellectually understand and acknowledge that the other person situation calls for positive or negative emotions (for example having pity towards them or being happy “for” them), the empath LIVES the moment WITH the person.
Of course, the healthy empath has found the ON/OFF switch to this connection to others so that his own identity can flourish and that he doesn’t have to live in the pain and joys of the whole of humanity at any given time.
Still, the ability of a person to, right away, with little thoughts, jump into the other person shoes might just be what will save us from ourselves.
When empathy is used to its full extend, it becomes much easier for a person to see the extend of the consequences of their actions, past and future, and take decisions that take the effect that it will have onto other peoples lives into consideration. When one has the ability to make other peoples experience resonate within their own self, it becomes much more difficult to willfully bring pain into others without a very good reason.
Can everyone develop empathy? Short of having to deal with psychopathy (correct me if I’m wrong), I believe any human being can develop and use empathy.
What does it take to develop empathy? I believe it takes really only one thing: Imagination.
One can argue that knowledge would be necessary but I have found that when one develop empathy towards “humans”, they naturally tend to become more curious and to learn about the experience of others on a very individual, connected, basis.
Knowledge is a trap of intellectualisation. To think we can understand the experience of (for example) gays or black people through books and studies is a satisfying illusion, even if we ourselves are black and/or gay. Knowledge through experience is not even enough to ever me an “expert” or even a source of reference for anything. In reality we are all experts of only 1 things: We are the ultimate sole and only experts in our own life experience. No one, no matter how they like to pretend otherwise, know more about how it is to be “ME”.
Accepting that we know nothing and embracing that ignorance can actually help someone be a better empath. I know nothing of you, yet I can imagine myself in the situation you describe to me in the way YOU describe to me. I can imagine feeling rejected, I can imagine feeling scared or feeling swept from my feet by love… The more you tell me about yourself, the more I can connect to your experience through tiny pieces of mine…
Imagination is not built upon knowledge but on the ability of the mind to take experiences and things it has in store and use them to build something new that feels “real”. Every time we put ourselves into a situation where we are missing some of the data, our brain has a chance to try to work the rest by itself, if we allow it too.
Do you find yourself practicing Empathy in your life?