Empathy is a very interesting word. Through my research on the etymology of the word, it was coined by the German philosophers, Rudolf Lotze and Robert Vischer, from the Greek word "pathos" meaning feeling. They proposed the word "Einfühlung" - "Ein' referring to "in" and "Fühlung" to "feeling." In-feeling, to be in-feeling with someone or something. The English word "Empathy" was then translated from German by Robert B. Titchener in 1909. Empathy as defined by psychologytoday.com as "the ability to recognize, understand and share the thoughts and feeling of another person, animal or fictional character." They also distinguish its difference to "sympathetic" where one feels concern and a desire that the other gets better, and compassion "understanding with the desire to act on that person's behalf." The clear difference is the ability to step out of your own story, enter into the other person's perception of things, while still maintaining your experience and perspectives.
Modern social science divides Empathy into 3 different categories: Cognitive, Affective (Emotional) and Somatic. Cognitive Empathy is the ability to understand another's state on a mental level, Affective Empathy is the ability to respond to another emotionally and finally Somatic Empathy is the physical reaction to another being's state in the Somatic Nervous System as well as in Mirror Neurons in the brain. What is so fascinating with Empathy is that it is not peculiar to just humans, it has been observed in many animals to its own species but also across species. In fact, even plants have a certain solidarity that can be viewed as Empathy.
As in my last post about the Earth element, to feel connected to ourselves and our centre, allows us to be connected with others. We are then able to be "In-feeling" with another, we experience Empathy for others. However, it appears that our consumer-driven, self-gratifying world of the last couple of hundred years, if not longer, has created a new psychological disorder, Empathy Deficit Disorder (EDD). Here, the individual is unable to feel happy for others or feels indifferent to another's pain, unable to listen to others, possesses a sense of entitlement, is quick to criticize without regard for the feelings of the other...
Doesn't this sound familiar? We have world leaders with EDD running countries, we have celebrities or role models for our young who have EDD... it is time to change this.
Empathy may be something that some of us have innately but studies have shown that we can learn to be emphatic. The environment that we live and grow-up in shapes who we are too. Empathy is for me something that I learned as a child growing up. I remember one incident, where I was about 5 years old. My mom confronted me after I ripped the leaves of a plant up, when I was bored. She asked me how I would feel if I was like the plant and someone came with a pair of scissors and cut up the clothes I was wearing. I remember how I looked at my shirt and realized then that I would feel horrible. From then on, I stopped ripping plants just because I was bored. My mom took the time to speak to me, to ask me why or how I was feeling. She connected with me and in turn got me connected with myself and that plant. Empathy is an Earth trait that emphasizes connection, it's that cuddly-mommy feeling that we crave when we feel disconnected. Come back to yourself, reconnect with yourself and help someone else reconnect with themselves.
Image Apes by Cock-Robin on Pixabay