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Heart & Soul Counseling Publications

By Tina Calabrese, LCSW
June 2007

Empathy is the emotional experience of feeling sad, mad or scared along with someone else. It is an identification with another's situation so much so that you care what happens to them. You do not need to have exactly the same experience you only need to relate it to something you went through.

Actors call it method acting. The Russian director Stanislavski called it affective memory. Aristotle spoke of combining pity and fear to create catharsis.

You may not have lived through hurricane Katrina but you may identify when you lost something that felt secure or you may imagine how it feels to lose your home and pet.

To think of the emotional experience of another human being is not only healthy but ethical. We live in a society where personal looks and things matter so much that we can lose a sense of what is really important. What is really important is to think of others and try to help when and if you can.

Not allowing an emotional distance or separation from others allows you to not separate out parts of yourself you may not like.

So empathy is not only good for mental health it is essential for the human race to coexist in a world without violence and hate.

A lack of empathy leads people to hurt others.

If you feel what that other is feeling they become a part of you and its harder to hate them.

Practice empathy and your world may feel more compassionate.

Remember we can do together what we cannot do alone.  ■

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