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The word “empathy” comes from a Greek term that means “to feel in” or “to feel inside” oneself, as one’s own, the emotional reality of others: a quality that is a blessing for the soul.  Empathy is the capacity of standing in the other people’s shoes, of feeling, understanding, perceiving, accepting and sharing feelings and emotions with others; it is emotional intelligence in action. As with all things, this quality needs to be balanced, lack of empathy will cut us off from our surroundings, an excess of it can thin out the diffuse line that separates our emotional life from that of others to the point of losing our own identity …

 

Someone without empathy can be a threat for society and for himself, because he can’t feel others he may wound or ill-treat them without turning a hair.  Because they can’t perceive the suffering of others, those who lack empathy are actual emotional illiterates incapable of understanding or taking pity of their fellow men,  even less so of creating harmony in a group.

 

Excess of empathy can also be harmful if we reach the point where we become insensitive to our own needs and emotions to the benefit of others; it is generosity misunderstood, a personal sacrifice that can lead us to the loss of our own identity or to become victims of manipulation.  Those who have excess of empathy are no longer in contact with their own reality and no longer know if what they feel is their own emotion or somebody else’s.  They can sacrifice themselves for others to their own prejudice, putting themselves at risk or even leading to self-destruction.  Excess of empathy can be love of mankind misunderstood resulting in self-inflicted violence or self-denial.

 

Empathy is an important skill for the emotional and sensitive knowledge of our milieu providing us with information that enables us to make the best decisions for common good, including the capacity of blocking out non-empathic individuals who are not aware of the violence they exercise.  Empathy and the information it gives us enable us to make other people happy, to help them or heal them if that is what they need, to protect the innocent from the destructiveness of the non-empathic.

 

In my opinion, empathy is of vital importance because it gives us the right measure of our feelings when understanding, helping, improving, enjoying, sharing or standing by others, it helps us  protect our own emotional life without letting ourselves being run over to the extent of missing our own course.

 

Speaking of negative emotions, during many years I have seen in my classes people whose excess of empathy made them block themselves out as the only means to avoid the suffering resulting from other people’s pain.  They were so caught up in other people’s suffering that they became unable to help or understand others and at the same time were totally incapable of understanding or helping themselves. By cutting off their feelings to avoid suffering, they stopped feeling themselves; they tried to live and understand life only through their minds and finally reached a point where their emotional life shrank to the extent that they couldn’t make emotionally and intellectually balanced decisions any more.

 

If we make decisions based on ideas that seem all right and reasonable but we don’t take into consideration how they make us feel, we’re heading for failure in the long run. When we have an idea and we are well tuned with our emotions, these will give us the right feeling about the experiences that the idea will bring about for us when it is implemented. Without such emotional information we may put in practice ideas that attempt on our feelings, ideals and longings and in the end on our soul. We’re all familiar with the “this is what I wanted, now I’ve got it and still I’m not happy” sort of feeling, the typical result of a decision made with head but not tested with the heart.

 

Pain is an emotional sign that should be overcome and not blocked off; otherwise we risk it becoming a chronic condition generating not only much suffering but many negative patterns that will limit our personality.  Instead of living a creative life that is the source of positive experiences and happiness, the “sufferer” spends his life seeking to avoid suffering, stops loving life and all he does is oppose it or protect himself against it.

 

The solution is not to block oneself off but rather to learn to handle our emotions allowing ourselves to feel them, letting them offer us their message, essential for the making of decisions that will bring us benefits and happiness instead of destruction and suffering. If we don’t pay attention to our emotions in our daily decision-making, we may end up immersed in the very suffering that we are trying to avoid.

 

The other case is positive empathy.  Feeling the love, the enthusiasm and the joy of the other person may fill us with positive emotions, of vital importance if we try to re-create them in our own lives too. Many receive this sort of emotions, they “consume” them and enjoy them, but they do nothing creative with them.  If something positive moves you, make the most of the gift that somebody else created for you and move in that direction, generate more energy and be an inspiration for those who in their turn seek to live on and learn to generate positive energy. Seek to provide your example and creativity for others, just as somebody else did for you.  Give back to the World the blessings that the World provided for you and everything will rest in balance.

 

Beatriz Fernández del Castillo

http://www.autoevolucion.com

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