Synopsis: This mini-love-lesson starts with Katrina’s enlightening complaint; then goes on to explain empathy; empathy and love; empathy in erotic intimacy; and ends with a discussion of what it takes to be love empathetic.
Katrina’s Enlightening Complaint“Dammit, stop giving me advice! For once try to feel what I feel instead of trying to fix my problem, or fix me!” Katrina shouted this at her lover, Kevin.
Kevin was speechless but looked hurt and quite confused. After a bit he managed to stammer, “I don’t know what you mean. I thought you wanted my help”.
Katrina replied, “I do, but the way to help me is to give me your empathy not your advice”.
Frustrated and dejected Kevin responded with, “I guess I really don’t know what that is or how to do it. I thought giving you solutions and advice are what you wanted and that showed I care.”
With a sigh Katrina then said, “That sort of helps but it does it very poorly. I don’t want what comes out of your head, I want what comes out of your heart! I want your heartfelt feelings. That is the medicine that helps.”
Kevin looked baffled. Katrina sighed again and said “Listen closely. Empathy means to feel the same type of feeling I’m feeling, and to do it with me. If I’m sad, be sad that I’m sad, and do it with me; if I’m angry at someone be angry at them at least a little also. If I’m happy be happy with me and for me. When you see or hear me have a feeling imagine you’re in my shoes having that same feeling and feel it too, or at least have some very similar feeling and show it on your face, and in your tone of voice and in what you say. If you don’t do that it feels like you’re indifferent to me or only sympathizing with me, or maybe having pity for me and you aren’t really connected to me.
“Especially when I’m hurt or upset, but also when I’m joyful, I want to feel our love connection and it is empathy that makes that happen, not ideas. Go into your heart and figure out, or remember when you felt the feelings I’m having, and have some of them again. That gives you a heartfelt understanding instead of a mental understanding of what I’m experiencing, and it shows me you really are with me and I’m not alone. When you do that it helps enormously and it makes me feel close to you and like we’re bonded together in real love.”
Kevin then tentatively but with a caring tone of voice said, “Right now you’re struggling to be patient with me, and under that you have some hurt that I haven’t understood. And because of that hurt you got angry with me or maybe just frustrated?”
Katrina then threw her arms around Kevin and gave him my great big kiss and proclaimed, “Wow! That’s it. You got it! That was wonderful! It is the most empathetic thing I’ve ever heard you say and it really touched my heart. You do understand don’t you?
Kevin replied, I’m at least starting to understand and I’ll keep working on it.”
Empathy ExplainedEmpathy, as used here, means that you emotionally understand and share another’s emotional feelings and sometimes also their experiences, perceptions and psychological personal processes. Empathy is the ability to share someone else’s emotions or have corresponding emotions similar to another’s. It implies a sense of personal involvement and personal connection which suggests that you have, to some degree, become psychologically infused with another’s feelings and that you care about their experiences.
It suggests that when another person has a strong feeling you can imagine, or fantasize, or remember your own similar feelings and you can emotively place yourself in their position – feeling what they are feeling or at least something very similar. When you empathize you have a sense of being in another’s place, along with them, feeling what they are feeling at least to some degree, sometimes quite strongly.
Personal empathy differs from personal sympathy in that the sympathy means to either have a feeling of harmonious affinity for someone or to have a sorrow for another’s suffering condition. Feeling sorry for someone can be done while feeling emotionally apart and distant from another. Personal empathy is a much more intimate, connected feeling. Sympathy is similar to and sometimes synonymous with pity.
Empathy and LoveHealthy, real love is very much about connection. Empathy demonstrates loving connection in love relationships often better than anything else. Demonstrated empathy also delivers love’s healing effects more effectively and with more impact than just about anything else in many relational situations, especially when someone has been hurt or harmed. Empathetic expression communicates that your loved one is not alone, that someone cares about them, right there and right now in whatever they are experiencing.
Loving empathy communicates to your loved one that they are highly valued and personally cared about. When empathetic love is received well it seems to stimulate all sorts of neurochemical and biological healing, enriching and energizing processes in the recipient but also to some degree in the sender of empathetic love.
Sending love by empathetic expression also is one of the most efficiently powerful ways to get love across to someone else. The facial expression of love-filled, empathetic understanding sometimes only takes a second but may make a world of difference in another person’s life. Loving empathy expressed in the tone of voice of a single word or sentence, likewise, has been known to revive, revitalize and re-motivate a person in dire straits.
Expressing empathy with a gesture or a simple touch is been known to abolish despair and despondency. Love-filled, empathetic gestures like a thumbs-up or other hand motions sometimes can create powerful, connection feelings and enormously energize a loved one’s efforts. Love-filled empathy expressed with the sounds and looks of joy also often can be tremendously encouraging and bonding in all sorts of different types of love relationships.
Empathy in IntimacyOne of the greatest joys in true ‘lovemaking’ can be having a strong, empathetic connection and experience with the person you are making love to and with. Taking joy in another’s joy and experiencing erotic ecstasy because this person you love is experiencing an erotic ecstasy can provide what seems like a magical and mystical, spiritual and oceanic connection of two souls with the universe. Empathy also can join together two truly loving people in incredible tenderness, joyous gentleness and/or in powerful passion.
What It Takes To Be Love EmpatheticBecoming empathetic and expressing empathy well first takes allowing yourself to feel your own feelings. Many people suppress or repress their emotions, emotionally distancing themselves from their own inner wisdom and guidance systems as well as from other’s, and try to live emotion free. Some allow only a few emotions, especially the emotions of power to be the only ones they value. All that gets very much in the way of being empathetically loving.
To have a good sense of what someone else is feeling takes having a good sense of what you yourself are feeling and are able to feel. Once you let yourself fully experience your own feelings, as you are born to do, you not only can get your feeling’s guidance messages but you also can go a long way to empathetically understanding the feelings of others. It helps if you consciously go to the trouble of studying emotions and what they are all about.
Reading about emotional intelligence can help quite a bit. Check out Emotional Intelligence by Dr. Daniel Coleman. Then comes learning how to identify in others what they are feeling, and being brave enough to join them there in their feelings. When someone you love is agonizing over something remember when you agonized over something, and let yourself feel that again at least to some extent. Then show in your facial expression, tones of voice, gestures, touches and statements that you are there with them in the feelings they are having. There is much more to learn about empathy.
You might want to read The Power of Empathy by Dr. Arthur Ciaramicoli & Katherine Ketcham. You also may wish to read the entry on this site titled “Catharsis Empathy”.
Hopefully this mini-lesson on empathy as a powerful skill in doing healthful, real love, will get you started or get you further up the trail of being highly love-effective.
As always – Go and Grow in Love
Dr. J. Richard Cookerly
What do you think of this old folk saying “A day without tears and laughter shared with someone you love is a day wasted”?