Sanctuary for the Abused

Sunday, September 07, 2014

WHAT IS EMPATHY?

WHAT IS EMPATHY?

think
"Empathy"… to understand another person's point of view,
emotions, thoughts, feelings
 
Empathy is the most important characteristic in human relationships.

Empathy allows us to listen without judgment to what a person is saying, doing or feeling. It permits us to imagine what someone else is experiencing without having had the experience.

Being empathetic does not mean that we have to agree with the other person or relinquish our point of view. Nor is it about self-sacrifice. Empathy is about standing in another person's shoes without getting stuck in them.

Empathy is a skill that requires understanding — a skill learned over time. It takes years to develop, and deepens and expands as we get older. To have empathy, we must have intellect, listen, and be self-reflective and in touch with our feelings.

Without empathy, there is no compassion. Empathy is the highest level of moral development. A person who totally lacks empathy has no conscience and is capable of committing horrific acts against others —child abuse, serial murder, genocide.

Our children need to learn that empathy is important and that it takes practice. We need to teach them that empathy helps us to relate and care for others. We have to help them learn the requisite skills necessary for developing empathy…

Thinking about ourselves and others

Reflecting on our own behaviors and feelings

Being in touch with our feelings

Listening to another person without anxiety and with minimal judgments

Since developing empathy is a complex process, parents (and teachers) must serve as role model for this behavior by displaying. We need to learn that yelling, threatening, hitting, or saying hurtful things to children is neither emphatic nor is a good foundation for their development.

Empathy is slow to develop and is learned in 10 - 15 year stages.

Developmental Stages for Empathy

Infants: Infants are totally self-directed and only know their own needs.

Toddlers: A child of two notices that other people can feel happy or sad when he or she does not.

10-year-olds: By 10, the child can imagine how he or she would feel in another person's situation, yet does not have the intellectual capacity to know or imagine how the other person is feeling.

Adolescents: In adolescence, young people start to think abstractly and are better able to grasp the concept of empathy.

Empathy, like any other skill, is a life-long learning process. It gets stronger and deeper with age and experience.

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shared by Barbara at 12:06 AM


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3 Comments:

Your empathy timeline doesn't quite jive with the research done in this field. Also, I find it curious that no one discusses the impact that child abuse has on that child's ability or willingess to empathize. This has been a marked consequence in my case, but I can't find much literature on it.

1:19 PM  

MRI's can also show that some people's brains aren't "wired" to feel empathy, guilt, shame, disgust, etc and no amount of training will fix this. It's quite simply, genetic.

8:59 AM  

Barbara, This doesn't 100% go with this article, but it's good stuff. I'm gonna highlight different parts of the article but feel free to read it in its entirety. Excerpts from the article "Bad bosses: The Psycho-path to Success? By Kevin Voigt, CNN January 20, 2012"

"Psychopaths -- narcissists guided without conscience, who MIMIC rather than feel real emotions -- bring to mind serial killers such as Ted Bundy or fictional murderers such as Hannibal Lecter or "Dexter," the anti-hero of the popular Showtime TV series. But psychologists say most psychopaths are not behind bars -- and at least one study shows people with psychopathic tendencies are four times more likely to be found in senior management.

"People tend to think of psychopaths as criminals. In fact, the MAJORITY of psychopaths aren't criminal," said Hare, a pioneer in the study of psychopathy who developed the first diagnostic test for the mental disorder in 1980. "They don't go out and maim, rob and rape but find other ways to SATISFY themselves without doing something necessarily illegal ... such as taking risks with someone else's property or money."

Most of us have an image of psychopathy that's INACCURATE -- we think of the killer, a crazy person ... the fact is, psychopathy is a personality disorder that may or may not result in criminal behavior," said Paul Babiak.

Psychopaths are drawn to powerful people and positions. "They like to play HEAD GAMES with people and make good money at it," said Babiak, who coaches executives on dealing with psychopathic colleagues -- and most of his clients are in the financial services industry. "They're not stupid. They can decode what's expected of them and PLAY THE PART."

One advantage psychopaths have is they are not swimming in the sea of emotions that color and guide most of our decision-making. "Psychopaths are great bullies," said Boddy, author of the book, "Corporate Psychopaths: Organizational Destroyers."

They are cunning and manipulative, and great at ENGINEERING SITUATIONS. Although they don't have emotions themselves, they can create emotional situations," Boddy said. "THE REST OF US DON'T REALIZE WE'RE BEING MANIPULATED UNTIL IT'S TOO LATE."

"Squint at the symptoms of psychopathy, and in a different light they can APPEAR as simple office politics or entrepreneurial prowess......Psychopaths are gifted at finding the weakness and insecurities of colleagues, yet that can be DRESSED AS "constructive criticism....Psychopaths don't vary their behavior: THEY ARE HARDWIRED FOR PATHOLOGICAL IMPULSES. "They act this way toward their mother or their daughter," Hare said, damaging family members as deftly as work colleagues......"What we refer to as 'conscience' is not a purely intellectual mechanism but has a strong emotional component. The latter is largely responsible for the difference between knowing the rules of the game and being guided by this knowledge," Hare said. Psychopaths, uninhibited by emotion, are "sort of like a car with great power but weak brakes."

8:46 PM  

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