Staying Connected to the Hearts of Others
Written by Randi Fine
Narcissistic Abuse Awareness and Guidance with Randi Fine
Empathy is the ability to emotionally put oneself into someone else’s shoes—the capacity to share and understand the feelings, emotions, and perspective experienced by another person, both negative and positive. Empathy is the identification and relationship that connects us as human beings.
We show empathy through statements such as, “I can see you are really uncomfortable about this,” and “I can understand why you would be upset.” We show empathy through a hug, a reassuring touch, and even through a “high five” when our empathy relates to someone’s success.
Empathy is not the same emotion as sympathy. Where empathy allows us to vicariously experience and identify with other’s feelings, sympathy is a feeling of pity or sorrow for the feelings of others. With empathy we feel with someone else, with sympathy we feel for someone else.
There are many theories concerning the nature versus nurture aspect of empathic development. Are some people born virtuous and some people born evil?
Dr. Paul Zak has studied the biological basis of good versus evil behavior over a number of years and has made a very interesting discovery. He found that when people feel for other people, the stress triggers the brain to release a chemical called oxytocin. Likewise, a study at Berkely concluded that a particular variant of the oxytocin receptor gene is associated with the trait of human empathy. In the study, those who had this gene variant were found to have a more empathic nature. Dr. Zak says that this study demonstrates that some people, about