Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Art Of Conscious Empathy

What is Empathy? It is defined as: the 'capacity' to share and understand another's 'state of mind' or emotion.It is also defined as:the ability to "put oneself into another's shoes", or in some way experience the outlook or emotions of another being within oneself.This definition should be relatively familiar to you now, given how many times we've gone over it in past discussions. And if you are new, it should still be familiar, given how much reading you've probably done on the subject of Empathy.

Now lets break the process of Empathy down into two types. One is called Cognitive Empathy. And the other is called Emotional Empathy.

Cognitive Empathy is defined as:
mental perspective taking.What this means is that this is the process of literally seeing through another's eyes. It is the act of understanding the other person's perspective. This is a higher level mental function than Emotional Contagion which is defined as:the tendency to express and feel emotions that are similar to and influenced by those of others.The difference is that one is purely reflective and instinctive, while the other uses cognitive mental function to understand the perspective of another, by seeing through their eyes.

The second type of Empathy is Emotional Empathy. Kind of a redundant statement, isn't it? But it is defined as:the vicarious sharing of emotion. What this means is that you feel what they feel, though indirectly. The emotion, when it reaches you, is like an echo that only you can hear/see.

Empathy could not work if both of these processes were not present. If one were to disappear, then what would be left would be a form of Emotional Contagion, kind of like a herd mentality. To put it in simpler terms, an age old question is, 'what sets us apart from the animals?' Some might say intelligence, but you've seen intelligent animals before, haven't you? So if not intelligence, then what? Emotion and the ability to understand those feelings through higher cognitive functions of the human brain.

Now you might be wondering what these have to do with the art of Conscious Empathy. And if you are, I would have to answer everything. Because, up until now, you have had no conscious understanding of what it is you do as an Empath, your awareness was limited to instinctual and unconscious understanding, which left you walking through life disoriented and confused about who you truly are and what you can do. Not knowing left you vulnerable to the sneers of those who do not understand your gift and the derogatory comments like 'your crazy', 'freak', or 'your weird'. Not perceiving this one truth, left you playing blind Marco Polo in a world which sees you as a pinata.

Understanding the mechanisms of empathy, brings the entirety of your life into new found focus. Each situation, which left you damaged and scarred because of derogatory slurs and misunderstanding, can be seen through new eyes born of that understanding. And it makes everything make sense, even the weirdest stuff you have been through.

Conscious Empathy is the act of awakening. It carries with it implications in a range of venues. It carries ties to spiritual awakening. It carries over into emotional and mental awareness, as well. Its the act of going from child to adult and victim to a thriving individual.

Words alone can never convey the depths this one act of understanding can go to. But it is the beginning of something far greater than just Empathic Awareness. And it truly is the journey of a lifetime, born out of the art of Conscious Empathy. ^_^

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