This perfectly expresses the thoughts I wish to relay to you all.
The difference between Sympathy and Empathy is as follows.
Sympathy and empathy are separate terms with some very important distinctions. Sympathy and empathy are both acts of feeling, but with sympathy you feel for the person; you’re sorry for them or pity them, but you don’t specifically understand what they’re feeling. Sometimes we’re left with little choice but to feel sympathetic because we really can’t understand the plight or predicament of someone else. It takes imagination, work, or possibly a similar experience to get to empathy.
Empathy can best be described as feeling with the person. Notice the distinction between for and with. To an extent you are placing yourself in that person’s place, have a good sense of what they feel, and understand their feelings to a degree. It may be impossible to be fully empathetic because each individual's reactions, thoughts and feelings to tragedy are going to be unique. Yet the idea of empathy implies a much more active process. Instead of feeling sorry for, you’re sorry with and have clothed yourself in the mantle of someone else’s emotional reactions.
It is fairly easy to feel sympathetic to someone else’s difficulties. We can definitely pity others who have lost a loved one, undergone significant trauma, or faced terribly difficult times. Those of us who watched the terror of the 9/11 attacks could certainly sympathize, but could we empathize? Actually, many of us could, though few of us can lay claim to really knowing what it might be like to either be in that attack or lose loved ones in it.
All Americans shared in the common ground that America had been attacked. People with no relationship to any person affected by the attack were stunned, shocked, saddened, in grief. We were not just sympathetic, and many arose to express empathy; if we did not know with surety, we could imagine how horribly difficult this was for the many directly affected. Even newspapers around the world felt with Americans, as the French newspaper Le Monde featured the headline “We are All Americans.”
This is perhaps the best example of how empathy differs from sympathy. Sympathy expressed to a person in grief suggests that person is alone in their grief. Empathy suggests you’re in it with them, you can imagine what it is to be in their shoes, and you are together with them in emotional turmoil and loss. Even the best people in the world may have a hard time expressing true empathy. A person who suffers a significant loss may have a hard time talking to his/her family because what is being expressed is condolences or pity, which may not be very helpful.
The need for true empathy gives rise to many groups of people who are encountering huge losses. There are numerous “therapy” groups for battered women, rape victims, parents who have lost children, people undergoing divorce, children with significant illnesses. In such groups, people often have the opportunity to talk to others experiencing things in a very direct way.
In these settings, those suffering don’t get the sympathy of others, but instead get the empathy of others. There is often an implied understanding since all people in such a group are similarly circumstanced. Frequently, what a person in grief really needs to hear is “I’ve done that too," "I totally get what you’re saying," or "I had the exact same thoughts," from someone else: all expressions of empathy. What they tend not to want to hear is “I’m so sorry for you,” an expression of sympathy that makes them feel alone and isolated in their grief.
He's baiting you, Daniel.
Toby is playing games with you. Even a small minded person can load responses with argumentative crap. He screwed up his numbers and threw some trash in there.. just so someone would respond to him.
Anyone who speaks of having empathy and then goes out and tries to hack people and their online accounts and what not.. to satisfy some egotistical need to inflict damage on others.. is not empathetic towards the suffering they are attempting to inflict on others. A true empath would have no desire to hurt others as they themselves would also share in the painful experience. Meaning anyone claiming empathy would have to share a simular experience to yours to understand it and how it feels.
What it all comes down to, for me, is this.. You do not know my pain. You, who have never experienced such, cannot comprehend my suffering. You do NOT know how I feel. This is the mentality of a victim and it is solid to the truth. Because we know, inside, that we are alone. Do you know why victims talk to victims. Because it makes you feel a little better when you know the other person really does know what it feels like to suffer the way you have. That you have both been baptized by fire. That you are not alone...
I don't really expect any of you to ever know what it's like to have flashbacks. To see something or smell something or hear something that pushes you into a flashback where you get to experience all the pain of the past, as if it was happening for the first time.. again. It never gets old either. Being around other people makes it easier to withdrawl from but when you are alone and no one is there to help you.. lock on to reality.. you can just sit there for hours feeling nothing but terrible pain and vunerability. Terrible feelings drown me and then.. nothing. I feel pain and then I feel nothing.
I would like to thank the contributors for specifying the subjects and making me, finally, understand something and to confirm my own observations about myself. This truly is a great website to learn about oneself. I kept pondering why then, are people so ready to kill oneanother and realized the reason why soldiers and veterans are so messed up. They cannot accept their killing and pretending like it's not real or thinking the enemy as not human wont last, they break, like glass. I'm reminded of my grandfather who fought in the Fin vs Soviet war and he was always saying that whatever you do to another person under no circumstances should you ever take a life. They are gone and you will never be OK again. I've recently ralized that what he meant was that the realization coupled with sympathy for the family and friends of the one you killed mixed with guilt is oeverwhelming and that it comes sooner or later.
Slightly off-topic, how you do distinguish a feeling from a thought? I mean... if i think "wow sucks to be him" is it sympathy or merely thinking that it would not be very fun to be in that situation? Is there a difference? I don't feel sorry when i see pictures of children being shot in the face or someone who has lost an arm, my only reaction is "thats gotta suck". Is that sympathy or just intellectually thinking about it?
'Does saying the words alone count as sympathy?'
yes. the difference between saying the words and saying nothing (a warm hug is even better when the person is crying) is everything. not reacting at all is a very strong sign there's something off.
Toby, you're an a ss.
as a particularly sensitive empath (based on my neurology) let me clarify once and for all.
i agree with daniel birdick that it's an act of imagination, and some have a stronger imagination based on having more sensitive responses to stimuli. those with a lower pain threshold are likely to possess a stronger, shall we say, sympathetic/empathic imagination. the imagination then feeds an emotion, perhaps turning sympathy into empathy. however you will never know exactly what the other's pain is like in the moment they are feeling it. that would be absurd.
and in certain situations, you can literally physically shudder when you see someone stub their toe for example. again, imagination feeding an emotion.
some empaths literally take on the feelings of others, like it's infectious. if i really love someone, i will take on their pain or happiness often more so than they feel it themselves. is that sick? lol. especially if, for some reason, i can't comfort them when they are sad, it's like the energy has no one where to go so stays in me.
i agree that there are posers, neither here nor there, who espouse a lot, but actually feel little. motives are everywhere, and manifest themselves in all manner of hypoctrical, self-decieving or downright calculating ways.
since i know i have excessive sensitivity to other people, i quite happily admit when i do not care, or no longer have the energy to care about a situation I can not help. irony of ironies, I am setting myself up for the possibility that someone will deem me heartless. it is often the ones who talk about caring, as opposed to actually caring, who you should watch out for. for those unskilled in emotions, they can get confused, and (like many socios do) resort to calling everyone insincere.
i am not perfect, I don't really apply my imagination to certain people's pain, like my mum for example, and there is obviously some reason for that that I do not understand. it was this that made me think I had something wrong with me.
shutting off empathy is a defence mechanism, when things go beyond what you can physically handle.
but yes, empathy exists to a degree, for you can't replicate exactly the other person's inner life. otherwise, imagine seeing a dead body then dropping dead yourself - that's complete empathy, and well, that's useless.