Empathy; This week's 'write on' word

Empathy, the ability to realize how someone else is feeling.

Webster's defines empathy as "the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts and experience fully commincated in an objectively explicit manner".

Daniel Goleman, author of Emotional Intelligence, reports, "Empathy builds on self-awareness; the more open we are to our own emotions, the more skilled we will be in reading feelings."

To be without empathy or the utter lack of empathy, says Goleman, can be found in the minds of molesters and the in the morals of sociopaths.

This word empathy is powerful. The reason I'm writing about it is because either through aging or life shattering experiences or my total loss of innocence, my ability to empathize has diminshed. I have no intention of becoming a sociopath or any other type of unmentionable degenerate that exists in this world today.

So I am bucking up to the fact that I have to reenergize my ability to know how others are feeling.

Look at all that the power of empathy has done for this world. There are organizations all over the United States that help people deal with abuse, hunger, homelessness, illness, death, preventative health, continuing education, building or rebuilding lives, addictions, predictions, lack of, too much of, contructing new homes, giving away free makeovers for homes and faces, research and the list goes on forever.

All of which would not exist if a group of people lacked the power of empathy. A person really needs to be able to feel how bad another person feels about losing a home to fire or flood or how a person feels while trying so desperately to fight an addiction. Such empathy is what generates and grows organizations such as Red Cross or the American Heart Association.

My background, ok, I am about to blame my childhood or child rearing for my adult actions, has been that of survival by my own means. Which all boils down to spending most of my adult life doing things that will propel ME, just me, forward both in monetary and nonmonetary ways.

I volunteer my time to organizations that will make me feel better about myself. I choose jobs that will make me look good to others. I have, in a real sense, cheated those I have helped because I didn't really feel what they were feeling.

Well, maybe in my younger years, somehow I related my feelings of helplessness and needs to those I was trying to help. But, lately, my helping has been purely to help me feel better about me. I have never intentionally hurt another person for pleasure, gain or for revenge. But, I'm not sure I have truly helped someone feel better because I don't believe I have taken the time to really let empathy play a part.

Knowing another's feelings without that person communicating directly about those feelings. Wow. That is powerful.

Empathy is part of everyone's emotional intelligence. As such, according to many years of research, empathy can be learned or relearned. So as I write about empathy this week and maybe part of next week's writings, I will be teaching myself to stop, listen and feel what those around me are experiencing and hopefully will find a way or ways to sincerely help someone in need.

Hopefully, you'll empathize right along with me.

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