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  1. #21
    Senor Membrane
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    Good thread... I never did understand the difference. I think it is getting clearer.

    So, is the detachment in empathy the only real difference? Is it only a less subjective breed of sympathy?

  2. #22
    Senior Member Anja's Avatar
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    Sympathy does have an inequal, self-directed implication for me. Empathy moves us toward healing. Each has it's place and time.

    Maybe it's the difference between care-taking and care-giving?
    "No ray of sunshine is ever lost, but the green which it awakes into existence needs time to sprout, and it is not always granted to the sower to see the harvest. All work that is worth anything is done in faith." - Albert Schweitzer

  3. #23
    Senior Member Snow Turtle's Avatar
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    Most of the time sympathy is used simply because it's difficult to emphathise with a situation that's never been experienced before. All we can do is say... I'm sorry to hear about that experience - it's intellectual understanding of the situation while never truly grasping the exact feelings and thoughts.

    I wouldn't say empathy is better though. Somebody can be empathic but do nothing at all with the understanding or feeling. Sympathy is at least always directed towards someone at least and usually well intentioned. Taken too far it becomes pity...

  4. #24
    Senior Member kuranes's Avatar
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    I've never understood the difference between the two properly either. I think sympathy can be genuine, and there is a time for just listening and commiserating with someone, and a time for giving them constructive advice. Usually they occur in that same order, too, unless there is a time sensitivity to the trigger incident. I thought they were both part of the same process.

    People have alluded to Fi versus Fe, also. * shrugs *
    "The people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them that they are being attacked and denounce the peacemakers for lack of patriotism, and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country."
    Reichsfuhrer Herman Goering at the Nuremburg trials.

  5. #25
    Senior Member Anja's Avatar
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    Sympathy doesn't move the person it is directed to towards action. It can, if carried too far, allow a person to stay stuck while we feel sorry for him. For some it becomes habit to garner sympathy and allow others to take care of him because it implies he is unable to do it for himself. Developed as a pattern, one begins to view the person toward whom it is directed as a pathetic soul. And the recipient doesn't learn new ways of dealing with a challenge because he doesn't need to. So, from my perspective large doses of sympathy are emotionally crippling.

    An intended kindness turned into enabling.

    Empathy says, "I've walked in your shoes. I know the feelings you are having right now. I'll stand by while you stand up."
    "No ray of sunshine is ever lost, but the green which it awakes into existence needs time to sprout, and it is not always granted to the sower to see the harvest. All work that is worth anything is done in faith." - Albert Schweitzer

  6. #26
    Senior Member kuranes's Avatar
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    I think the whole self reliance "bootstraps" thing can be carried too far, though, at times. Throwing someone a rope 10 feet long when they are drowning 20 feet out and saying "I'm meeting you halfway." Just as people accepting charity without making any efforts to change their situation is undesirable. But we hear much more about the latter than the former these days.
    "The people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them that they are being attacked and denounce the peacemakers for lack of patriotism, and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country."
    Reichsfuhrer Herman Goering at the Nuremburg trials.

  7. #27
    Senior Member Anja's Avatar
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    Isn't that true, kuranes? We have become a nation of people who give lip-service to aid or throw money at the problem without any emotional investment.

    In my personal relationships offering sympathy/empathy does not mean long-term emotional attachment. I think that needs to be clear between both people.

    It sounds like you are describing a situation where there are unspoken expectations or someone who offered more than they are actually willing to give. That would be frustrating.
    "No ray of sunshine is ever lost, but the green which it awakes into existence needs time to sprout, and it is not always granted to the sower to see the harvest. All work that is worth anything is done in faith." - Albert Schweitzer

  8. #28
    Senior Member INTJMom's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Victor View Post
    Sympathy feels good. It feels good to sympathise. And it feels good to be sympathised with.

    And when we feel good, it is natural to think we are good.

    But sympathy is poisonous. Sympathy is the white sugar of the emotional world.

    Sympathy means to feel the same as, so sympathy adds nothing, like sugar.

    Sympathy only reinforces what we are feeling.

    Sympathy does not allow the feeling to flow and develop into other feelings.

    Sympathy is uniquely unhelpful.

    Yet it is the norm to seek sympathy here.

    Which leads to nastiness when we don't feel and think the same.

    Are we addicted to the white sugar of sympathy?
    My sister is an INFP. She has an aversion to sympathy.
    She sees it as pity.
    She will not give it nor receive it.

    I understand what you're saying about sympathy being unhelpful because surely, for some Types, it is.
    You're just helping them dig their rut wider and deeper.

    However, I have one facet to add to the discussion and that is this:
    According to Naomi Quenk in her book "Beside Ourselves" she says that when some INTJs or INFJs are in the grip of their inferior, i.e. "beside themselves", "Expressions of understanding, sympathy and empathy aid the return of equilibrium for some, but not for all introverted intuitives."

    I see a person's attitude towards sympathy as somewhat, if not largely, Type-driven. The reason I bring this up is that for the longest time, my sister despised me and rejected me for needing what she regarded as "pity". The reason I myself need this empathy or sympathy when I'm beside myself is because normally I am totally out of touch with my feelings... as though I don't have a right to have feelings. When someone validates my right to have my feelings, it helps me get back to normal again. I don't go wallowing deeper in the mire. It helps me get out.

    Therefore I think those who despise pity for themselves don't have the right to despise others who may need it.

  9. #29
    Senior Member Anja's Avatar
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    Interesting to think of it in terms of type, Mom.

    Yes, when I am in distress, it helps to know that someone understands my unhappiness. And I still know, in fact am possessive about, my need to get something done about it.
    "No ray of sunshine is ever lost, but the green which it awakes into existence needs time to sprout, and it is not always granted to the sower to see the harvest. All work that is worth anything is done in faith." - Albert Schweitzer

  10. #30
    Senior Member INTJMom's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Anja View Post
    Interesting to think of it in terms of type, Mom.

    Yes, when I am in distress, it helps to know that someone understands my unhappiness. And I still know, in fact am possessive about, my need to get something done about it.
    Quenk says that INFPs need their feelings "validated" when they're in the grip of the inferior.

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