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  1. #21
    ish red no longer *sad* nightning's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sdalek View Post
    Based on what everyone's responses are, could it be that sympathy is a more personal and visceral response to someone's pain or feelings whereas empathy is a less personal and more detached response to someone's pain or feelings?
    I suppose so... but empathy to me have a deeper meaning than sympathy. Sympathy is my books is "I feel sorry for you"... empathy is more along the lines of "I feel your hurt with you". In my mind, an empathic person is probably more likely to provide long term help to the individual than a sympathetic person... Or maybe I gotten my definitions mixed up.

  2. #22
    Tenured roisterer SolitaryWalker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kuranes View Post
    I'm still unsure what the difference between these two words is. A definition I read of "empathy" had it that it is not so much imagining how the other guy feels. it's more about imagining how you'd feel in the same place. But how could anyone try to imagine from any other perspective besides what they, themselves, already know ? Fiction seems to require truth, to have sprung from it, but does truth require fiction ?
    Here are the conventional definitions of these two words.

    Sympathy, being in agreement with one.

    Empathy, attempting to take on one's emotional aura.
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  3. #23

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    I'll take a stab at this.

    I've always taken sympathy to mean that you sincerely feel bad for someone, as if their pet died.

    I've taken empathy to mean that you sincerely feel bad for someone and can relate to their situation, as if their pet died and you understand because your pet died recently as well.

  4. #24
    the Dark Prophet of Kualu
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    Quote Originally Posted by nightning View Post
    I suppose so... but empathy to me have a deeper meaning than sympathy. Sympathy is my books is "I feel sorry for you"... empathy is more along the lines of "I feel your hurt with you". In my mind, an empathic person is probably more likely to provide long term help to the individual than a sympathetic person... Or maybe I gotten my definitions mixed up.
    I think, after reading this thread that I too might have gotten my definitions mixed up.
    For me;
    Sympathy has always been the:
    " I see that you feel pain and I see that you are a victim to your pain and I pat you on the shoulder to make you feel better. "

    Whilst Empathy is:
    " I feel you are in pain, can I help you/may I be of help?"


    I've always found that the sympathy been brought upon me has been impersonal and the empathic responses I've found has made my world a bit brighter.

    Definitions mixed up to the bone? I wonder...
    Open for interpretation.
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  5. #25
    & Badger, Ratty and Toad Mole's Avatar
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    The real problem with sympathy and empathy is that they are confused with one another.

    And if we perceive by making distinctions, if we fail to perceive the distinction between sympathy and empathy, we fail to see.

    This is compounded by the fact that sympathy is intuitive while empathy needs to be learnt and practised.

    So everyone feels they are sympathetic and see no need to learn and practice empathy.

    However empathy is uniquely helpful. So someone trained in the helping professions will be trained in empathy.

    But it's worse than that - in real life we like to be empathised with but have no intention of empathising with anyone else - for instance we all want a soul-mate but no one wants to be soul-mate.

    So we delude ourselves we are empathic when we are merely sympathetic.

  6. #26
    Senior Member kuranes's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Victor View Post
    The real problem with sympathy and empathy is that they are confused with one another.
    Yes. And that was one of the reasons for the thread. They are not only confused with one another, but some people in this thread seem to feel that "sympathy" is the more superficial of the two, as though it's mostly just an extreme form of politeness, and that empathy is the deeper of the two. Others in the thread reverse this and say it is empathy that is shallower.

    Shimpei made a distinction that was interesting. She said that an empathetic ( empathic ? ) person acts in some crucial way beyond verbal consolation or pats on the back and hugs etc.

    Quote Originally Posted by Victor View Post
    This is compounded by the fact that sympathy is intuitive while empathy needs to be learnt and practised.
    I wonder why something that can be felt on such a basic level ( we intuitively understand it ) would be consistently exercised in a shallower manner ? That there is less "effort" required to see the need for sympathy wouldn't necessarily mean that one would be bound to exercise it more superficially than empathy. An argument could even be made for the contrary, based on the primal nature of intuition.

    There is an old saying that shared suffering brings true camaraderie ( also referred to sometimes as brotherhood or sisterhood ) but I think that is a slightly different subject than this, although related.

    Must one have experienced the same trauma as the victim to "truly" relate ? Or is it merely one's being so "open" to others that they can communicate the depth of their suffering to one, regardless ? And that some people ( even some of those who have endured the same trauma ) are less equipped in their "openness", or even willingness to comfort others ?

    For myself, I have always seen sympathy and empathy as synonyms, with the same meaning, or approximately so. ( There might be, at best, a difference in degree, rather than a difference in kind. ) I think someone can sympathize sincerely, and not just be making polite noises. ( Is there a word for that sort of "going through the motions" ? I used to think that the word for that sort of politeness was "commiserating", but perhaps that word refers to sincerity also, looking at its roots. )

    Could a person act in a helpful way ( 'taking action" as Shimpei spoke of ) without having felt the person's pain viscerally ? But only conceptually ? In other words, one may know ( to a large degree ) what steps to take that would be most helpful, without the benefit of having "felt" the other person's pain.

    If a person "felt" the other person's pain too fully might they not turn away from comforting that other, because they were overwhelmed with having "felt" it all too well and comprehensively ?

    Quote Originally Posted by Victor View Post
    for instance we all want a soul-mate but no one wants to be soul-mate.
    A sig-worthy statement, but are you saying then that "empathy" refers more to selflessness ? Would an empathetic response necessitate action - beyond words and hugs ?
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  7. #27
    resonance entropie's Avatar
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    I have experienced empathy/sympathy myself, through being changed by a situation. Meaning for example my mood is pretty neutral and my friends mood changes into being hostile. She then uses to tell me later that she has noticed that her mood has changed to hostile mostly because my mood had changed to hostile before. Meaning I reflect her mood without even noticing it myself.

    I dont know if thats a proof for deep empathy or emotion in general and I bet to differ but its a fact that is happening and it's somehow related to the whole thing.
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  8. #28
    Senior Member kuranes's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by entropie View Post
    I dont know if thats a proof for deep empathy or emotion in general and I bet to differ but its a fact that is happening and it's somehow related to the whole thing.
    I don't remember reading anyone claim that there was nothing occurring in human behavior that could be described as empathy or sympathy. That's not really what's being quibbled over in this thread, at least that I have noticed.
    "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.

  9. #29
    resonance entropie's Avatar
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    sry boss, I am out
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