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  1. #1
    Senior Member kuranes's Avatar
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    Default Sympathy/Empathy

    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 ?
    "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.

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    Senior Member Shimpei's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kuranes View Post
    But how could anyone try to imagine from any other perspective besides what they, themselves, already know ?
    With the help of the mirror neurons you can. You don't need to previously live through things to be able to empathize with people. The mirror neurons in your brain do this for you. The more developed is the network of the mirror neurons in your brain, the more you can empathize with people.

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    Senior Member logan235711'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 ?
    hey! I think maybe it's more that the effort to place yourself in others position can lead to inspiration for new ideas that might not come as easily otherwise. Trying things from new perspectives is definitely a way to invoke new ideas--so empathy may try to seek understanding by such!

    Also, it seems you may have hit the nail on the head empathy is about trying to place oneself "consciously" in another persons shoes in order to attempt to come to new perspectives on how or why the person is acting as such. I think perhaps, 'conscious' is an important idea, because if one is doing so unconsciously, then one is not making the attempt by ones one immidiate epistemic will, thus cannot hope to purposefully do so in an effort to understand someone/a situation better : )

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    Senior Member nottaprettygal's Avatar
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    I mentioned the difference in Eileen's thread.

    The briefest explanation is that sympathy is when you feel what the other party is feeling. Empathy is when you understand their feelings, but do not necessarily share them.

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    darkened dreams labyrinthine's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by nottaprettygal View Post
    I mentioned the difference in Eileen's thread.

    The briefest explanation is that sympathy is when you feel what the other party is feeling. Empathy is when you understand their feelings, but do not necessarily share them.
    That does sound right, but my assumptions in the use of the words has been a little different. The following seem to agree with your assessment.

    Here's the inevitably dictionary moment...
    Quote Originally Posted by dictionary
    Empathy: the intellectual identification with or vicarious experiencing of the feelings, thoughts, or attitudes of another.
    I always assumed empathy regarded the vicarious experience. This definition seems to relate two rather different aspects of it.

    Quote Originally Posted by dictionary
    Sympathy: harmony of or agreement in feeling, as between persons or on the part of one person with respect to another.
    So perhaps sympathy is less objective than empathy, but both can involve sharing feelings?
    Step into my metaphysical room of mirrors.
    Fear of reality creates myopic morality
    So I guess it means there is trouble until the robins come
    (from Blue Velvet)

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    Senior Member nottaprettygal's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by toonia View Post
    So perhaps sympathy is less objective than empathy, but both can involve sharing feelings?
    You're right. My definition of empathy was a little off.

    Like I said, sympathy means that you share the same feeling as another person. An empathetic person may share the same feelings, but I still think that the main point is that they understand the feelings.

    Dammit. Now I'm confusing myself.

  7. #7
    shoshaku jushaku rivercrow's Avatar
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    I'd always heard that sympathy is kind of cheap, emotionally speaking.

    So, I found this:

    Empathy and sympathy are very close and are sometimes used as synonyms. The easiest way to separate them is to remember that empathy is about feelings whilst sympathy is about actions. Thus you may empathize with another person and then act on this by telling them how sorry or happy you feel for them.

    Empathetic people are often very sympathetic - they can hardly stop themselves as they really do feel for the other person.

    A person who is sympathetic but not empathetic may appear a little shallow, as they are less likely to show an emotional connection. 'Terribly sorry and all that, old chap' they might say, in a friendly but relatively cold voice.
    From Changing Minds.

    The Psychological Hugs website talks about the importance of empathy to relationships.
    I believe that one of humankind's tragedies is the loss of countless opportunities for good relationships, emotional intimacy, and happy marriages because we rarely use our empathic listening with each other.
    Who rises in the morning, looks in the mirror and says, "I think I will do something stupid today?" -- James Hollis
    If people never did silly things nothing intelligent would ever get done. -- Ludwig Wittgenstein
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    Senior Member kuranes's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Shimpei View Post
    With the help of the mirror neurons you can. You don't need to previously live through things to be able to empathize with people. The mirror neurons in your brain do this for you. The more developed is the network of the mirror neurons in your brain, the more you can empathize with people.
    I've read about mirror neurons. Interesting stuff. I wonder if they are more developed in those with more "Fe" ? Nevertheless, my question isn't so much about whether it is possible for someone to empathize or not, if they wanted to ( or even if they didn't, which is another interesting angle to speculate on - can one consciously turn off empathy, or must it be.... "natural" ( subconscious ) ? ) but rather wouldn't they have to use their own memories of something similar to attempt to put themselves in someone else's place ?

    I wonder about the different MBTI types and their abilities ( or lack thereof ) to empathize. Who would be more susceptible to empathizing with someone who had too much empathy...to the point that this person was constantly in pain over the problems of others ? What about envy ? Could someone envy another's lack of empathy ?

    Good point NPG makes about understanding/sharing pain vs. sharing pain by itself, without understanding. I wonder how the mirror neurons are different on that ? How would one share without understanding ? This is assuming that sympathy goes beyond "lip service" politeness that RC mentioned.
    "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.

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    Senior Member Shimpei's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kuranes View Post
    I've read about mirror neurons. Interesting stuff. .... can one consciously turn off empathy, or must it be.... "natural" ( subconscious ) ? ) but rather wouldn't they have to use their own memories of something similar to attempt to put themselves in someone else's place ?
    What I've read about mirror neurons is this: yes, you can consciously turn off and on empathy, because with the help of the mirror neurons you CAN also learn and develop your ability to empathize with others. You don't need to have YOUR OWN memories to put yourself in other's place, what you only need is having an example before you, of someone empathizing with someone else in a particular situation, thus you can learn how the other may feel and learn to express empathy/sympathy toward them.

    Quote Originally Posted by kuranes View Post
    I wonder about the different MBTI types and their abilities ( or lack thereof ) to empathize.
    As you see, the ability to empathize with someone is not only the question of nature - inner wiring (of mirror neurons) or MBTI-type...-, but also nurture (environmental impacts, socialization, cultural background, etc.)

  10. #10
    Senior Member kuranes's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Shimpei View Post
    What I've read about mirror neurons is this: yes, you can consciously turn off and on empathy, because with the help of the mirror neurons you CAN also learn and develop your ability to empathize with others. You don't need to have YOUR OWN memories to put yourself in other's place, what you only need is having an example before you, of someone empathizing with someone else in a particular situation, thus you can learn how the other may feel and learn to express empathy/sympathy toward them.



    As you see, the ability to empathize with someone is not only the question of nature - inner wiring (of mirror neurons) or MBTI-type...-, but also nurture (environmental impacts, socialization, cultural background, etc.)
    Let's say someone had lost their child in an auto accident, and you wanted to empathize with them. If you hadn't had any losses in your life ( not even a pet ) you wouldn't really know what it was like, besides knowing it was mentally painful in general. So how could you empathize very well ? I wasn't asking if you would need to see someone else empathize in order to know how to do it.

    Can one even "want" to empathize ? Or is it that you either do it or don't, automatically, subconsciously ?

    I'm interested in how one could "turn off" the empathy too. How would this be done ? Consciously or subconsciously ? Do you mean "getting used to it" ? Sometimes I plant objects around my place, to remind me to do something. An empty tube of toothpaste near the door to remind me to buy a new one next time I am out, for example. A telephone bill on the floor to remind me to pay it. If I let them sit there too long, though, they just become part of the "status quo" and don't serve as reminders any more. Is this what you mean ?
    "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.

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