Here’s what they have to say over at http://www.empathysymbol.com:
“Heinz Kohut defined empathy as “the capacity to think and feel oneself into the inner life of another person.” We think that’s what the world needs today. As the cultural wars rage — Judeo/Christians vs. Muslims, immigrants vs. native-borns, Red States vs. Blue States — what we all need is to walk in each others’ shoes, to empathize with the other’s position, situation, upbringing, life experiences and feelings. Empathy leads to respect and caring for each other, and that is the sure path to peace.”
Reading that paragraph again, my brain catches on to the words “we think that’s what the world needs today”. Does anyone feel a song coming on? As in Burt Bacharach and the Posies? Check out Jackie Deshannon singing the Bach’s cheesy song (with really schmaltzy visuals) on You Tube.
And while you’re smiling, you may as well have a look at some of the Smiles over at the Smile group at Flickr:
I also really liked the connection that Marshall Rosenberg (of Non-violent communication fame) makes between empathy and surfing:
Question: “What is the Definition for Empathy?”
Rosenberg: “Empathy, I would say is presence. Pure presence to what is alive in a person at this moment, bringing nothing in from the past. The more you know a person, the harder empathy is. The more you have studied psychology, the harder empathy really is. Because you can bring no thinking in from the past. If you surf, you’d be better at empathy because you will have built into your body what it is about. Being present and getting in with the energy that is coming through you in the present. It is not a mental understanding.”
Question: “Is it speaking from the heart?”
Rosenberg: “What? Empathy? In empathy, you don’t speak at all. You speak with the eyes. You speak with the body. If you say any words at all, it’s because you are not sure you are with the person. So you may say some words. But the words are not empathy. Empathy is when the other person feels the connection to with what’s alive in you.”
Isn’t that great? Thanks to Duen Hsi Yen for that transcription. Check out his surfing links here.
On a slightly more thinking level, I also liked this:
Empathy is the ability to understand the situation of others and imagine how they feel. It’s at the heart of our closest personal ties and a key element in the relationship between clinicians and patients, especially in psychotherapy. […] researchers at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) in Boston are monitoring physiological responses and emotional interactions during psychotherapy sessions. Results … show that when positive emotions are running high, patients and therapists are in sync physiologically, and the more in sync they are, the higher the level of empathy. (Harvard Women’s Health Watch, July 2007)