There is a little known fact out there that I want to share. There is indeed, a difference, between empathy and compassion. Why am I writing about this? Because recently, I realized that I had slipped back into an empathic state and stayed there longer than I should have, resulting in fatigue and sadness. Empathy is required for us as humans to connect. IT is a basic concept that we use everyday to respond to hurting loved ones or distraught friends. Empathy is feeling the suffering of another being. When one is empathic, they not only feel another being’s suffering, but their body responds to it as if the threat is truly in their own body, eliciting a sense of fight/flight or danger based response. This is important to have in order to keep ourselves and others safe…..but at a certain point it may burn us out. Moving to a compassionate state is in contrast, very healthy for the body, our emotions and our brain. Compassion is ability to see another suffering, not be afraid of it and be responsive to it. We can not fix, save, or rescue someone from their suffering but rather support it.
Where empathy says:
“I feel your suffering”
“I see your suffering”
Studies are showing consistently that compasssionate states bring us lower levels of depression, lower anxiety and higher levels of connection. A very different brain reaction from empathy. We need empathy, but only as a vehicle to bring us to compassion. As I write this, I’m actively doing my work to move back into a state of deep caring and compassion, but as an individual in my own body, with my own nervous system and my own brain, not that of another. How can this help you connect differently in your relationships?