Psychology Addict # 47 | Putting Ourselves in Other’s Shoes

3년 전

Disclaimer -
Dear Reader, please beware this post briefly discusses a fire catastrophe and job losses.


It was last Sunday at two o’clock in the morning when I woke up to the overwhelming smell of smoke. I got up and walked around the house to check if everything was fine. The wind was really strong that night, and that was all one could hear. A couple of hours later, however, the noise made by the police sirens, and helicopters awoke the entire neighbourhood.

A devastating fire had started up in the hills and it was rushing down towards the beach. The fight against the furious blaze that engulfed people’s homes lasted nearly 12 hours 1. I spent the following morning reading updates of what was going on. In parallel, I also watched my neighbours go about their normal lives as they left their homes for the beach, the golf course and so forth.

Didn’t they feel for the men and women that were caught up in the catastrophe?


But, what did I expect? That everyone dropped their children and family to do the job that was already being done by the police, fire brigade and the authorities? Was there a need for that? The time for some charitable actions was about to come, and they would also probably join in. I then recalled the words of psychologist Paul Bloom: “our best hope for the future is not to get people to think of all humanity as family.” 2 You see, Bloom makes a case against empathy!

That made me reflect about empathy a little further.

It was Alfred Adler who beautifully explained empathy as the capacity of “seeing with the eyes of another, listening with the ears of another, and feeling with the heart of another.”

This, nevertheless, is an ability that goes a little deeper than our eyes, ears and heart, as it also happens at a neurological level. See, there is a region in our brain (the anterior cingulate), which activates when we perceive and experience the pain of others 3.

If you are anything like me, upon discovering the biological roots of a psychological process, this same question will pop into your head: why do we feel it?

The Reason Why We Feel Empathy


I remember reading about an American business man called Al Dunlap, who, despite his wealth and entrepreneurial skills, is mostly known for closing down factories on the behalf of toilet-paper manufacturers Scott. This unpleasant duty would not seem out of the ordinary if it wasn’t for the apparent joy and quips Dunlap displayed when firing manual workers and executives alike.

You may have a fancy sports car, but I will tell you what you don’t have. A job!

Al Dunlap (Ronson, p. 167) 4

His astounding lack of empathy earned him a place in an article about possible psychopathic CEOs written by the business Magazine Fast Company 5. I hope you know where I am going with this, you can see why empathy is a basic important ability. Imagine if everyone around you, from your family, neighbourhood and work environment, were not empathic towards others?

Would we live in a world deprived of prosocial behaviours such as volunteering, cooperation, rescuing, comforting, and so forth?

Cognitive & Emotional Empathy


But, there is a little bit more to empathy than its emotional aspect - which is when we perceive what others might be feeling in a particular situation and experience it ourselves, “in our hearts”.

As much as empathy is about emotions, it is also about cognition. It is through cognitive empathy that we can assess given circumstances, and evaluate what others might be feeling. We might not feel in our guts the despair that the strangers who lost their homes to the fire feel, but we can estimate it based on what we see they went through.

Someone in the position of Al Dunlap, for example, should draw understanding from at least cognitive empathy when breaking the bad news to those individuals about to lose their jobs. That would yield a type of behaviour that is deemed to be humane and socially acceptable. Even Bloom, who calls out for deliberation and reason, regards empathy as ‘a measure of our humanity’. After all, empathy helps us to resort to moral reasoning and determine whether a thought or action is right or wrong.

Further, when you know that even rats respond with empathy to other rats’ distress without expecting rewards 6 you understand why feeling empathy towards others indicates full psychological development.


Take young children, for instance. They do not demonstrate cognitive and emotional empathy as adults do. As my family is now well aware!

In a gathering that happened a few years back, my cousin’s son, who was 4 at the time, was ‘proposed to’ by Sylvia, a family friend, then, in her 50’s. She excitedly asked him in front of everyone “Oh Lucas, do you want to be my boyfriend?”, just to hear “No, you are too ugly!”. 😳 Everyone around just wanted to stop existing, of course, except Lucas, who continued to busy himself with his toys on the sofa.

Thankfully, for Lucas (and those who he deems unattractive), his empathic abilities won’t always be that limited, as longitudinal studies found that the capacity of ‘putting themselves in other’s shoes’ becomes more acute (and reparative) from the age of 2, and continues to be refined from there onwards 7.

The Influence of Social Factors on Empathy


However, as we grow old several factors interfere with how we evaluate the pain of others. One of these factors is common autobiographic memories 8. For example, one of the reasons why, in comparison to my neighbours, I may have felt more for those afflicted by the forest fire is because I, myself, have been through a natural disaster of great proportion (which I briefly discussed in a previous post). Indeed, ‘mutual understanding’ is one of the foundations of empathy.

See, yet another factor that influence our judgments of other’s suffering is shared group membership. A study carried out in 2012 revealed that while we are able to empathise with the physical pain of other fellow human beings, irrespective of whether we belong to the same group or not (eg. nationality, ethnicity, political parties), things change when it comes to social pain (e.g learning that someone lost their job), which evaluation of suffering is higher when the victim shares one’s group membership 9.

In the study, Italian individuals were asked to rank the physical and social pain that members of 3 other groups of people felt, from 0 to 10. Group 1 - were Italians, 2- Chinese and 3 Ecuadorians. Upon finding that we are more likely to socially empathize with people that are ‘like us’ the researchers concluded that this is something that also explains a propensity we have to ‘dehumanize’ out-group members. After all, most of us also empathise with the physical pain of non-human animals.

These findings are invaluable because they offer some insight into why intergroup conflicts begin and escalate. That is why this aspect of empathy is addressed by many as its ‘dark side’.

Can We Learn To Be Empathic?


So, that is one of the reasons why the question ‘can empathy be taught?’ is a relevant one. Social psychologists, for example, question whether developing interventions that address empathic understanding in order to prevent intergroup sociocultural issues would bring about some solutions.

Of course, this would have to be possible to be achieved at the level of the individual. It is accepted that we are all born with the capacity to be empathic towards others (including psychopaths, as recent research results suggest 10). Nevertheless, it has been stated that empathy is also something that we are able to learn throughout our lives.

This is true particularly for young children, who need to be clearly and explicitly informed about the negative as well as positive consequences of their actions. Perhaps most importantly, children need to be treated empathically and witness empathic behaviour taking place in their environment.


But, what about for those of us whose childhood years are long gone? Is there hope?

Within psychology there are those who believe that the answer to this question is a straight-forward yes, but there are also those who believe things are not that simple 11. Still, even the naysayers present options of behaviours that we can adopt to facilitate (cultivate) this psychological process; eg. nonjudgmental responses 12.

Reflection time:
➺ Have you ever found yourself responding judgmentally towards someone who was in clear distress?

So, this is when we will need to resort to the different forms of empathy we discussed earlier in this post: cognitive and emotional. As, for some of us, it might be that that ‘ability to put ourselves in other’s shoes’ needs to be reviewed. How to start? Well, what about beginning to pay attention to people? How about practising your listening skills? Even if you cannot actually personally experience the distress or suffering of the person you are dealing with (emotional empathy), you have the capacity to make an intellectual evaluation about what they might be going through based on the information available (cognitive empathy). Surely an important process to have experience on.

Because, you know, empathy is at the heart of healthy, fulfilling relationships; which in turn, are the basic elements of a meaningful existence.


Image Source: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8

Reference List:

1 Un enorme incendio cerca la Sierra de Sintra, a 30 kilómetros de Lisboa.

2 The baby in the well

3 How do we perceive the pain of others? A window into the neural processes involved in empathy.

4 The Psychopath Test

5 Is Your Boss a Psychopath?

6 Empathy and Pro-Social Behavior in Rats

7 Development of concern for others.

8 Eliciting Empathy for Adults in Chronic Pain through Autobiographical Memory Sharing

9 “Everybody feels a broken bone, but only we can feel a broken heart”: Group membership influences the perception of targets' suffering.

10 Coldhearted Psychopaths Feel Empathy Too

11,12 What is empathy, and can empathy be taught?.

Have you seen our recently launched app:


My Dear Reader,

It means the world to me that you take some of your time to read my writings. So, thank you so, so much. Now, if you have a couple of extra minutes I would like to hear your opinion about the following statement someone shared with me when making a case against empathy.
✦What is your view on this?
✦Have you ever come across the notion that empathy can also be harmful?

I wish you all a wonderful weekend 😊

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Some Abigail-reading-time after I just got home from a weekend with my family:)

Reflection time:
➺ Have you ever found yourself responding judgmentally towards someone who was in clear distress?

Smile. My answer: yes. Absolutely.
It's really a great task to not do that. In my practice I am aware not falling into this trap. Within personal relationships it's much harder.

In German, we distinguish between the terms "empathy" ("with-feeling") and "pity" ("with-suffering") in normal usage. While compassion (empathy) allows me to maintain a healthy distance from what happens to another person, which is beneficial for my subjective sense of well-being, pity makes me feel too close and, as a result, I find myself under the same stress as the other is experiencing. This distinction may not be generally accepted, but it is likely to be widespread among pedagogues and social workers, counsellors and therapists.

So one could understand the statement "To go into someone's shoes is to take his shoes" in this way: If someone else's pain makes me walk in his shoes so much that I melt with pity and make his pain my own, then I don't see that person anymore, I only see myself and my own pain. The other person's pain is then no longer of special importance to me, because I identify myself completely with the pain I have observed.

If, for example, a friend grieves to death and desperately reports something that has happened to her and I slip into my own grief because of the grief she has suffered, then I am no longer of help to her, I cannot be, because I reactivated my own despair and helplessness in this moment. For example, if in this state I advised her to do something drastic, I would probably not really speak to my friend, but let my own feelings dominate, which made me consider this or any other unthought-through action.

I believe that this happens very often and that we take over other people's shoes to put them on. There is a funny saying here: "Don't put on that shoe". By that we actually mean that we should leave something (take a distance) to something that doesn't suit (us).

But to feel like we're walking in each other's shoes is different. It is to be able to change perspective and imagine feelings in the right measure of the other without feeling exaggerated suffering. I would say compassion (empathy) resists a judgment about someone's situation. If I manage to free myself from a judgment, then I don't advise and I don't suggest how another person can change his situation, but my interest is in the self-regulating forces of the other person. I ask: "What do you intend to do? How do you want to deal with it?" or "What have you done in order to get better in a former situation, similar to this?" Or I don't say anything at all and think about what would be good for the other person to do for him. For example a hug or silence or holding the hand. I must know him and know what he would like and only do this if I do not force it on myself.

In my training this was one of the traps discussed, into which a consultant can be drawn. If I notice that I am getting into the stress of another, then it is advisable to distance myself internally in order to keep a clear view of the situation. Nevertheless, I can feel deep compassion. Because without it I would not be able to respond appropriately to the emotional situation of my counterpart. For example, I don't need to melt with sadness when a client tells me about a recently deceased person. But I do remember what helped me in this or a similar loss. There is a difference whether I think of cried through nights or of what was healing for me to get over a loss.

The same applies to moments of bliss of others. For example, if someone enthusiastically tells me about his success, I don't have to jump into the air myself and dance through the room screaming, it's enough to heartily congratulate the other for the happiness he has experienced and to mean it.

Have a good week, Abi!


Hi erh.germany,

This post has been upvoted by the Curie community curation project and associated vote trail as exceptional content (human curated and reviewed). Have a great day :)

Visit or join the Curie Discord community to learn more.


That got me very much surprised this morning. Have not seen it coming:)
Thank you human curator & have a great day, too!


Great things, happen to great people! :)

My answer: yes. Absolutely.

Ahahahah , I have a special appreciation for honest people! 😆

Well, I briefly discussed some of the observations you made here with @dysfunctional, actually. However, we didn't go into the subtle differences of definition and behavior elicited by empathy and pity that you explained here so richly.

I do agree with you when you say that humans in general tend to get so involved with the suffering of others that the line between 'my pain' and 'your pain' gets blurred. Personally, I have seen cases of people who get in trouble with that. They completely lose sight and their sense of perspective, until they are surprised with the statement 'please stop! you are crossing the line'. This becomes so confusing to them, because from their point of view, all they believe they were doing was helping. But, again, using your words, that distance was no longer there anymore, and what initially began as an apparent act of help it turned into intrusion. It took me a while to learn this is a fine line to cross.

And the questions you delivered here (eg. "What do you intend to do? How do you want to deal with it?") are indeed great tools to avoid that from taking place. In my opinion they help to keep the reality of the context in check: This is your suffering, your pain. I understand them and it is through my emphatic understanding I can relate to it, but it wouldn't be right to make them my own. Neither for me, nor for you!

Ps: As a general rule I see my family every year. Even since I left my country (nearly 15 years) only once that wasn't possible to happen :)

Wishing you a great afternoon :*
Much love to you always and always ...
❀ ❤


Thank you, Abi, you put some good additions to this. I would call it the "helper syndrome" which does stretch itself not only between two people but as well between nations resp. cultures - it can be found in systems on a broader scale.

I learned only later in life, that helping does not mean to confuse the despair of another with my own and that I don't have to crack my mind and break my heart in looking for solutions. Don't know if I mentioned it already but my teacher once said to me, the moment I get exhausted and all caught up in a persons case that I ignore the persons own resources and abilities to find a way out of his misery. Let the client do his work.

I simply have to ask the other. That shows my trust in his ability to come up with own solutions. And who am I to know it better anyway? ;-)

The surprise you mention (thank you, that is such a fine example) to have crossed a border can be so embarrassing to a person. But even though it is a needed reaction and mostly people keep that in mind when a counter reaction was strong enough to show that there is a difference between pity and empathy. Once in a while we all need to be "disturbed" when the line was being crossed.

Will you get to see your family on Christmas?
Bye, dear Abi. Have a good evening:)


Next family gathering only in March 2019 now! ;)


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What a day, I was thinking "Huh ... where is this now coming from?" After the @curie now another treat?" Funny day, today. Thank you! Much appreciated. Have to thank @abigail-dantes, as well, as she is my lucky charm here. :)



Oh Dear Erika :)

I just wanted to let you know I've seen your comment!
I will be available to reply to you tomorrow :*
I trust you had an awesome weekend :)


Thanks for letting me know.
Yes, had such a good weekend. Love my family. How often do you see yours?

Oh! Hello! Hello Abi! I've been waiting for your Friday's post 😊

I didn't know that empathy is divided in two, I admit it is something that troubles me because sometimes although I do understand how stressful and painful a situation may be for someone, I seem to be too "absorbed" in my worries and tasks (often making me wonder whether I am actually a cruel person or not), other times I just get to feel so sad about another person's mishap, that I get my whole day ruined (go figure what is going on in that mind of mine).

Empathy is a useful tool, but it needs a
balance. I have cried in a funeral because I saw my mum saying goodbye to a cousin the same age as hers, because I knew she had to let go of a person she spent dear childhood and adolescent years with. I was sad about the situation, I was sad when we learnt about my uncle's sickness, I felt sorry for my aunt and cousins (his family), but it was that picture that cracked me - I guess this is a combination of cognitive and emotional empathy.

Anyway, the statement in the closure, I believe is referring mostly to emotional empathy. When someone becomes overly sensitive and manages to "feel" what another person feels as if they experience the situation themselves. This may happen when you get too immersed in the other person's feelings that they become yours.

You need to keep a safety distance and keep in touch with your reality, although sympathising and treating others in a way fitting to what they are going through (I have in mind my divorced-parents cousins for example, when discussion comes to family, I try not to forget that not all families are the "typical mum-dad-kids all in the same house" model; mostly because I do not want to add to their distress -the divorce is almost 3 years now and the girls are 10 and 11).

I enjoyed your post, Abi!
I hope you're all ok after the incident, safe and sound!
Lots of love! ♥️

(Question: why when I think of empathy, I picture bad situations? Empathy is not compassion to your pain or frustration, but your joy as well)


Hello smart-girl ❤ :)

I am very pleased to hear this post has brought you some new information. The two aspects of empathy discussed here offer some insight into how you feel towards others in certain occasions and not in others. It is very important to keep in mind that broader contextual processes influence our every day thoughts, behavior and feelings! Meaning that some of them might elicit more emotional responses while others bring about cognitive reactions instead. After all, we do not exist in a vacuum!

You illustrated truly well how one draws from both aspects of empathy when you talked about how you felt upon learning about your uncle sickness. I am sorry that your family had to go through all that. You see, one of the reasons I feel for you and your family is because I share with you all a similar experience (that of my father). An instance of wider context.

Thank you for analyzing the quote I finalized this post with. I hope things are settling down now for your parents' cousins and for the girls.

It was a peculiar Sunday; but I know you will be happy to hear that the fire claimed no lives. Everything is fine over here now :)

Thank you for taking some of your busy time to participate in this discussion. It means a lot to me 😘
Lots and lots of love!

Ow ... before I forget. Good question. From a social psychology perspective the explanation I have for your interesting query is that, as a general rule, empathy is discussed as a reason for prosocial behaviour, which in turn is often associated with negative events. But you are right! Feeling happy for another person's accomplishments is a manifestation of empathy too :)


δε κανω ξεχωριστο σχολιο γιατι τζαμπα θα γεμισω τον τοιχο της abi .... πολυ ωραιο το αρθρο,νομιζω ειναι περιττο να το πω, οπως επισης Ruthie δε χρειαζεται να απορεις για το χαοτικο μυαλο σου... :) ...μια ερωτηση να κανω.... empathy μεταφραζεται σαν να λεμε συμπασχω με κατι σωστα???....γιατι η 'εμπαθεια' στην Ελληνικη εχει αρνητικο νοημα σαν λεξη.....ειχα ξανακουσει τη λεξη empathy σε συζητησεις και ειχα την εντυπωση οτι μιλανε για κατι αρνητικο φανερα επηρεασμενος απο το νοημα της λεξης στη γλωσσα μας...


Εmpathy ειναι αυτο που περιγραφεις, αλλα δεν το ρωτησα μονο γιατι η λεξη εμπαθεια στα ελληνικα σημαινει κατι αρνητικο και μου εχει μεινει καταλοιπο. Γενικα, το empathy, το συνδεω με τη συμπονοια και το ενδιαφερον που δειχνει καποιος οταν τυχαινουν δεινα στον διπλανο του, ενω κανονικα ισχυει για ολα τα συναισθηματα, να μπορεις να "νιωθεις" τη χαρα του αλλου, την αγωνια, το αγχος, την ανυπομονησια, οχι παραιτητα να συμπασχεις με τον πονο του...


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I think the key aspect is the question you raised here:

Can We Learn To Be Empathic?

First of all, we have to define the circle of people who are the benefactors of said empathy. As you pointed out correctly, most of the time our empathy is limited to a group of people we identify ourselves with (in-group-out-group-bias).

With that in mind:
I'm quite sure we can learn empathy. At least when it comes to cognitive empathy. I would doubt, however, the possibility to learn emotional empathy to the same extent.
If anything, my own experiences are telling me this (granted, that's not scientific proof but might be a nice hint nevertheless).
Personally, I'm usually not able to feel any kind of empathy towards most people (even with those I consider friends). A symptom of that might also be my inability to remember names or faces of people I rarely see - most people are just "shades" for me.
This is not judgemental in any sense, it's just the way I perceive people. I usually remember traits better than anything else.

In this regard, it's (with very few exceptions) impossible for me to actually feel the despair or happiness of others. I'm just completely indifferent emotionally.
But I'm usually able to understand their feelings from a rational point of view, hence my cognitive empathy is quite strong. I can see the reasons for their emotional states and know how to react properly.
This was not always the case.
A few years ago, I was not even able to do that. I simply did not care about other people's feelings and neither did I possess the ability to understand them. Obviously, I did many questionable things and hurt a lot of people during that time.
But changed circumstances forced me to rethink my behaviour eventually and I searched for ways of achieving a better understanding of (and therefore ability to interact with) other human beings.
I'm quite confident that I have found a proper way to address these things most of the time. Cognitive empathy can be a very helpful tool to compensate the (inherited?) lack of emotional empathy.

Personally I think extending one's ability of using cognitive empathy is the smarter choice in general. By doing that we can shift the boundaries of what we consider to be our in-group - without the threat of emotional instability. Empathy based on reasoning, facts and logic is far more valuable than its counterpart. And it's actually something we can learn to achieve.


Ego ! 😊 ❤

I was interested in the way you associated your inability to feel empathy towards people and the way you perceive people in general. Most certainly the way we see people affects the emotions we have towards them. However (and correct me if I am wrong), this seems to refer to empathic feelings in retrospect. Or, do you see people as 'shades' also whilst you are with them? Ps: I understand this is not judgmental.

You are the second person already in this thread, thus far, discussing how empathy can be taught/learnt (at least cognitive). This is very exciting for me to hear. I haven't come across any studies on neuropsychology suggesting the lack of emotional empathy might be inherited. But, if I may give my opinion, I believe this has more to do with learnt (or 'unlearnt') behaviour than inherited factors, as it was briefly discussed here too.

Great conclusion about how promising, as a whole, the implementation of cognitive empathy can be as a means not only for personal, but also for social achievements.

Thank you so much for coming by once again my dear, dear Ego.
I trust you are taking good care of yourself!
Much love to you always and forever ❤


However (and correct me if I am wrong), this seems to refer to empathic feelings in retrospect. Or, do you see people as 'shades' also whilst you are with them? Ps: I understand this is not judgmental.

Besides very few people I actually do. I simply cannot relate to most people in any way emotionally - yet alone feel emotional empathy towards them. Usually I'm more interested about raw information gathering about another person, because having more knowledge about someone/thing is always better.
But I immediately forget people's name after they tell me. I once lived together with two guys in a flat and it took me about half a year to figure out the name of the second guy - and only because my other flat mate called him once. So, yeah, I think "shades" describes it quite accurately.

I haven't come across any studies on neuropsychology suggesting the lack of emotional empathy might be inherited. But, if I may give my opinion, I believe this has more to do with learnt (or 'unlearnt') behaviour than inherited factors, as it was briefly discussed here too.

Maybe. I'm not sure about that. I think it's a combination of both. An inherited lack of empathy due to brain structure and epigenetic factors as well. I had always difficulties adjusting to social norms and feelings of others - it took me years to really learn how to behave adequately during social interactions.

Thanks @abigail-dantes for asking this question. If the question is limited to job loss and fire catastrophe I would say; no empathy can’t be harmful. But when an empathetic person keeps watching a large scale massacre on the news, people dying from famine, floods sweeping whole cities, empathy would be overwhelmingly harmful. Many get depressed over what is happening to others.

One sort of difficult situation I usually find myself in, is when I am trying to settle things between two work colleagues or family members, I can see from each one’s point of view yet you can’t conmunicate it to the other. The more you feel what others feel, the more different and contradictory emotions you find yourself feel, which at the end of the day takes from your mental and physical energy.

So generally, empathy is harmful, if not limited and in consciously felt.


Hello dear @alignment :)

What a wonderful evaluation you shared here with me. And also, what an example! I didn't see that one coming, I must confess: 'the role of empathy in mediation'. I suppose, in such cases, as difficult as it might be, the more objective the approach one takes the better. There definitely are circumstances in life when reason is the best tool to resort to.

What this might cost for someone in terms of social and family relations? Well, it is a matter of outcomes, which I believe, that tend to be better, in general, when they are a product of balanced, unbiased decisions.

Warm Regards to you ❀ :)


Thank you dear @abigail-dantes for your warm regards,

When dealing with conflict, veryone has his own reasoning which usually is driven by his priorities, empathy here works only when you rephrase the sayings and actions of one in such a way that become more meaningful to the other, so he can see from the other one perspective.

Some people lose touch with themselves when they put themselves in others shoes, others may be more balanced, while others can help without being affected by the emotional states of those who are helping. So there is no general answer to whether empathy is harmful or not as everyone has to decide for himself based upon how empathy affects him and those who are close to him.

The final thing I would like to add is that judging, comparing people upon how empathic they are without understanding how sensitive they are regarding empathy is quite unfair.

What a brilliant way to start a blog about empathy--warning readers of distressing scenes ahead!

This blog was worth the wait, and one to which I related closely. There were a number of intersections with my own experience:

One was a Wordpress blog I wrote years ago in which I discussed Robert Park's theory of the Marginal Man. Park addresses the ability to separate ourselves from groups with which we don't identify--to marginalize these. We don't feel empathy because we don't believe members of these groups are like us.

Then I thought of a literature course I took on German drama. A little factoid came back to me about Gotthold Lessing, who is considered the founder of modern German drama. Essential to Lessing's concept is that we have to identify with, or feel empathy, for the protagonist in order to be engaged in the play.

And then, finally, there's personal experience. I worked for 8 years at a school for adolescents who had been diagnosed with a psychiatric illness. The founder of the school used to warn me not to let my "rescue" instinct get out of hand. There is a danger, in that context, I guess of having too much empathy. Although I never quite agreed with him :)

I can't end without mentioning a wonderful movie, District 9, that was released about 10 years ago. That whole movie is really about transforming from a place of not understanding to one of empathy. The protagonist (involuntarily) pays a very high price for acquiring empathy.

Beautifully written, your blog was rich with information and references. I've already read Bloom's article and the Five Things about you:)
See you in two weeks!


Hello my dearest 😊

How nice to wake up to your always kind, encouraging words.

I have already saved the document Marginal Man as it is definitely something that interests me. I was prepared to read it straight away, but then after seeing the length of it I decided to postpone it for another time.

I had never heard of Gotthold Lessing before. But, how truthful is that? It reminded me of a play I saw a few years back in London, in which Rowan Atkinson plays a lonely, lonely teacher. I felt for him all the way through the play. Hence, a hard to forget character.

I watched District 9, years and years ago. Excellent movie! It is very pertinent to this discussion. I am not a big fan of science fiction, but that one is much more than that. It is social. I used to think of District 9 every time I read about 'The Jungle' in Calais.

Oh, your previous job touched me very much. But, yeah ... my thinking towards that is, while is not sustainable to emotionally empathize with every single patient, we ought to resort to cognitive empathy. For me, that is a matter of morality :)

Ahahahah so you read my 5 facts! Ahhahahaha you are so sweet agmoore! PS: I like most of Bloom's work.

Well, it is morning coffee time over here !
I wish you a day filled with peace ❤
Much love to you!


My first read this morning, your response. What a positive start to my day! I have read about Calais--yes, exactly. And this is what Park addresses. In the US today we are going through a kind of mass marginalization. The politics of the time revolve around stigmatizing groups of people. Dreadful to live through.
I'm glad you agree with me, that when it comes to people (or animals), it's hard to draw a line and say "I've done enough, more is not reasonable." I think when we do that we are able to drive past a Jungle and see nothing.
I loved reading about you--the way you dealt with your husband during the earthquake is hilarious.
Enjoy your coffee. I haven't had mine yet so I hope this comment makes sense.
Have a day filled with inspiration and fulfillment.

Didn’t they feel for the men and women that were caught up in the catastrophe?

How human :( And they'll feel that it does not concern them.

There's a particular adage here that says:

if dem kari pesin corpse, ein go dey like firewood. - Meaning: (If someone else's corpse is being carried, to the onlookers, it would only appear to be a bunch of wood)

Sometimes we fail to put ourselves in other people's shoes, and we don't get to have a feeling of what they're feeling. "What if we're the ones directly involved, would we have found it humorous if we're treated that way?"

If we do feel the same way as they do, then we'd be more empathetic and not just sympathetic. If we all learn this, then the world would be a better place for all of us.

Nice piece as usual Abbey.

Resteemed. Much love from here. And don't forget today's hangout 😃😃


Sammi 😍

Thank you for coming around again to share your thoughts and reflections with me my dear :) The quote you wrote here says it all. It is indeed a bland truth, which invites us all to analyse how the world is really like.

As for tonight's hangout (it makes me smile just to think about it) I am afraid is not going to be possible. But, I am going to get myself organised to take part in one sooner than later! 😃

I will be thinking of you guys.

Marvellous post! Yes, I think empathy is going to be the emotion that unpins most of the issues that I want to work on during the course of my life. As you identified in your post it’s a super important emotion for the fact-to-face interactions in day-to-day life, however you nicely outline what worries me most:

Upon finding that we are more likely to socially empathize with people that are ‘like us’ the researchers concluded that this is something that also explains a propensity we have to ‘dehumanize’ out-group members.

A while back I talked about the scoping effect and why raising money for malaria interventions that could help millions is so hard. This is a key point here.

The issue for psychology to work towards now, therefore, is how do we keep the good of empathy and lose the bad. Know your own cognitive biases, that’s my advice! With psychology I think it’s so important that we point it towards ourselves before pointing it towards others. I know I’ve done my job well when one of my students starts the year wanting to “psychoanalyses” others and ends the year “a wreck of a human being, unsure of everything they though they knew”, then at least they’ve got the best foundation to build from.


Hi Richard 😊,

Oh, I am so pleased to hear you enjoyed this post. I did think of your work at times, during the writing process. More specifically the post you wrote about the impact empathy and fear have on healthy policies.

And of course, last night just before I gathered my images for this piece I read your latest article (I am sorry I run out of time and didn't comment). But, the manner with which the public reacted to the suffering the Evans family underwent illustrates how empathy can sometimes get out of control (when it becomes a public matter, things get that much more complex!).

What you said here about 'knowing our cognitive biases' is an interesting one. As both our biases as 'individuals' and 'group members' need to be taken into account. But, like you said, and I believe in this very much, the work of the 'self' comes first.

The way you said you evaluate how much of a good job you do with your students, just made me smile! 😃

Ps: I will be reading your post World Malaria Day: If I look at the many I will never act. over the weekend. Thank you for pointing it out to me! You know I am big fa of your work.


Hey Abigail, excellent, yes our work often seems to align nicely. I feel we need a blanked “don’t worry about not reading post” agreement. There are only so many hours in the day. More and more lately I’m writing to get ideas straight in my head rather than so that others will read/comment on them, so never really expect anyone to read them. That post is based on this paper by Paul Slovic who I think you’ll like if you like Bloom.


Wonderful!! Thank you :*

“don’t worry about not reading post” agreement

Deal! 😆

A great piece, Abi! Again!

I agree that one's empathy could hurt you. I think that could happen in a case you are empathic toward someone who isn't - like a mass murderer :)

Seriously now, there are people who lose their lives because they were empathic toward someone suffering and they tried to help. A few years ago there was a very sad incident in my country. Two men saw children drowning in the sea. They got into the sea in order to save them. They actually did it. They somehow managed to drag them near the coast so that the other people took them out of the waves. But unfortunately, both men couldn't escape the waves and drown. They both had children who lost their brave fathers.

I guess you are either empathic or not. I am skeptic about learning how to be (or not be) empathic. However, I am glad I am empathic and have this great experience of feeling a real connection with others.


Oh! What a heart-breaking story @insight-out 😧

Considering your extremely high score on agreeableness I did expect you to be a highly emphatic person :) It does come at a price, but like you said it brings elements to life that make existence much, much more purposeful!

Thank you for taking the time to stop by once again :D
I wish you and your family a great Saturday! :*

First of all - glad that you are okay !

Secondly, it's not a surprise to me that you wrote an article on this topic after what you observed and in a way participated in. Being empathic is a sign of a high emotional intelligence and I personally think that it is a double-edged sword.

From one point of view being emotionally intelligent and empathic person allows you to be a good friend, family member and person in general - truly understanding other humans is a quality which would never fade away.

But from another point of view, being too empathetic could be harmful for you, as sometimes this "feeling for others" could be overwhelming, influencing your "inner and outer" aspects of your life - jumping into actions to help others without thinking about them in a rational way.

What you observed in other people's behaviour from one point of view is showing how "life goes on" no matter what. But from another it's revealing some people's emotional ignorance and in other's - carelessness. While the first could learn how to be empathetic, the second group chooses to ignore it.

It's only after we experience such situations with other people that we could see them for who they truly are.

Thank you for this article - it's been a food for the brain - as always :)

All the best to you :P


Oh! Thank you my dear @dysfunctional. It was an overwhelming 'spectacle', but no lives were lost :D

Yes! The link you made here between empathy and emotional intelligence is an essential one for this discussion. Thank you for bringing this up!

It is truly a difficult balance to find. I have come across many people (often highly agreeable or little assertive individuals) who just completely forget themselves in order to help, please or take action for others. And like you said, some of them actually got in trouble for 'over helping'. All because reason was pushed away by emotions. It is a tricky one!

Another important point you raised here is that 'life goes on'. I stated this in another reply to a comment: 'One has the tendency to judge others based on what they appear to feel'. Except that, no one other than oneself knows that. Plus, the degree of empathy with which someone responds to a particular circumstance, by no means, defines their overall moral standards or level of humanity. I suppose it is too easy just to put the emotionally-ignorant + the neglectful in the same pool!

Thank you for stopping by :)
Much love to you from Portugal!

What a beautifully written content, I quite concur that empathy can be learnt, while I was younger I use to feel less empathy for people, however I was may 17 or 18 I was already an advanced teenager and seriously I should've been to feel and learn empathy because I was already growing mature and still felt expression-less as a child but I had not but after reading this I discovered that it was as a result of the fact that I wasn't shown empathy as a child because i never grew up staying with my mum, I knew only animosity, prejudice and suffering and as I grew up I became vengeful and obstinate.
To me it was so worrisome when i had reached 20 and still can't find myself to feel empathy, it was just like you mentioned it felt like I was lost, however it only took good turns of event, progress with my business and interaction with good people that gradually changed me, it took at least four years to be able to feel compassionate, I must tell you, I learnt empathy because I was later shown it to me by people who's been there for me in my life, else I'll still be an adult and yet still be like young Lucas who was emotionless.

Thank you for bringing this splendid rhapsody this morning, it's been three weeks already and I'm so glad to enjoy this one from you @abigail-dantes I hope you've been doing okay and well?


Hello my dearest @josediccus :)

How nice to see your comment here once again. The first part of your discussion is particularly touching. Yet, it is also something that delivers hope! Your very account that empathy can be learnt during later developmental stages is very important for both the individual, and for their social environment.

Kindness most certainly begets kindness 😊

Everything is fine over here! Thank you so much for asking. You have such a great heart. I trust the same is true over there?

Much love to you from Portugal ❤ :)


of course @abigail-dantes your detailed post here gave me the chill and took me back memory lane to those years ago, you know I always relate my life events to your posts it's like you have a track record for always talking about me hahahaha well, I feel glad always reading, if it could be possible you could making two posts in a week it would be a marvelous delight.
Cheers! I'll be hoping to read again next week, I'm doing very good here 😀😀


OH! It pleases me very much to hear everything is good there :D
Please note that, at least until Christmas I will be posting only every other Friday. This period of the year is always very busy for me :)


Hmmmm then I'll be looking forward to Christmas, I didn't know you're in Portugal I thought you were in Brazil. Have a splendid weekend and well.

“our best hope for the future is not to get people to think of all humanity as family.”

Is there a 'not' in there that doesn't belong?

Empathy is an interesting subject. It goes beyond just feeling for others, since we actively strive to get ourselves in situations where others hurt and we hurt with them. I'm talking for example about sad movies, tragedies, sad music, and so on. I mean, why would we actively want to watch I, Tonya, or 12 years a slave? It doesn't make any sense. We don't enjoy seeing those people suffer, and we can't help them right now, so why do we do it? The reasons are many, but one I think is that it's like a muscle that needs to be flexed, since it exists. I mean, you wouldn't want to never need to use your legs, even if it were more comfortable, even if a machine did all the walking for you, you would sometimes feel the need to flex your muscles. So maybe similarly, if you have a region in your brain that was made to empathize, maybe you feel the need to use it, and so you seek these artistic experiences.

Thankfully, for Lucas (and those who he deems unattractive), his empathic abilities won’t always be that limited

They will grow in tandem with his lying abilities, apparently!

Is there a 'not' in there that doesn't belong?

Oh no ... Bloom is against empathy! That 'not' is definitely meant to be there, I am afraid. But, I am with you in this one. I also think it is misplaced!

I read a while ago, regarding fear though, that among other species humans are unique in the way that we seek experiences which give rise fear. It seems to me this applies to other 'negative' emotions as well! I don't know about you, personally, but I don't. I would love to watch Precious and 12 Years a Slave except I am afraid of how sad the stories are!

They will grow in tandem with his lying abilities, apparently!

Thank you for stopping by Alexander 😊
Have a wonderful week.


Ah, thanks for clarifying, cos I was confused, given the overall point you were making in the text, and I didn't know if the quote got an extra 'not' from you!

Yeah it's interesting that some people will seek, say, sad movies, and others will avoid them cos they don't wanna be sad. I know depressed people sometimes seek info that verifies their internal state. But I don't think people who liked 12 years a slave are all depressed! So it's an interesting topic, and perhaps one you can treat in the future!


I have amended my text after the observation you made (getting confused with the wording). If you got confused, others might have got too!

Thank you for informing me about that :)


Always my pleasure to make more work for you :D


Just wanted to comment on your idea that we put ourselves in the place of others, in art, so we can hurt with them. Not me. Not anymore. It actually does hurt too much. Life has enough of that :)


Yeah it's precisely because I know people who feel like you in real life, which is why I asked. It's interesting to study this both psychologically and historically; historically, since tragedies always existed and were popular (were, in fact, perhaps the earliest form of play), and people back then had much more troubles that we today do, objectively, I guess. Are we becoming more Eloi? Were they more Morlock?


I thought about classic Greek tragedy as I wrote that response--even looked up (you know me, I look stuff up) catharsis. Perhaps we're not becoming more effete--perhaps the use of tragedy is becoming more graphic, more exploitative. Instead of asking us to use our imaginations to identify with a protagonist, modern film makers don't trust our imaginations. They lay the gore before us. They disembowel, literally. Their approach to tragedy is not poetic--it's brutal. Just a few thoughts your comment generated :)

Edit: Perhaps I should add that there was significant tragedy in my childhood. So I think I had my fill early on. I got through it OK, but it was all around me and others suffered. Kind of made a difference in my psyche, I think.


perhaps the use of tragedy is becoming more graphic, more exploitative

I don't know. Back in the day, they accused Tarantino of being graphic. To this day, I don't know why he didn't simply reply "Shakespeare". Or any of his works, like "Titus Andronicus". Slaughtering an enemy's children and baking them into a pie and feeding them to him? Check! And they teach these stuff to kids at school. (Well, I don't know about Titus specifically, but they do teach the Bible and that's worse even than Shakespeare.)

Their approach to tragedy is not poetic--it's brutal.

I agree and disagree depending on the movie. Many will think Oldboy (the Asian version; but the American isn't bad either) is brutal and gory. I think it's a classic, and I think there's poetry in the gore and the story. So it's hard to say.

Sorry to hear about your personal experience. That might of course have played a role. In essence, we are most of us pretty disengaged from real physical suffering akin to the things portrayed in movies, it's all like a videogame to us now, so people are perhaps having the wrong reaction to them. I can imagine what the Nazi Zombie movie would look like to people who've gone through the real deal. But to the rest of the world now, it's mere entertainment.

Hello Hello Hello!

This is a quite interesting post for me cause i struggle to understand myself in terms of empathy. As you know people are really open with me as i am a good listener and give good advises (at least that's what i have been told :P)

each time i here a story,a problem and issue someone has even if i don't know him i try to understand his/her perspective. I unconsciously may "walk in their shoes" but it's not intentional as i try to be objective given the current data merging with how i see the world.

Thus i never get depressed nor cry even if we are talking about a close to me person. I don't know why exactly that happens to me, i may worry, i may try to do anything to help but i won't cry or be sad.

I also have a similar example like the one you mentioned with the fire. A couple of months ago in Athens a huge fire, or to be exact multiples fires came up in areas full of people and forests. Over 100 people burnt to ashes and basically a whole town destroyed. During that time everywhere, from greek sites-tv-radio channels to english ones were talking about that event.

The stories of the people that died and survived were one of a kind (they found a couple of people burnt to ashes all hugged together). People cried, people went to help even 2-3 weeks after the event but the majority just continuous with their lives

I think even those that volunteered after a while they just continued with their lives as it was nothing, the only ones that were affected deeply were people that lost relatives,friends,houses etc etc. I remember myself feeling anger cause of the reasons the fire broke out and innocent people lost their lives and not so much sorrow and sadness.

Maybe is this part of human evolution? We just keep adapting to everything and moving on to the next thing?


Hello @filotasriza 😃

I am just more and more convinced you would make a wonderful therapist ;)

You have just made me see why your friends are comfortable with coming to you for advice and comfort: because at the same time you empathize with their distress you are also able to be objective, as no emotions cloud your judgement. It appears to me you resort to cognitive empathy when dealing with them :) There is absolutely nothing to worry about it.

I did see on the news, and here on Steemit as well about the catastrophic fire that devastated many lives in your country this summer. I am so sorry about that Filos :(

And here you are again, using your cognitive empathy :) whilst you feel for the lives that were lost in the disaster, while you get frustrated by the apparent lack of emotions that some people seem to demonstrate you also rationalize it and question this 'cold-heartedness' as a result of human adaption.

Well, as cruel as it may be, this is a good thing, right? Whether we move on because of lack of empathy or resilience it is important that we do, as individuals and societies. Can you imagine if we had to 'pause' ours lives every time something terrible happens in the world?

Finally, it is also important to keep in mind each individual has their very own ways of feeling sad, of mourning; which we all ought to respect. I doubt very much that my neighbors had any idea of how upset I was about the event when they saw me outside last Sunday morning. As I just greeted them as if it were just another day, while they walked by.

Life is a strange thing sometimes!

Thank you once again for sharing your incredible reflections here with me my dear. Lots of love to you from Portugal! :*


ahh now i felt a relief knowing that i am not insensitive! thanks a lot for that it's a huge relief i repeat!

I am just more and more convinced you would make a wonderful therapist ;)

i guess i should switch careers now that it's early :p

Well, to begin with am replying in the middle of the week because I couldn't respond since last week Friday that you've released the article. Busy up here and there.................bzzzzzzzy

@abigail-dantes, for some times now, your post has been hitting me hard and I couldn't hide the fact that I have been experiencing some modifications.
On empathy I could say I began to be empathic by several things have experienced over time. With this new experience, i will agree with you that we can learn empathy.

Nevertheless, it has been stated that empathy is also something that we are able to learn throughout our lives.

So I would say that am learning to develop listening ear, not that am a psychopath but I always want to define boundary in every relationship, possibly because some people had abuse my trust. Imagine someone telling you that she lost a close relative just to seek for your empathy, and you eventually discovered that it wasn't true. Well that is just one example in several occasions.

Also I think some people lost that trait (if i could refer to empathy as a trait) because they could not stand a gory scene like myself, because for weeks the memory will still be fresh in their mind........ However, developing listening ear can help us a lot to be more sympathetic/empathic. Some might decide not to go near the fire accident scene because a picture of what the scene would look like would have been created in their mind in my opinion.

All the same, thanks for this beautiful piece, it has nourished me again, keep on firing this type of post for us.
You are blessed.😘😘😘

Have you ever found yourself responding judgmentally towards someone who was in clear distress?

Yes, a colleague of mine at work some years back while staying together got his finger cut by knife in the kitchen, he raised alarm, but we refused to answer him because we thought he was joking as his usual practice, until I went to checked him that was when I knew it was not a joke this time around. I have already thought he wanted to take us for a ride until I checked him out. ...... But was that a clear distress? I wouldn't say.


ANY time is a great time to hear from you my dear @steepup :) Believe me, I understand what is like to have a busy routine 😅

Oh, wow ... that example you shared with me here, of someone seeking your attention is truly extreme one. I can only imagine the shock you experienced when you learnt the truth! Some people do resort to intense ways to be liked, or empathized with; sometimes that happens because of psychological issues, others because of low moral values.

But, please note that, empathy is not about being able to stand what we visually cannot deal with, for example the scenario of burning homes. Empathy is mostly about understudying how serious that situation is, and what it might have cost to the people who were directly involved in it.

As for your friend's example, if he is a prankster, I suppose your reaction was only natural 😆 "we thought he was joking as his usual practice". Still, it is always nice to responded with respect towards people's painful experiences when they are real. But, a great thing you said here is that you have consciously adopted the habit of listening to people and paying attention to what they say in a non-judgmental way.

I am a great believer of the moto "kindness begets kindness". Also, I really respect you for being brave enough to look into yourself, acknowledge your strengths and weaknesses, and ultimately, have the courage to adopt news ways of being. For me this is true strength!

Thank you for always being so kind to me my dear.
Your words are very, very loving and encouraging.
You have a special heart! 😊 😘


Thanks am glad knowing you on this platform.

i see myself as a person fullnof empathy , especially when i started yo become a full time mom, havung experienced the sacrifices and hardships you would always see yourself on others' shoes or you would have a deeper understanding and will be sensitive on what they're going through. And you will really appreciate even small things.

Now regarding that statement , if you walk on someone else's shoes , then you've taken your shoes , i believe it would depend on what the situation is , if for example you'll empathise with a friend who has been left buy his or her partner , ut would be okay to understand what she feels and give your advices , but if you'll gonna tell your friend to have revenge to his or her ex , because you also feel the pain of your friend and if revenge was done it'll both make you feel better , then maybe that would be the bad side of empathy.

Glad to have your post miss Abi , was kinda late again , I pray and hope that you guys are okay there now after the fire , glad to have read that no lives were taken , Praise GOD 🙏 hope you always have a great time , God bless you more and more and thanks always sooo much for your support , much love from us , hug tight! 😘❤️❤️❤️


Hello my dear @zephalexia :)

The comment you left me here today does not surprise me! I remember you once said you feel quite affected by what you watch sad news on tv etc... it is, without a doubt, important to find a balance when it comes to empathy. I believe we have to look after ourselves first. After all, how can we even help others? Don't you agree?

The example you shared here about supporting a friend who is hurting after a break up, but refusing to take part in vindictive actions illustrates an important sense of morality. Further, it is also a lesson that we shouldn't be selective towards who we are emphatic towards :)

Thank you for your kind, loving words.
You take good care of yourself! ❤️ :)

I'm glad to hear that you, your family and your home were safe and weren't among those directly affected by the fire.

I do not have a lot to say about empathy other than it is a very useful adaptation for any social species. When animals live in larger groups where working together is essential, empathy becomes an important characteristic. Empathy is also like many personality characteristics in that it exists on a continuum or spectrum. Some people are further on the empathy scale than others. That being said, there is also a place for psychopathic characteristics in society as well though. I mean the high functioning psychopathic traits - not the ones that are also associated with enjoying pain in others. Many surgeons are believed to be high functioning psychopaths because they can remove the emotion from what they are doing. It would be hard to cause pain in someone, even if it is for their own good, if one is too empathetic.

I'm relieved that humans can learn to be empathetic though. I think we could use a bit more empathy in the world.


YES! You went straight to the point @leaky : empathy was a key psychological process in the formation and development of clans, groups and families.

This is why I see the view that 'empathy is harmful'as a rather oversimplified one. It has made us what we are (in terms of society). Now that we know better we can reassess things and try to put things right from now on. But then, of course, when it comes to intergourp matters, things can easily become political. It is a different animal.

Until then, we can always put it in place within our families, work places, communities etc :)

Thank you for your kind, thoughtful words. I would like to let you know that despite the proportion of the fire, the flames claimed no lives, and we had heavy rain last Tuesday evening!

I wish you a wonderful weekend.
Take care :*

At the risk of almost blowing my own trumpet, I think I will make the claim that empathy is something I think I've got. I think empathy can be learned, especially when you stay around people who are empathic. On the other hand, the civilisation and the increased urbanisation that follows may tend to 'deaden' the empathic side of the average human. However, if the whole world could be empathic to one another, I guess they'd be no more wars, terrorist, crime, etc. It is something we need more of as the days go by. It is always a delight to read your post. How's the weather up those hills? It's a sunny Friday here and we ain't complaining :)


Hello my dear Green 😊 ❤

A sunny Friday? I see ... well, over here, thankfully, it has been cloudy. Since the fire we had a massive rain. So, we are not complaining either ;)

Yes, it turns out that empathy is key not only for interpesonal relations but for the harmony of intergroups too. I think it is scandalous and an oversimplification to say that empathy has a 'dark side'. Things are much, much more complex than that.

And I agree with you, as our societies develop to nurture more and more individualistic values, things don't look for the future when it comes to empathic understanding. There is a Brazilian psychiatrist who often delivers this line when the discussion turns to our current values and habits: "Humanity took the wrong turn."

I am not that pessimistic though!

Anyways ... the pleasure is ALL mine to see you around Green. Thank you for taking time to read and contribute to our debates.
Much love to you from Portugal :*


It's always sunny in my place :)
Coincidentally, I'm the glass half-full type of person too when it comes to humanity. The world needs more optimistic people on it. Things may be bad, but not that bad. As I hardly have time to read books these days, I sort of look forward to reading your posts. The reason for that is simple; the contents flow making it an easy read. I once read a psychology book that is an easy read as your post, and the book was called What Do You Say After You Say Hello? First, the title caught my attention, I'm glad it did as I think it is a must-read book for both the psychology aficionado and the hobbyist

Oh Abi is it already Friday? 😮

This topic is pretty interesting to me and I often think about it, because it looks like today is some kind of a trend to be cold and "suddenly I felt nothing'' person.

I didn't know about that experiment with people from different nations, but it seems logical as we can see when some terrorist attack happens in Europe and comparing it to some attack in Africa for example - people and news and social networks will always show more compassion to Europe. It's interesting social phenomenon.

No matter how much empathy is important (and it is, pretty much), I think that it can be often misused for placing ideas like political correctness or some other ideas by governments for manipulation of a society.

But enough of conspiracy theories, I'm glad to see another article of yours :)

Hope you are well,

Wish you all the best 😊😊


Hey @nikolanikola 😊

It's so good to see your comment. And what a comment! I like how you used a relevant, relatable example to illustrate the study by Riva and Andrigetto. That is a line of study that explores issues like the one you raised here as well as those regarding prejudice. It is definitely a delicate topic. Because when you approach it from an evolutionary perspective you understand why this is the case.

However, this doesn't justify the atrocities that still take place around the world as a result of intergroup conflicts. Especially now that we know better. But like you said, when it becomes political ... well, yeah it is whole different situation.

I am glad to hear you find this topic interesting. There are so many different ways psychology can address empathy (neuropsychology, cognitive, developmental etc..), without a doubt, the social perspective is the one that fascinates me the most.

Everything is fine over here and I hope this is the same for you and all your loved ones too! Oh, and before I forget: Look 😘 😘 Two! 😏 I am obviously feeling generous today! :P


It's possible that it has some cultural aspect - looks like people react only on something they can relate to, like when you see meme pages on facebook, lot of them have stupid jokes and aren't actually funny at all, but people laugh because they see themselves in those situations.

I'm fine as usual :)

Wait, I'm not sure if I see well, is it possible that I got two kisses from Abigail?!

Omg this is me right now:

You are obviously feeling some kind of an empathy today 😛😘 😘


Owwww ...

Love this article @abigail-dantes

I have similar thoughts, in that, how could someone not be empathetic?

I actually have the opposite problem, too much empathy which has put me in some bad situations when I was younger because I would put others needs above my own.

Then I probably went a bit too far in the other direction (but probably not) and focused souley on myself.

Still working to find that right balance in my 30's :)


Oh! @cizzo 😃 how wonderful to see you around. And how great to hear you enjoyed this post! Thank you for letting me know.

Oh, it is funny, as much as there are so many "cold-hearted" people out there. There are also those whose levels of compassion and empathic understanding can become an issue. Several studies on personality traits correlate this with individuals who rate high on agreeableness ref.. I discussed this trait quite extensively on my previous post, as a matter of fact.

Finding the balance is definitely the tricky part, but it is surely an achievable goal! :)

Well, thank you for stopping by my dear. Have a great Friday evening and a wonderful weekend.

It is time to turn the computer off over here and enjoy the family.
All the best to you !!


I can't help but agree with your post on agreeableness (heh).
I always score high on it on the big 5 test so it makes sense. Something I'll be thinking on in the next while.

Thank you for putting out these thought provoking and practical articles! Have a great weekend and awesome family time as well :)

While reading your text with great interest as always, two questions formed in my mind.. but let me reply to yours first.

It fully depends on how you "understand" that statement with the shoes. of course, if you take it literally, it would be right somehow, but in a way to me it seems a bit cynical in this context. After all, I see that as a metaphor with a specific meaning, that is understood in societies, where it is used. Its not about taking shoes, but about the idea of putting yourself into someone elses situation. And by feeling it, you are not actually "taking" that situation or make it yours... just my humble opinion :-)

What I would like to know is, how empathy differs from sympathy... of course for me being German, language might be an issue, although the two different terms exist here as well.

The other thing I am wondering about is, why one generally uses both with, what I would call negative emotions. Suffering, pain, sadness and so on...

You state Because, you know, empathy is at the heart of healthy, fulfilling relationships... shouldn't positive emotions play a role particularly there as well? Are feelings of joy, thankfulness, happiness and well being also "shared" empathically?


Hello @reinhard-schmid 😃

It fully depends on how you "understand" that statement with the shoes

Your are so right! And, I confess, it has been fascinating for me to read the different perspectives that have kindly been shared here. The reason why you might have 'felt' the cynicism in it is because that is a notion proposed by a school of people who actually make a case against empathy. However, this applies to a more broader social context, rather that from individual to individual. And that is one of the reasons why I thought it would be interesting to hear people's insight into that, at a more personal level :)

Now to your questions:

What I would like to know is, how empathy differs from sympathy...

Your question made me smile because about 2 weeks ago I had a similar conversation with a German acquaintance. The topic was more directed to language expressions and nuances than psychology. Either way, there is a subtle psychological difference between sympathy and empathy, which lies in the extent to which we 'see' the other person's suffering from their point of view.

While the former has to do with the acknowledgment of the other's suffering. The latter goes beyond that, it is also understudying the problem from the other's perspective. I don't know if, at a neuropsychological, this means a lighter and stronger activation of the anterior cingulate, or, indeed it activation in tandem with other regions.

why one generally uses both with, what I would call negative emotions.

You are also correct about this one! This is definitely the case amongst psychologies. The reason for this, though, it is because this topic (empathy), normally emerges in the context of prosocial behaviour, which is highly associated with sad events, catastrophes and so forth :)

Thank you so very much for stopping by and sharing your reflections as well as the queries they brought about.

I trust you and your wife are both fine!
Warm Regards :)

Fantastic to see you posting again!!!
(this one nearly slipped under the radar..)

A great post, and it made me understand myself just a little more...

As an 'empathic retard' ( I really have very little emotional empathy), but I definitely posses some form (cognitive?) of empathy.

I haven't come across any studies on neuropsychology suggesting the lack of emotional empathy might be inherited. But, if I may give my opinion, I believe this has more to do with learnt (or 'unlearnt') behaviour than inherited factors, as it was briefly discussed here too.

Coming from a 'lack of any empathy' family, (even cognitive), I would say this definitely influences the tools that you have in your arsenal as an adult.( or don't have).

Psychopaths can definitely feel some form of empathy. A family member most probably fitted into this category.
He 'loved' his dogs.


Hi @lucylin 😊

it made me understand myself just a little more...

It is wonderful to hear this! Thank you for saying it :D

Given what you detailed here about your family; yes, I would say you can draw from cognitive empathy in order to acknowledge the suffering of others. You may not feel it in your 'heart', but you can appreciate when someone is distressed. It must be tricky to grow up in an environment where people are oblivious to one's pain.

Yep, it turns out that psychopaths can feel empathy. The example you gave here, interestingly, is a very common one! It turns out that psychopaths cry their eyes out when a pet dies. I suppose it was this sort of emotional reaction that pushed neuropsychologists to look a bit further.

This is, apparently, mostly because of cognitive empathy, though. But they just seem to be able to switch it on and off 'at will'. It is an interesting body of research, which I am not familiar with in great depth, thus far.

Well, thank you for coming around once again!
I wish you and Lucy a great week ahead! :D


Well, thank you for coming around once again!

Au contraire , thank YOU for coming around once again!

😂 😂 😂 😂 😂 😂


Someone reading this will think that the last time I posted was three months ago! :P

Ah a most fascinating topic, but one that I've previously mostly considered from a single side -- biological. I'm interested in learning about cognitive empathy and learning the technique myself -- because I strive to control my unproductive "fight" impulses when met with adversarial behaviour in others. But there are few thoughts of my own I can share on the topic of empathy:

Developing cognitive empathy requites an individual to already have some degree of mindfulness and a desire to change, but can something be done about a mind that is comfortable, or worse -- revels in its psychopathy? People like Al Dunlap might not be open to suggestions of empathy simply because their brains reward malice beyond the boundaries seen in an average person.
Unfortunately there may be no voluntary solution in such cases, but there can be a non-invasive one --psilocybin.
There's a growing body of medical research on the matter, and to be honest I'd be fully prepared to experience the ego breakdown myself, that is if I ever manage to find legal (or at the very least non-regulated) access to the substance.


Hey there @eccles :)

Thank you for such an honest feedback!

I agree with you 100% I believe that for any sort of behaviour change to take place, the individual first and foremost needs to recognize it and than want to change. Mr. Danlup is quite comfortable in his own skin, particularly so because his unacceptable social behaviour has actually brought him wealth and recognition (oh, the world we live in is a 'funny' place!). But for those with the opposite mindset and being proactive to shift perceptions and attitudes, mindfulness is a great means to achieve that.

I discussed quite extensively on a previous post the point you raised here about our brains having a reward system that not only rewards malice, but also prompts pleasure at the sight of the pain of others.

I have come across many texts now discussing the emotional benefits brought about by psilocybin. I even have had the pleasure to chat with someone (a while ago) who was self-administering it!! I haven't heard from him for quite a while now. I just hope he is ok!

All the best to you :)
Warm Regards.


Ah, I've started reading that post but somehow got distracted and filed it away as already finished! Shame on me, I should have picked up on the fact that you've mentioned the ventral striatum and the part cingulate cortex that are mentioned in the article from Psychology Today. (Not that I've much of brain topology and function committed to memory though).

As for the person self-administering psilocybin... You probably already know this, and in fairness I should have mentioned it in the first place, but it's rather important to not take it without a sober partner to observe the effects and restrain you if necessary... I hope they're all right.

Just one word in passing. Listening is a tough task. I am training myself in doing so, but we are living in a world in which we have unfortunately less and less time for that. Dunno how things will be in 50 years. Maybe less humanized?


Hello @lemouth :)

Listening is a very tough task! Listening is a skill that takes a life time to master. Yet, emphatic and non-judgmental listening is the basis for constructive personal, social and professional relationships. I do think so too that our busy lives play a big part in draining our patience and energy, which could be used towards our listening skills (and so many other things really, regarding our psychological well-being).

If we don't begin to address this issue now, in our homes and communities, and only listen to one another superficially, we don't get to know one another well, this may lead to depersonalization/dehumanization indeed!

Take care :*


Also, an issue is that more and more people want everything immediately. Living in a hurry, they don't have time to listen (or do 3245 things at the same time so that one has the impression to talk alone). But I do my best! As you said, it will take my full lifetime to master that ^^

She excitedly asked him in front of everyone “Oh Lucas, do you want to be my boyfriend?”, just to hear “No, you are too ugly

You didn't tell us if she really is..

But, what about for those of us whose childhood years are long gone? Is there hope?

Dunno where I stand in the empathy scale. But after my first experience with psilocybin mushrooms I have certainly become a more empathic (is that even a word?) person, after the "heavy", mushroom induced reflection that followed a couple hours later. If you ask me, something changed permanently on my brain that day.

Interestingly, there is also some research on that but I am too tired and not really interested to check it out XD

But maybe you do:

You didn't tell us if she really is..

I don't want to talk about this. 😌

Oh! Have you used psylocibin? 😃 I have read quite a few studies on psylocibin. It appears to be incredibly promising for actually curing affective disorders. Have you considered writing a post about your experience? As far as I understand you need to be under strict supervision to use it. Although, I have spoken to someone who self-administers it. He has PTSD, he said that nothing worked for him in the past (therapies or medication). But after using the mushroom his mental healthy has improved considerably. It rewires neural networks faster, it has been suggested.

Thanks for sharing this study here. Most of the material I have come across was in relation do major depression and trauma! :D


Yeah, tried them a few times at around the age of 28. If by strict supervision you mean my friend next door who was diagnosed with schizo, yeah, I was under that XD

Overall, it was an amazing experience that any man should give a try in their life. All my experiences with the mushroom were amazing and mind-opening, but I would describe them as really heavy to absorb... I can't really put it in words. But it's definitely something I won't try for many years to come. It feels like the mushroom has already given what there is to give :)

The way music sounded, the pictures my brain created, the self reflection... It's a totally different experience compared to for example weed, which just makes you dumb and laugh ... Ok, deal, I will make a post about it one of these days :D


Excellent!! :D

Hi, @abigail-dantes.

This is one of the best written posts, and absolutely the best documented one that I have read in the 9.5 months I've been on STEEM. That could be construed as not saying much, but it is definitely meant to be a compliment. :)

I'm afraid I'll need to re-read what you've written here a few more times in order to more fully grasp what you've said, but I think I can say now that I agree with the premise—we are capable of caring for others in some fashion, and we are also capable of manifesting that caring through action.

I'm not well enough versed in psychology or the various forms of empathy to add anything there, though I do see the differences as outlined and agree that we can arrive at empathy in different ways.

You ask at the end about a quote attributed to Robert Yang. I searched for the quote and found a blog post by a Robert Yang where the quote is mentioned. Apparently he got the quote from a talk Wendy HK Chun gave at Weird Reality. In the same paragraph of his post where he quotes Chun, Yang says this:

If you won't believe someone's pain unless they wrap an expensive 360 video around you, then perhaps you don't actually care about their pain.

The blog post is in reference to the concept of Virtual Reality (VR) as the ultimate empathy machine, then discusses how the United Nations used VR when highlighting the plight of Syrian Refugees. Yang pushes back against the idea that VR should be needed for anyone to have empathy. There's not a need to gain empathy through entertainment. You should just have empathy because you see a need, and that need should lead you to the next step.

There's more to the argument, but that's probably the most pertinent here.

I found the video of the talk and part in it where Chun says, "If you're in someone else's shoes, you've taken their shoes." That line actually received laughter, so it was hard to hear what she said immediately after that, but it sounds something like, "They're not in it, right?"

What I get from this is, we truly can't empathize by somehow consuming someone else's experience. Even if we've had similar experiences, we're not the other individual. And to try to simulate the experience, be it via VR or white people reading about the lives of former black slaves (both Yang and Chun refer to this), it becomes more about the imagined pain of the intended empathizer, or in the case of the slaves, the white reader (seemingly because they see themselves in the same situation and the effects it would have on the reader if it happened to them, and also to their loved ones) then it does about the actual experience and pain of the others (ie, refugees, black slaves).

In other words, it shouldn't be about us at all, but about them. It shouldn't be about what we can do for them, either, but what is just and right for them. Yang seems very concerned about who benefits the most from the empathy. In the case of the UN, do they benefit the most because of the goodwill and good PR (and perhaps monetary benefits) their VR message generate, or do the refugees actually benefit the most. He doubts it's the refugees.

Personally, I agree it shouldn't be about us, but I don't see the harm in emotional connection, or even the inclusion of self and what I might feel because I can relate. I know I'm not that other person, I know the way I react won't necessarily be the way they do, or to the depth they do. I don't think it should be about me, anyway.

Where I can see a problem, though, is where empathy might be used to either minimize what someone feels, or to oversimplify a situation. Adults who went through something thirty years ago telling a teenager it's going to be okay because they've been through it may actually be true, but the teenager typically isn't going to be consoled by it. Nor should they be, especially if the experience of the adult is—intended or not—effectively superseding or negating the experience of the teenager.

"Walk it off. You're okay," in the case of a fall isn't always sufficient. Some assessing and evaluating may be in order, along with a trip to the hospital. :)

I think when it comes to macro events, like the refugees and the slaves, especially something that's happened in the more distant past, it's easy to not have empathy. It's too much to process. It's impossible for one person to solve or make right. Nor should they try to take it all on. Throwing a donation at the problem or seeking reparations, or some kind of fairer system might not actually solve anything because there's typically too much red tape and bureaucracy involved for it to do actual good.

However, we can certainly start by helping one person, or one family, in some way. That doesn't mean they move in with us. That doesn't mean we give them all we have. But we can do something, and maybe someone else can do something, until situations are stabilized and immediate needs are met. At some point, though, the people affected need to somehow get back to their lives and take it and do with it what they can.


Hello @glenalbrethsen :)

Well, thank you very much for taking the time to investigate all that material and share it here with me/us. I think this statement you made summarizes it all so well as it capture not only what empathy actually is, but it also takes into account the circumstances that give rise to this psychological process.

have empathy because you see a need, and that need should lead you to the next step.

It is a great line!

Yang's concern on who benefits out of it all reminds me of the debates about charitable actions that often take place among psychologists, which are often related to how selfless altruism actually is. But, personally, I see altruism as something that comes after empathy. As it is more to do with being proactive about helping others. This is all very complex! Even more so when the discussion shifts towards governments and bodies like the UN.

You touched on something quite interesting here, through the example of an adult telling a teenager it will be 'ok'. If I may, I disagree with you when you say that is empathy. I believe it is exactly the opposite of it. I believe it is some sort of disregard for someone else's feelings. I have repeatedly informed parents about this. Particularly the ones in my extended family.

Bloom is a psychologist that has extensively discussed empathy and studies it with great depth. What you said here about trying to feel emphatic towards past events of great proportion goes hand in hard with what he advocates (and you said you are not well versed in psychology!). He says that for us it is more tangible (and real) to feel for one individual than for great numbers.

That is why he says that this is a process important at the individual level, where, really, all starts and therefore, can ripple throughout communities, societies and so forth!

Thank you very much for the kind words you left here about my work, and for this most meaningful comment. You truly are a thinker (as stated on your profile!).

Best Regards.


I think we're actually on the same page as far as the parents/teenager empathy deal. It may seem to be empathy to start with, but at the very least, the results aren't, because empathy does need to take into account the feelings of the other and not try to gloss them over. Nothing wrong with letting someone know things will get better, but to do it without diminishing what's being felt in the moment.

I've not had any formal training in anything, really, but I do read quite a bit, and of course, experience things, and some of this is kind of intuitively understood, whether or not it consciously manifests or not. The idea of trying to make everyone in the world a part of your family is not only impossible, it's not even really desirable. There's enough issues with you're actual family, let alone pulling in others. :)

Anyway, I appreciate the time you took to post, and to reply. Thought provoking piece, and very much worthwhile.

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This one is not a test ;)

A person with empathy is someone who has a quick desire to help others and have the same emotions as others. Usually, people like this will act immediately when someone else needs help. He can also know what others feel right.

From what we knew earlier, there were 4 types of empathy.

First Affective empathy is known as emotional empathy. This type is he who can feel and respond to the emotions of others. This type is very sensitive to the circumstances around it and has difficulty setting limits on itself. He always wants to help and feel what other people feel.

Second Cognitive empathy is known as intellectual empathy. This type has the intelligence to put themselves in the position of others. He can understand something or someone from all kinds of points of view. Cognitive empathy is very useful in solving problems in a group. This type can understand the motivation, thoughts and emotions of others, but do not feel it as deeply as affective empathy. If affective is feeling, then cognitive is understanding.

Third, somatic empathy is about things outside the body. So you need to see something that happens outside your new body you can feel empathy. Not as affective as feeling quickly, somatic empathy is much longer. You have to really see firsthand the difficulties of the person directly, you can feel empathy. People with this type are usually cool, gentle-hearted people.

And the fourth Spiritual empathy is about the enlightenment you get from seeing something. Like an electric shock that directly encourages you to act, that's spiritual empathy. Somewhat different from other empathy, this empathy occurs spontaneously. The spontaneity you feel when helping that person can be because you are a type of spiritual empathy.


Thank you for taking the time, once again, to take part in our debates and bring new information to our discussions Jamal! I particularly liked this statement:

If affective is feeling, then cognitive is understanding.

I suppose that if we feel it we understand it and vice versa! Nice one :)

I wish you all the best.

I am a trial lawyer that handles personal injury cases. The outcome for my clients is determined by what a jury determines is fair. I try to make the jury feel things so they can empathize with my clients injury or loss of a loved one. My adversary (insurance defense lawyer) attempts to speak to the juror's "lizard brain" (brain stem where we are concerned with survival) so they will not empathize with the plaintiff. This is done by implying that by giving the victim money, they are some how injuring themselves. Higher taxes, higher insurance premiums, high cost to do business, more expensive goods, etc. The message being “for your own survival, you need to turn your back on the victim and treat them harshly in order to save yourself.” The verdict will turn on who told a better story. I suspect that because the reptiles have no capacity for empathy, it (empathy) is actually a higher form of intelligence. An emotional intelligence, if you will. That said, I find the ability to set aside emotions and do harsh things to other people tends to exist among people we would judge as being selfish. A lack of empathy comes from the “what’s in it for me?” crowd. That has been my experience having handled well over 1,000 cases over the past 38 years in litigation. Thanks for your even handed article on such an important topic.

Hi @abigail-dantes! This post is really interesting, talking about psychology and empathy is always something I like. I do think it can be harmful to feel too much empathy for others and can cause problems in everyday social interaction, specially when talking about politics or the "hard" choices that need to be made by the higher ups sometimes. Also:

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Sympathy sometimes makes us feel very sorry
We must know with whom we sympathize and when
We must not sympathize all the time
Really great article
You are a very successful person
I wish you all the best


Hello @roselover

You said something here that sparked my curiosity :)

We must not sympathize all the time

If I may ask, for you, what makes a person or a situation worthy of empathy, then?

Thank you for stopping by ❀


Sympathy with children just because they are innocent
Sympathy is also with the poor

I'm not sure I only read your post, I can as well hear the words I'm reading an the same time too. You've got a lot of brilliant people who comment on your posts, I do learn a lot going through their posts. Be good.

Posted using Partiko Android


That's a wonderful thing for you say my dear @mr-aaron :)
Thank you for coming around to spread your kindness, please know your encouraging words have made me smile! 😊

Thank you for analyzing the quote I finalized this post with. I hope things are settling down now for your parents' cousins and for the girls.

Interesting post

Airports trigger my empathetic response.
I'm hanging about watching people as a favorite pastime as I wait in the arrivals hall for a business colleague.
I see an old couple coming unsteadily through the sliding door with their bags. Cries of delight come from their family and there is a marvelous crush of little and big bodies as each fights to get THE hug.
As a woman who knows, my tears flow when I see the the depth of the hug between what is obviously mother and daughter.....time stands still for them as they nourish their inner souls, starved for who knows how long, the balm of touch.

I don't even know them but my empathy 'button' has been firmly pushed.

I sniff and snort and hope my nose isn't red when I greet Dave from the Durban branch.
I pray a blessing over the family that their time together is wonderful and my heart lurches when I imagine their goodbyes.

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Testing, seems good. :)


Oh! A new bot 😊 It looks very friendly!


Just the test account :D

Back to normal @steemstem now.

I missed the Friday Dosage of Psychology :)


Ahahahahah, Green :) Remember! Until Christmas, only every other Friday 😊🌷


Yeah, I do remember. Let's hope your schedule allows it. It is a beautiful, and breezy night after a very sunny day. An excellent way to enter the weekend.


It is cold here! We have even lit our fire 😊 First time this year! Now, see what movie we can enjoy tonight! Enjoy your breezy night dear Green ❤️


Wow, I'm running a fan at the moment :)
Though breezy, ain't that cold. The cold may come in a month or two. But it will be not be worth putting up a fire over

Right, Abigail-Dante's empathy is the heart of healthy, fulfilling relationships; which in turn are the basic elements of a meaningful existence. Would be really nice, how far are we gone? If you walk in someone else's shoes, then you've taken their shoes. What is, if when someone does not wear someone else's shoes? Why should Emphatie be harmful, I rather think that the opposite is harmful. Emphatie is always good. Are we a merciless society and bureaucracy?

I would really love to sit and talk with you one day abigail 👆

Hi @abigail-dantes!

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