Originally Posted by vixtresses
Eek. I got 32. That's weird, I'd always thought of myself as rather empathetic. I mean, I don't cry about other people's problems unless they're very close to me and they're hurting a lot, but... I care, damn it!
Originally Posted by opalescent
. . . I'm fairly low on empathy for a woman. I'm empathetic but it often starts intellectually, rather than a bone deep knowing what someone else is feeling. I've learned this, rather than just know it the way many of my friends, including Beloved, seem to.
Finally, if I was highly empathetic, then I would feel others pain as my own. And I would certainly do what I had to ease or erase that pain, to ease my pain as well as to help someone else. I've never understood that about people who are very empathetic before.
Not being very empathetic does not mean not caring. It just means the ability to identify with someone else's feelings. In other words, if you are highly empathetic, you can easily imagine what they're going through as if you are "in their shoes."
If you've experienced numerous emotional states yourself, or a wide range of feelings, you can have a gut sense about someone else's. Basically, you can understand their point of view and/or their state of being from your own emotional storehouse in a way that evokes a sense of camaraderie or oneness. When people are younger and perhaps haven't had a lot of similar experiences, or haven't (for whatever reason) felt the same depth of emotions as someone else has, it is not as easy to empathize.
We all have the ability to quickly remember events or instances in our lives and we form emotional associations to them as a form of survival, so that we can recognize and handle similar future situations. By "reliving" the feelings again, we can adjust our thoughts, attitudes, and actions. So, if you've been disrespected in a certain way, or achieved a certain kind of success, then it is very easy to relate to another person else who has also been disrespected in the same or a similar way, or achieved success similarly -- because our brains have stored the experience as a way to be on the lookout for such things in the future (our survival) .
So, awareness of our own feelings and sensitivity is part of empathy, too. But I think empathy also has to do with how much we protect ourselves from letting others in. Even if we have allowed ourselves to deeply experience lots of emotions, and even if we're very sensitive, if we guard ourselves against pain or being vulnerable, that would also create a bit of a barrier that makes it harder to empathize. To be very empathetic means that one is willing and open to experience his or her own emotions without distracting or numbing ourselves to them. Certain situations might be easier to empathize with than others. One can still be extremely caring and nurturing without a high level of empathy. And, naturally, our ability to empathize increases as we gain experiences and let ourselves feel more.
None of these things, by the way are bad or good or more/less evolved. They just are. We all protect ourselves in the ways we feel we must.
I doubt that anyone is really a zero on the empathy scale, unless there's some imbalance or damage in the brain.