On Sat, Apr 11, 2009 at 6:49 AM, And Rosta <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> Do you make a distinction between sympathy and compassion? If not, then sympathy is more than merely caring about another's emotions; it also involves putting oneself in the other's shoes, striving to ascertain how the other feels, and experiencing a vicarious reflection of the other's emotion, the archetypal case being a parent's sympathy for their child. And in ordinary English, sympathy still retains senses that involve mutuality (e.g. sympathetic vibrations in acoustics; political sympathies, etc.). But I have the impression (not supported by the dictionaries I have to hand) that perhaps 'sympathy'/'sympathize' has been by some (such as, to my unyoung British mind, the speakers of a stereotypical alien Californian psychobabble) replaced by 'empathy'/'empathize', because for them, 'sympathy'/'sympathize' have shifted in meaning to 'pity'?

Your first example I consider to be a combination of sympathy and
empathy. Typically people with sympathy do try to gain empathy also.

I don't have a strong difference between sympathy and compassion
(they're perhaps just gradations of each other?), and 'sympathy' has
no particular tinge of 'pity' to me.

Sorry for the psychobabble if any; I am indeed Californian. :-P

> But you seem to mean something more by empathy, such as the property of feeling, say, irrational fear and anxiety when the other feels irrational fear and anxiety, rage when the other feels rage, hatred when the other feels hatred, and so forth?

This sort of unrestrained mirroring is actually a somewhat common
symptom for people on the empaths comm. I don't have it however, and I
consider it significantly distinct from empathy proper. (FWIW: there's
also a neural lesion that will cause this, as well as much more severe
physical mirroring of other people IIRC. You can mess with them and
get them e.g. to put on 20 pairs of glasses by doing the same thing
repeatedly and not showing them the taking off part...)

It's also controllable; one just needs to learn to recognize one's own
emotions vs others' and keep the two separated. That's one instance of
a generalizable skill though, I think.

- Sai