Don’t Take it On! Empathy vs. Sympathy

By | June 6, 2018


Are you taking it on?!

When does putting yourself in someone else’s shoes become detrimental?  

Have you ever felt drained by a friend or client that is complaining all the time? Or you care deeply about someone and have a tough time not being affected by their pain or emotional state?

Learning to have clear boundaries is a high-level skill that is essential to healthy relationships and  emotional well-being.   Resent research done at Penn State now shows the difference between what I regard as “sympathy” and what  I define as “Mindful Compassion or Empathy”.

“The research, published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, finds that our bodies respond differently depending on the perspective we take when helping someone who is suffering.  Stepping into the perspective of the suffering person leads to a health-threatening physiological response, while reflecting on how the suffering person might feel leads to a health-promoting response.”

Said another way,  when you sympathize and imagine you are in that person’s shoes- your fight or flight system gets activated sending stress throughout your system as if you are living their pain!

In contrast to this, when you step back emotionally and create space for reflecting on how that person might feel and what they might need, you can buffer yourself from taking it on.   Accessing the power of being curious engages a different part of the brain which can support objectivity, perspective taking, autonomy and healthy boundaries.

Reboot your Boundaries and Join us at the Empathy Salon Saturday June 23rd! 

 Start having more space, freedom and ease in all your relationships!



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.