April 26, 2011

The Psychology of Empathy

In the story that Dr. Caron Goode, ED.D., NCC, DAPA contributed as Chapter 6 of my book, Whose Stuff Is This?, Meredith is a trained nurse, who chose to leave a hospital setting and move into private care. Meredith has the ability to resonate with another person on a deep level. Such resonance is achieved through empathy, the ability to feel with her client, not to feel for them or about them. Resonating with her clients is a striking intuitive knowing, which enables Meredith to predict their needs and provide an unprecedented quality of care.

The ability to resonate with others is the character strength of a person whose core temperament is Interpersonal. Other strengths of a Interpersonal core temperament are adaptability and being supportive. The Interpersonal style is one of the Four Basic Core Temperaments—the other three are called Behavioral, Cognitive, and Affective—identified from the research and writing of Terry Anderson, PhD, the founder of Consulting Resource Group International and author of more than a dozen assessments, training and development tools, and books.

Over the last two decades, the science of temperaments and research on how people think has validated that each person is born with a core temperament, which is nature's approximate 20 percent genetic contribution to one's overall personality. Our environments contribute the other 80 percent by virtue of our ability to adapt.
Four Basic Core Temperaments provide the cornerstones for people’s interactive preferences, how they learn, and what motivates them. People with Interpersonal and Affective styles relate well to people. Those with a Cognitive style are immersed in information or data; they relate well to people as team members and partners because they are sensitive to feelings of others. The Behavioral style person is internally motivated by personal goals and achievements and may be the least sensitive to other people’s feelings.

At a basic level, empathy is being attuned to another’s emotions and intentions. The next level of empathy involves taking action to help another, whether alleviating fears and pain or supporting or celebrating someone. More complex forms of empathy occur when people join together for survival of struggles or to pursue the vision fueled by emotional connectedness. These show us how capable we are of making deep connections. To feel loved, whole, appreciated, and useful, we must be in a relationship where empathy connects us.

We are hard-wired to resonate with each other at profound levels, thus driving our desires to belong and for bonding, connection, companionship, and affection. Empathy clearly provides the closest we might come to “knowing” another person—feeling their pain and joys, a communing of kindred spirits. All types of empathy can be a source of insight.

Sensitive people with the profile of an empath may not be recognized as such in traditional therapy settings. An empathic person with enough savvy to know their gifts as a self-aware person still needs connection, and the best support comes from non-traditional health practitioners, who may themselves be intuitive, holistic, natural, or energy practitioners. These include transpersonal and spiritual healers and therapists, neurolinguistic (NLP) practitioners, specific types of energy healers, and massage therapists, full-wave breath trainers, rebirthers, and other breath workers, hypnotherapists, and Chinese medicine practitioners. Each works with the mind-body connection to create inner resonance.

For more information about the psychology of empathy, see Chapter 6 of Whose Stuff Is This? Finding Freedom from the Thoughts, Feelings, and Energy of Those Around You. Click to purchase.

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