What is empathy? How do I know if I am experiencing empathy?


Quick summary – Empathy is when a person opens up their emotional boundaries and allows another person’s feeling to be cradled and nurtured within the loving hands of his/her understanding. Empathy is holding a narrative of another person and allowing yourself to feel the person’s emotions related to his or her storyline while understanding that these are not your own emotions.

Selfless compassion – Empathy allows you to feel selfless compassion for a person… empathy allows you to feel the authentic emotions of another without those emotions being altered by your own judgments and beliefs.

Healing – Empathy is a healing device. Empathy is what most people (men and women) desire from a significant other when they are relaying their suffering.


Nurtured and Bonded – When a person receives empathy from another person they feel nurtured, understood, bonded, validated and accepted. Empathy is the most effective way to cure the feeling of loneliness.

Present without Judgment – Empathy has simple goal of being present and non-judgmental enough to truly understand another person.

Absence of solving behaviors – Empathy solves problems in that it ironically has no intentions to problem solve. When ‘Fix it’ behaviors are removed a person frees himself or herself to understand the emotions that are being shared in the moment.

  • To clarify, problem solving involves statement like: “have you tried_______” “you shouldn’t feel that way because_________,” “you should just tell that person ___________” “this would not have happened if _____________” I think that you should_________” I will just go and ________________” have you looked at the issue from this perspective?”
  • “What if _____________” and “No but _____________” are the most commonly used empathy killers.


Present moment – Empathy takes place in the present moment as a person frees themselves from thoughts which focus us on the past of the future. This is in contrast to problem solving which uses analysis to produce solutions for the future… analysis brings people into a cognitively dominated state where they are less available to feel the emotions of another person. Problem solving brings a person’s focus away from the present moment and into thought processes dictated by the past or the future.

Happiness through understanding – Empathy is often far more effective at reducing suffering and increasing happiness then problem solving strategies (especially in a significant relationship).

  • People find healing in understanding. Often when a significant other tries to “fix” a person’s problem that person feels belittled and/or misunderstood.


Knowing your self – When a person feels the emotions of another person in an empathetic way they are 100% percent aware that the emotions that they are choosing to ‘feel’ are the emotions of the other person and not their own emotions.

Another’s shoes – When you are being empathetic you figuratively put yourself into another person’s shoes to understand their experience… the whole time you keep awareness that your are in their shoes and not in your own shoes.

Emotional reaction to being empathetic – When a person is being empathetic towards another person he/she can have his/her own emotional reaction to the feelings of the other person. An empathetic person will know which emotions are there own and which emotions are the other persons.

  • An empathetic person will be able to relay, “The person in front of me is feeling ________ and I am noticing feeling _________ related to his/her feelings.


Enmeshment – Enmeshment is when a person feels the emotions of another person and is not able to differentiate between which emotions are theirs and which emotions are the other persons.

  • Enmeshment happens very commonly when a person is attempting to be empathetic. It is important for people to have a deep understanding of themselves so that they understand the boundary between themselves and another person… this deep understanding protects a person from enmeshment, which often arises from good intentions, but rarely is helpful to either party.


Understanding and recovery – When a person feels genuinely understood by another they are better able to understand themselves… this understanding offers safety, control, clarity and compassion which greatly aids a person on their journey towards recovery.

Empathy nurtures the intangible wounds that that we all carry from time to time.

Empathy makes a person feel significant and important


Empathy promotes security


Empathy gives love by selflessly listening

William Hambleton Bishop is a practicing therapist in Steamboat Springs Colorado.
William Hambleton Bishop
William Hambleton Bishop is a practicing therapist in Steamboat Springs Colorado.

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