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Empathy is having a moment.
It’s been around for a while. The word originates from Greek and was translated in English for the first time from Einfühlung, German for feeling in, in the early 1900s. We have been studying it and using it for literally 100 years.
Empathy is the ability to sense other people’s emotions, coupled with the ability to imagine what someone else might be thinking or feeling.
It’s those 2 things: the ability to sense and the ability to imagine.
I’ll argue all day that empathy is a difficult concept to grasp, let alone practice, that even highly emotionally intelligent human beings have to develop these abilities, that we have simplified this really complex expression of emotion to a buzz word, and that it’s mainstream popularity is potentially discounting it to, well, a basic word.
Maybe another time.
What is happening to the emotional state of humanity in a time when we all are grappling with dealing with the effects of a global pandemic together, at the same time, is capable of changing the way we collectively become able to experience empathy. Almost every single human being we encounter for the remaining of our lives will have had this same experience. We will all know what it’s like to have been brutally severed from almost everything else we had going on in our lives, to be disrupted uncomfortably, to be scared, to go a little stir crazy in quarantine, to want to feel safe as we go back out there.
It’s no longer someone else’s story. We all have a story with a common event to rally around and collectively understand. Every single one of us, until the end of our time.
And if that togetherness doesn’t help humans have a personal experience with developing abilities that lead to more empathy, I don’t know what will.
Let’s get out there, and be kind. We may be alone, but we are in this together.
I paraphrased a 2015 Atlantic article for the fact thoughought this article.