Community

what is empathy

Empathy is the capacity to understand or feel what another person is experiencing from within the other person’s frame of reference, i.e., the capacity to place oneself in another’s position. There are many definitions for empathy that encompass a broad range of emotional states. Types of empathy include cognitive empathy, emotional empathy, and somatic empathy.

The English word empathy is derived from the Ancient Greek word εμπάθεια (empatheia, meaning “physical affection or passion”). This, in turn, comes from εν (en, “in, at”) and πάθος (pathos, “passion” or “suffering”). The term was adapted by Hermann Lotze and Robert Vischer to create the German word Einfühlung (“feeling into”), which was translated by Edward B. Titchener into the English term empathy.

Alexithymia is a word used to describe a deficiency in understanding, processing or describing emotions in oneself as opposed to in others. This term comes from the combination of two Ancient Greek words: ἀλέξω (alekso, meaning “push away, repel, or protect”) and θυμός (thymos, meaning “the soul, as the seat of emotion, feeling and thought”). Thus alexithymia literally means “pushing away your emotions”.