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#Edwin Rutsch

Some premises that are needed to define empathy.

Premise #1: I Feel
Based on my own personal experience, I feel sensations in my body. I have feelings.
For example.
  1.  Cold and Warm
    I feel cold and warm and degrees of it. I can feel cold and warm in different parts of my body at the same time. I was just watering the garden with cold water before sitting down here at my desk to type this. At this moment my hands and fingers feel rather cold, while other parts of by body, such as torso and legs feel warm.
  2.  Pain and Pleasure
    I feel degrees of pain and pleasure. At this moment I feel a slight pain in my head behind my eyes.  
  3. Hunger and Fullness
    I feel hungry. I'm tying to diet and lose some pounds and am fasting.  So I am now feeling a gnawing hunger pangs in my stomach that radiates out into my body from there.  I have a strong desire and craving to eat something. If I ate something I know from past experience it would feel pleasurably.  Especially if I ate some sweet fruit. 
  4. Constriction and Relaxation
    I have feelings in my body of being tight, constricted or relaxed. There are also degrees of these feelings in my body.
  5. Fear and Safety
    I sometimes feel degrees of concern, worry, anxiety and fear.
  6. Numb and Sensitive
  7. etc. there are many, many more feelings.

Other Observations About My Feelings
  • I feel all the time
  • My feelings change moment to moment over time
  • I have feelings that are hard to name, hard to convert into words.
  • I am not always aware of every feelings 
  • Feelings are located in different parts of the body. For example pain in the head, or a pain in the toe, or a pain in the back, etc etc. 
  • I have different feelings in different parts of my body at the same time and the feelings can change from moment to moment.

Premise #2. You Feel
You as the reader of this have feelings like I do to one degree or another. 

Premise #3. We all Feel
Based on my own personal experience and what people tell me, everyone has these feelings to one degree or another. 

I can feel how your are feeling.???

Empathy is like our Muscle System.
We have ongoing empathy like we have physical muscles. We are always using our muscles. Our muscles can be weak, can  atrophy or waste away.  The can  be strong and be straightened through use and exercise.   Physical muscles need to have ongoing and regular exercise to keep them toned and fit. The same is true with our empathy muscle system. It needs regular practice, practice, practice, and exercise to be kept in shape and be brought into peak fitness. Just like reading a book about exercise is not enough to keep our bodies fit, reading a book or article about empathy is not enough to strengthen the practice. We need real exercise; we need to stretch, flex, move, and work those muscles.

"In Feeling"
Empathy starts with an awareness and sensitivity to felt experience.
To me, at a basic level, the word empathy means to feel into. Most commonly it means to feel into the visceral felt experience of other people.  More broadly it can be to sensitively feel into the experience of life.  This compares to  the feelings of suppressing, controlling,  getting stuck, avoiding or trying to dominate feelings. So empathy is the process and quality of an open, nonjudgmental sensitivity to the qualities of feelings that arise.  To one degree or another we are doing this all the time. We are in a constant process of feeling into life. We may just not be doing it as well as is possible.

The word empathy is a transliteration of the German word 'einfühlung' which was coined to name the experience of feeling into a work of art. Einfühlung means, 'in' (ein) and 'feeling' (fühlung), or to feel into.

So my definition of empathy is the process or the sensation of feeling into experience.  The process and feeling of feeling into.

Some other aspects of empathy include.

 is feeling into our own moment to moment visceral experience. This is based on the notion that we are continuously feeling or experiencing a flow of life.  For example, am I feeling anxiety in the moment, or calmness or spaciousness, a worry, a joy,  an itch, a pain, etc. etc. We can be having multiple feelings in different parts of our body and awareness at any time and the feelings change from moment to moment.

Feeling into the other peoples experiences and feelings.

Imaginative empathy. 
Another aspect is "imaginative empathy." We can imagine ourselves in different situations and feel into those as well.  

* Imagine Being Anything.
What does if feel like to be a frog in a pond.

* Imagination in Mediation.
I took a mediation workshop where we were given scenarios of being a worker or a boss and given a certain conflict to work out.. We needed to talk and work out the conflict. We step into the roles and imagine what the experiences feel like from each point of view.

* Imagine Being an Animal.
We can imagine being an animal, and plant, the earth, etc.
If its a cheetah I can imagine the feeling of speed, of all my muscles extending themselves, springing through the air. So I feel into this experience.

* Actors Taking on a Role
As an actor, you can be giving some basic cues of the qualities of a character and take on that role. This is role playing.  Actors do this all the time. We can also imagine ourselves in our the future. We can imaging going on a trip and the sensations that arise as we move through that imagined experience.  I find this helpful when planning an event, I imagining walking through the scenario and seeing what I might need.  

* Imagine making love.
I can imagine a romantic encounter that might happen. My body is influenced and becomes aroused and I might even get an erection.

* Imagine being yourself in the future.

* Imagine the Feelings in a Story

Being anything.
We can imagine being a frog and see what feelings come up. 

So we are empathizing or feeling into life all the time, we just may not do it as well as we could.

We could feel into the word empathy. What feelings arise in you when you hear the word 'empathy'? 

The quality or the process of feeling into also has feeling. I can feel a sense of motion, a movement from one feeling and form of feeling into another. 

I'm sense myself navigating and moving through a 360 degree world of feelings. 

Empathic Action/Collaboration
When people work together to co-create solutions to their problems.

  • Listening to the feelings in the words, or behind the words. to the patterns for feeling