The Surprising Difference Between Empathy and Compassion in Emotional Healing
Don’t you love how a simple shift in perception can change your life dramatically?
That’s what happened for me one day as I realized how easy it is to slip into empathy. However, what I really needed to access was compassion.
And there is a difference!
Now, you won’t find a significant difference in their dictionary definitions, but the qualities of these two energies are not exactly the same.
When you are in empathy, you are able to feel what another person is feeling—either physically or emotionally, or both.
If someone is experiencing joy or happiness, you feel it. The same is true with pain or discomfort.
Empathy is very useful if you want to comprehend the experience someone is having. Or if you want an individual to know you truly “get” them.
My elder taught me that empathy is helpful for understanding, but not to linger in it. As you may know, it can be a bit challenging to let go of it, once you feel it.
It’s tricky to let go of your empathy until you understand the true nature of compassion.
When I was about to Hold something very painful, I noticed I had a tendency to bond with the pain. As you can imagine, that didn’t work very well, because I was lingering in the pain.
So before I began Holding the pain, I started going deeper into love. In a more expansive state of compassionate love, I was able to Hold the pain, without any suffering.
The compassion became the container that made it safe to Hold whatever was hurting.
Throughout the meditation, the greater the pain, the deeper I went into compassionate love.
It was the loving nature of compassion that allowed me to Hold pain without suffering.
Because I was more focused on the love, while being accepting of the emotional pain, the discomfort dissipated much more quickly.
I invite you to join with me in this exploration of how conscious awareness of empathy and compassion can help your acts of healing and creation.
I have a video about how Holding frees you from anxiety and trauma, and lovingly supports you in emotional healing. Plus after you watch it, you can get a free recording of the basic Holding Guided Meditation.
If you are ready to go deeper, I highly recommend the SHE Academy master classes. Here I teach you how to access depths of love and compassion for both healing and manifesting your dreams.
And please share what you understand as the difference between your empathy and your compassion.
It is the compassion of others that has supported me often through the last few challenging years. A few months after our daughter’s sudden death, I wrote the poem below to describe my feelings. 6 years later, I would change the ending, for with the help of compassionate friends, the sense of despair has been replaced with a numb acceptance and willingness to embrace life again in its new form. Since then, I have also experienced compassion as the readiness of someone to sit with us in that darkness that is restorative, but which can also be frightening and lonely on our own.
Sometimes in life, love turns to grief
And leaves us alone on the side of the road.
Others’ lives continue.
Some drive past
And do not notice us.
Some notice, but are embarrassed and drive on.
Some stop to pity us,
Wind down their windows,
Reach out a comforting hand and offer consoling words
Before driving on, thankful that they are not us.
Some stop and leave the comfort of their cars
To walk with us for a short while,
Sharing the beauty of the single daisy
That has fought its way through the concrete pavement
To flower in the sunshine,
Pausing with us to watch the spider weave its translucent web
Between the thorny branches of the bramble.
They are the compassionate ones.
They know that we will all be left on the side of the road at times
And that when we are,
To have someone walk with us, for even a short while,
Gives us strength and purpose
And the will to go on
For as long
Kate, I can imagine no greater loss than that of a child. What you have shared here from the depths of your heart is such a precious gift for any of us who have ever felt alone in the darkness. Thank you for allowing us to enter into the journey with you—to find our empathy, and a deeper appreciation for the ways in which Mother Earth and our compassion help all of us heal.