Empathy is what makes other people matter to us. Empathy is our connection to the people around us, as we understand and share their thoughts and feelings.
Empathy exists in early mother-infant bonding. Even before birth, a baby in the womb is sensitive to the mother’s feelings, whether positive, neutral, or negative. Once born, a baby shows receptivity to parents’ anger, tension, and depression, as well as to their caring, responsiveness and love. You’ve probably noticed how babies and young childrenn imitate your facial expressions and smile in response to your smile. They also may cry if they hear another baby cry. This type of response is a step in the development of empathy and the ability to share the feelings of another person.
Babies absorb the mental and emotional energy of the people around them. They don’t filter anything; they simply receive. As a child ages, this empathic tendency may increase and get out of control. Some children pick up the emotions, energy, or thoughts of others to the degree that it becomes overwhelming and interrupts the development of their social and emotional life. Because these children do not know how to set personal boundaries (or that they need to), they do not realize when they are in another person’s mental or emotional space, nor how invasive this can be to that person. It can also lower the child’s own vibrational level.
An empath is sensitive to what is obvious as well as unseen things such as ghosts and the thoughts, emotions, and illnesses they sense around them. Empaths may get hunches, see mental pictures, hear voices, or have a gut feeling that supplies hidden information about people and situations. They may also get a physical sensation in their body that lets them know where another person is afflicted or suffering.
“Empathy and compassion are in such critical need in our society. We need to do all we can to promote these values in our world culture.”
— Edwin Rutsch
“When you start to develop your powers of empathy and imagination, the whole world opens up to you.”
— Susan Sarandon
There is also a natural and very, very strong empathy with the underdog, with people who have suffered, people who have been pushed around by foreigners in particular, but also by their own people.
— Lakhdar Brahimi
The struggle of my life created empathy – I could relate to pain, being abandoned, having people not love me.
— Oprah Winfrey