Many of us identify ourselves as sympathetic or empathetic. But do we really know the difference?
In both cases, we are attempting to connect with another person. To understand the difference, we can look at the roots of the words.
Empathy derives from the prefix “em” which means “in”, and the root “pathy” which means “feeling”. An empath is one who is “in feeling” with another person. They are entwined with the energy of the other person in a way that allows them to know why the person feels as they do.
Sympathy derives from the prefix “sym” which means “with”, and the same root “pathy”, meaning feeling. Sympathizing allows a person to “feel with” another, in other words to know what the experience is.
When we sympathize we may pick up the pains and emotions of another person and know what they are, what is being experienced. In doing so, we may become more immersed in it and less objective. This is useful when supporting another person as a friend, while not being intrusive in uncovering how the condition came to be.
As an empath, we understand why it is being experienced, which may allow for more objectivity and be more useful for the healing process.
As hypnotherapists, we need to be adept at both sympathy and empathy. They are skills and tools to be wielded, and to be used in the proper context.
Sometimes you need a can opener and sometimes a corkscrew.
They are rarely interchangeable.