The Difference Between Empathy and Sympathy.

In midst of my 3am ramblings, I’m determined to write a post that’s not feminist fuelled or angry. Like the scorned writer, I’ve drank about six cups of tea (with one less sugar, 2015 and all!) and smoked my lungs out in some desperate attempt of creative inspiration. I then remember I’m not Johnny Depp in the Secret Window and try to focus (with a vimto this time), on something that struck a chord with me earlier today.

Ah yes, that empathy thingy.

I watched a video earlier today (I’ve posted it below) that discusses the juxtaposition of empathy and sympathy. If, like me, you thought there was barely much difference, empathy meaning you can relate, where sympathy meaning you wish you could relate, you are sorely mistaken. There’s apparently more to it than that.
In our society where mental illness has an awkward social stigma, I do think its important how we recognise really helping someone and not just sympathising with their pain.


The video I mentioned before really made me aware of the common traps that we can all fall into that, whilst our intentions are good in helping someone, they actually do the opposite and make them feel more isolated.

I think a lot of people fear comforting people in case they come off as insincere. It’s sort of awkward to hug someone and say “I’ll always be here for you” or “I’ll listen to you” because that doesn’t seem like much help at all. In fact, it seems like a sort of easy-way out, so I’ve stopped saying this altogether and instead, try to find advice or comfort in its absence.

But that can be very difficult. Sometimes you can’t provide any advice and instead rack your brains which conveys a sort of “well.. at least xyz isn’t happening”, which actually, (as discovered in the video), is probably more damaging than it is helpful. Although I don’t think this approach is entirely insincere, it just suggests that you’re trying to make the mood brighter and change subject rather than listen to what they have to say.

I don’t think we should be afraid to hug someone and simply say “I’m here for you” because they’re opening up to you in the darkest of times, which is beautiful really. They’re asking for a connection, not a joke or something to lighten the mood.



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