By Millie Sutton
Sympathy is very different to empathy. Empathy is when you can place yourself in the shoes of another person and understand precisely what they feel
For a few days without meaning to, I experimented with empathy whilst wandering around Bedford, and I found myself thinking; “I’m so glad I’m not homeless” or, “I’m so glad I have my health”.
Empathy is such a difficult skill, but if we could each immerse ourselves in another’s life even for two hours, we would each gain unprecedented knowledge. In our individualistic society, cultivating empathy would breed understanding and more harmonious co-existence between different races and religions.
Certainly writing this as a young adult, society can be judging and derogatory towards those that do not fit the mould, perhaps if we were to show more empathy and selflessness, we could annihilate social cliques and assumptions. This could even be translated worldwide… What a powerful idea… What if the foundation of every society was based, not on monetary gain, but a wholesome desire to empathise? What an egalitarian place it would be!
But, empathy is not the panacea for all the world’s problems, but rather a tool to solve individual difficulties. Then, used correctly, individuals can initiate an empathetic chain reaction which would (hopefully) make the world a better place.
Recently, I was reading a fascinating scientific article which discussed the boundaries of empathy. The article suggested that empathy is an intrinsic part of being human as it is exhibited in our bodies as mirror neurons. These neurons are triggered when we see an emotion in a fellow human and the neurons allow us to feel what they are feeling. As Rizzolatti put it; “neuroscience has discovered empathy!” Therefore, mirror cells constantly reflect the world around us via our emotions which grants us the ability to empathise.
So, there is no biological boundary to personal empathy, but I’m no expert; I could just be naïve, optimistic and foolish, with an overzealous desire to initiate change. Instead of the latest dietary fad, try incorporating empathy into your daily life!