Sympathy Vs Empathy Vs History – Secrets of Emotional Resilience

When a person is stressed, they may go and seek out another person who will demonstrate sympathy.

This is not necessarily a healthy choice.  Hear me out, I’m not against the ethos of RUOK day.  Sympathy, can prolong the stress for an individual, it can also enrol their sympathiser into a stressed state by attempting to support their partner, family member, friend or colleague.

If you are personally asked to provide a ‘big ear’ or be the ‘shoulder to lean on’ for a stressed individual, ask yourself ‘what personal outcome do I want from this interaction?’.

Offering sympathy is not the best path to take, however, displaying empathy can be a huge support for the stressed individual without you becoming emotionally involved in the stressful situation.

Empathy Vs Sympathy

An interesting study done was done “Soul Pancake”.  They gauged people’s reactions after experiencing the misfortune of a parking ticket (a fake one for the purposes of the experiment).  The participants experienced sympathy and empathy for the situation.   They were then asked to do another evaluation on their happiness level. The group that experienced sympathy had a decreased happiness level of 6.71% .  However, for those that experienced Empathy, their happiness went up by 6.29%. It gave validity to the statement “Misery loves company”.  Their experiment showed that the best thing you can do to cheer someone up, is to understand them and make them feel a bit less alone.   That is, people feel a lot better when they know that you’ve been where they’ve been, even if you haven’t been there yourself, but that you can relate in some kind of way.

Empathy enables you to connect with the stressed person’s feelings. Because you do not become emotionally involved, you can support them with a tool or strategy.

Recently education experts, scientists and business leaders have been talking about empathy as new research is displaying that our brains are wired for empathy which means we can all engage in social co-operation and mutual aid. Neuroscientists have identified a 10-section “empathy circuit” in our brains which supports us to care for others.

Empathy Vs History

An awareness around our own emotions enables us to become more aware of subconscious bias we may place on certain situations. I was chatting to local historian Megg Kelham this week at the OBM event “Sunset Stories at the Solar Centre” and she raised an important point to me about how we may hold a biased emotional view of history.  She reminded me that we impose our own beliefs, values and abilities of emotional resilience, onto the stories of the past.  We may view experiences, living conditions or even events as being difficult or emotionally traumatic, however this is how we may feel should we be transported to this place and time, based on our own era and our own cultural comforts.

In the Netflix Documentary, “The Mind, Explained” Neuroscientist, Elizabeth Phelps says “About 50% of the details of the memory change in a year even though most people are convinced they’re a hundred percent right”. Dr John Demartini is a revolutionary thought leader and  has a methodology to transform trauma and depression.  He says that we omit details and enhance others to create a story of our memory that serves our own subconscious agenda based on things we value.  When we can view certain experiences as being an asset rather than a curse, we become more empowered.

If you’d like to improve your emotional resilience with simple tools and strategies,

you can book a time to chat. My goal is not to sell but to always give value. Promise.

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About the Author:

Barbara Clifford (The Time Tamer) is a Time Management Strategist & Stress Management Practitioner based in Alice Springs, Australia. She has spent over 20 years working in time precious and stressful industries such as film, hospitality and marketing. She has always had a burning passion for creating order and making sense of things. She is sought after like a beacon in a sea of chaos to provide professional development in the business environment through workshop training, coaching, mentoring, online training programs, webinars and as a guest speaker around Australia. Her professional experience has included contracts with small business, Not For Profits, Aboriginal Organisations, Media, Marketing, Aged Care, Universities, Health Services and Cruise Ships.