jump to navigation

Thoughts brewing … on pity, sympathy and empathy. January 23, 2011

Posted by janehaynes in : Becoming... , add a comment

Panic always stirs when I have accepted an invitation to speak in public and I realise that less than three months now remains between my blank slate and that date. But, an invite to speak at a  Memorial Conference on John Bowlby and Attachment Theory is too great a privilege to pass by.  However, the pedestal of the conference  turns out  to be ‘The role of empathy in therapeutic change’. To be honest – along with Jung and as it turns out Proust – I think the accomplishment of empathy, which is the state of knowing and mirroring what another person is feeling is more uncommon than the therapeutic literature implies.  So much of consciousness depends upon our individual projections of ‘reality’. Anyway, all this to be discussed in detail as I find my way into, if not through, the labyrinth of  my neonatal psychic doodles.  In the meantime I am very excited by this definition of the etymology of the word sympathy, which is something that I know I am in control of as an emotion and capable of being both to clients and friends. I prefer the idea of an ‘affinity’ than a ‘becoming’. Now, I just need time, which I cannot see myself having until the beginning of February. No, not excited but inspired by thoughts of sympathetically healed wounds, pathos and magic.  I’ve under estimated, I have less than two months to find my way…


1570s, “affinity between certain things,” from M.Fr. sympathie, from L.L. sympathia “community of feeling, sympathy,” from Gk. sympatheia, from sympathes “having a fellow feeling, affected by like feelings,” from syn- “together” + pathos “feeling” (see pathos). In English, almost a magical notion at first; e.g. in reference to medicines that heal wounds when applied to a cloth stained with blood from the wound. Meaning “conformity of feelings” is from 1590s; sense of “fellow feeling” is first attested 1660s. An O.E. loan-translation of sympathy was efensargung.