Alright …. the dictionary defines empathy as the: “identification with and understanding of another’s feelings, situation and motives.”
At work I find that it’s easy for me to follow this definition with my patients. I have no problem identifying and understanding their pain, their anger, their frustrations and when they lash out with one or all of those, I keep my emotions neutral and I deal with what’s actually happening, rather than what I might be thinking about it. When it’s over, it’s over. I don’t re-hash anything with the patient; I don’t feel angry or put upon. We move on.
With my family, or anyone else I feel more of an emotional tie to, true empathy comes a lot harder. I do feel where the other person is coming from, but it doesn’t always end there. I question; I get frustrated about choices made that may have brought them to whatever dilemma they’re experiencing; I find myself searching for ways to fix their problem. I’m not sure that any of those actions fit in with the true meaning of empathy and in fact I wonder if they actually stop me from having the empathetic spirit I long to have.