Apathy, Sympathy, Empathy…Oh My!

To see the worst, to lack hope or confidence in the future, to buy into the doctrine that reality is essential evil is to live life wrapped in the cloak of pessimism. It is dark and bleak, leaving the forlorn taste of bitterness in your mouth. Certainly, a pandemic, death of people and businesses, riots, prejudice, bigotry, and ignorance can put us all in this pit of despair. This seems very dark…

Here is the language lesson for today. The suffix “pathy” comes from the Greek, pathos meaning suffering or disease. Apathy, sympathy, and empathy all share this suffix and are very different offerings or states of being. Identify where you are on the spectrum of pathos can help awaken the hope that is never really gone.  Hope is something that remains…always. There is always someone with hope. It is a fail-safe mechanism for human existence and evolution. At least, I believe it is. Back to the trilogy of pathos…Apathy has the prefix “a”, meaning not or without. This is the numbing place of indifference, of lack of interest, lack of emotion or concern and is not just a low energy state, but a no energy state. Try to motivate a person that is apathic, they just don’t care, feel or want to move. They feed on the bleakness of life. Sympathy has the prefix, “sym” meaning with, together or along with. Here, the pathos is defined as pity or sorrow. Sympathy has a depleting energy. It’s looking at a situation, that isn’t yours, and feels bad about it.  Empathy has the prefix, “em” meaning within or in. This is the place of action. It is taking in the situation, understanding it, being aware of it, being sensitive to it, to literally take to your heart what the other person is feeling/experiencing without the feelings being yours.

Empathy is a superpower. It is a salve, a healing balm, a saving grace of hope for our world today. It is the only thing we can do, if we are not personally, experiencing the loss, suffering, injustice, injury, etc. It is a bold act to take pain and suffering into your heart, that is not yours, and just hold it there. I said yesterday in a social media post, “It is a rare thing for me not to have a bunch to say. I realize that I do have many thoughts about the present state of the world…I’m honestly sorting through to find my ground in all this. I can only take all this into my heart and offer to listen to those that need their story told at the moment.” Before your feathers get ruffled, I am not saying do nothing else! I am saying take the suffering into your heart first, then proceed.  Listen to the stories of those with firsthand experience of the injustice, or those who can personally relate. We all can practice empathy. We all have this superpower.  The question is are you apathetic to your empathy?

Where are you on the pathos spectrum? Are you afraid of taking in pain and suffering, that’s not yours, into your heart?  Being empathetic (or empathic) is certainly a practice. Clients say to me frequently, “you always go right to the spot that hurts, that I didn’t mention.  How do you do that?” Empathy. While we talk, I take the client into my heart. I take the feelings, the energy, the aura and then I act.  Sometimes, it’s conversation that’s the remedy, sometimes massage, sometimes it’s just holding space. The key to this practice is discernment.  Taking all this pain and suffering can lead to pathos of your own if you aren’t careful.  You don’t keep it inside.  You let the heart do what the heart does best…LOVE. You discern what is not yours and allow it to be transformed. This is not a slight of hand card trick.  This is genuine alchemy of the heart. This is offering light and love.  This is not a Pollyanna thing either.  It has transformational power.  It is deep listening of your own heart that will guide you. It is taking action.  Einstein is noted for saying, “Problems cannot be solved with the same mindset that created them.” We have a lot of problems in our world. Taking things to heart, shifts the mindset…it is true alchemy and it is the healing salve.

I’ll ask you again, where are you on the pathos spectrum? Are you apathetic to your empathy? Are you just offering sympathy? Are you simply apathetic to it all? Find your superpower, then act. Until next time, I take you into my heart, genuinely, and hold hope.

Blessings and Peace,

Blue Jean Oracle