Short essay on empathy

Edited by Brigid Hains. It might be a deerstalker, a pipe or a violin, or shady crimes in the foggy streets of London. The hapless police are stumped, and Sherlock Holmes is called in to save the day.

How is empathy measured?

And save the day he does — by putting himself in the position of both the dead trainer and the missing horse. Surmising that, in the absence of its trainer, it would have been drawn to the nearest town, he finds horse tracks, and tells Watson which mental faculty led him there. Holmes takes an imaginative leap, not only into another human mind, but into the mind of an animal. This perspective-taking, being able to see the world from the point of view of another, is one of the central elements of empathy, and Holmes raises it to the status of an art.

Usually, when we think of empathy, it evokes feelings of warmth and comfort, of being intrinsically an emotional phenomenon. But perhaps our very idea of empathy is flawed. Perhaps that cold rationalist Sherlock Holmes can help us reconsider our preconceptions about what empathy is and what it does.

Empathy vs. Sympathy

T hough the scientific literature on empathy is complex, a recent review in Nature Neuroscience by a team of researchers from Harvard and Columbia including Jamil Zaki and Kevin Ochsner has distilled the phenomenon into three central stages. Instead, you can view these as three points on an empathetic continuum: first, you feel; then, you feel and you understand; and finally, you feel, understand, and are compelled to act on your understanding.

It seems that the defining thing here is the feeling that accompanies all those stages. But is this necessarily correct? As recent research suggests, there are times when becoming too emotionally involved actually stifles our empathetic capacity. W hat would it look like if we were to imagine a personality that was deeply empathetic — and yet wholly unemotional? Holmes is cold and logical. Holmes is detached. The emotional qualities are antagonistic to clear reasoning. I assure you that the most winning woman I ever knew was hanged for poisoning three children for their insurance-money, and the most repellent man of my acquaintance is a philanthropist who has spent nearly a quarter of a million upon the London poor.

Holmes, it seems, is a mere problem-solving machine, hardly human at all. But he is also a man of inordinate creativity of thought.

The Importance of Empathy

He refuses to stop at facts as they appear to be. He plays out many possibilities, maps out various routes, lays out myriad alternative realities in order to light upon the correct one.


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His is the opposite of hard, linear, A-to-B reasoning. If he were to stick to such an approach, he would be no better than an Inspector Lestrade or a detective Gregson — those Scotland Yard dullards who approach crime in a linear fashion, without his sparkle and imagination.

Emotional Empathy

In sterilising his empathy, Holmes actually makes it more powerful: a reasoned end, rather than a flighty impulse. In fact, his success stems from the very non-linearity and imaginative nature of his thinking, his ability to engage the hypothetical just as he might the physical here-and-now. Holmes instead asks to spend a night in the room of the crime.

Musing in the atmosphere where the crime was committed helps him to see the world as the criminal did, to think as he might have done.

Discover how to show empathy in writing and why it's important - Search Guru

Imagination is central to his reasoning powers. Indeed, he is a master of it. I think that we may judge Lord St Simon very mercifully and thank our stars that we are never likely to find ourselves in the same position. I cant wait to read far more from you. This is really a terrific web site. We are a bunch of volunteers and opening a new scheme in our community.

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3 Ways to Master the Power of Empathy in Your Writing

Used similarly to sympathy , interchangeably in looser usage. Sentences Sentence examples. By continuing, you agree to our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. Please set a username for yourself. People will see it as Author Name with your public flash cards. Empathy is sharing the joy at a friends wedding. Empathy is defined as the ability to understand the thoughts feelings or emotions of someone else.

YourDictionary definition and usage example.

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