Empathy

After reviewing the usefulness of both karuṇā (compassion) and mettā (unconditional love), we will address the use of mudita (empathy).

Empathy is the ability to understand or feel what another person is experiencing from their frame of reference, that is, the ability to place themselves in the position of another. There are many definitions of empathy that encompass a wide range of emotional states. The types of empathy include cognitive empathy, emotional empathy, and somatic empathy.

Compassion and sympathy are terms associated with empathy. Definitions vary, which contributes to the challenge of defining empathy. Compassion is often defined as an emotion we feel when others are in need, which motivates us to help them. Sympathy is a sense of caring and understanding for someone who needs it. Some sympathetically include an empathic concern, a feeling of concern for another, in which some scholars include the desire to see them better or happier.

Empathy is also different from compassion and emotional contagion. The pity is to feel that another is in trouble and needs help, since they themselves can not solve their problems, often described as “feeling sorry” for someone. The emotional contagion occurs when a person (especially a baby or a member of a mafia) “captures” imitatively the emotions that others show without necessarily recognizing that this is happening.

Since empathy involves understanding the emotional states of other people, the way it is characterized is derived from the way in which emotions are characterized. If, for example, emotions are considered to be centrally characterized by bodily feelings, understanding the bodily feelings of another will be fundamental to empathy. On the other hand, if emotions are more centrally characterized by a combination of beliefs and desires, understanding these beliefs and desires will be more essential for empathy. The ability to imagine oneself as another person is a sophisticated imaginative process.

However, the basic ability to recognize emotions is probably innate and can be achieved unconsciously. However, you can train and achieve with varying degrees of intensity or precision.

The human capacity to recognize another’s bodily feelings is related to one’s imitative capacities and seems to be based on an innate capacity to associate bodily movements and facial expressions that one sees in another with proprioceptive feelings of producing those movements or expressions corresponding. Humans seem to make the same immediate connection between the tone of voice and other vocal expressions and inner feelings.

In the field of positive psychology, empathy has also been compared to altruism and selfishness. Altruism is a behavior that aims to benefit another person, while selfishness is a behavior that is represented for personal benefit. Sometimes, when someone feels empathic with another person, acts of altruism occur. However, many wonder if these acts of altruism are motivated or not by selfish gains. According to positive psychologists, people can be moved appropriately by their empathy to be altruistic.

More specifically, mudita is a selective empathy, in which we empathize only when the other person sees her happy.

Since empathy is innate, it is not difficult to exercise it. And if you face very happy people you get an emotional contagion, so we will feel very happy.

Of the three brahma-viharas (Mettā, Karuṇā and Mudita) whose goal is to achieve sensory happiness, it is the latter that provides the most joy and happiness.

Mettā we use when we are depressed by having been damaged by a third party to eliminate the aversion that causes us and thus restore our balance of neurotransmitters.

With Karuna what we do is to provoke ourselves that aversion by sympathizing with someone who suffers, and by overcoming it we feel happy. Thus we achieve greater happiness than with Metta.

And with Mudita, happiness is much greater because what we tune into is someone happy or very happy.

If Metta is necessary, this is prior to the other two. Karuṇā or mudita can not be used correctly if we are damaged and with a strong feeling of aversion towards another.

The most successful group is Mettā-Mudita, so we can send unconditional love to someone with whom we have eye contact, not to cure ourselves of any aversion) and we wait for the person to react to our loving gaze, if he does , what happens in certain cultures in a positive way, we take that response as the happiness in the other that serves us to shoot mudita and raise even more the level that Mettā has produced.

In summary, there are three exercises that occupy three niches of different levels that provide us with happiness.

But this happiness depends on the senses, which implies that it can make us dependent and cause us suffering. That is why in a phase of the detoxification of serotonin addiction can be used, with great care, to cause a flood of happiness that prevents us from seeking it through attachment.

In any case, these exercises cease to make sense after the Entry into the Stream, where the End of Happiness occurs.

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