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The Psychology of Empathy

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4. Prediction

5. Motivation

The first stage of intuition involves one person naturally intuitive towards the other as with intuition of the other's person's emotions and feelings or thought processes, the next stage of empathy or a feeling of connectedness is established. The connection between two people naturally leads to a feeling of mutual consideration and the next stage of predicting each other's responses. In some cases empathy could be mutual although in many cases as in a relationship between a therapist and her patient, the empathy could be one sided. After the connection is established and there is a deep sense of consideration for the other's feelings, and an understanding as to why the person is feeling in a particular way, one person who empathizes with the other is able to move to the next stage of predicting the emotional responses. Understanding the response patterns in other people is an essential part of connecting and relating to them closely and would definitely suggest the ability of being in the shoes of the other. The last stage of empathy deals with the more directional aspect as in the case of teacher or therapist there is a need to motivate or influence the other person following an empathetic connection. In fact the empathy may have been established to influence the other person to attain some goals or reach some targets. So influencing and motivating the other person is an integral part of empathy and is a tacit goal of empathetic relations.

Apart from the five stages of empathy discussed, empathy could involve subsequent feelings of friendship, love, rapport, admiration, dependence and this would depend on whether the empathy is between a teacher and a student, a therapist and a patient, a leader and his followers or between lovers or friends.

From a psychological point of view, empathy would involve fulfilling the safety and security needs of other individuals and also their love and belongingness needs. Empathy needs are thus somewhere in between the love-attachment-belongingness (psychological) needs of individuals and the safety-security needs of individuals and the need for empathy exists in every individual and is manifested in both the forms of giving and receiving empathy.

Individuals fulfil their love and belongingness needs by relating to others and empathy uses love and belongingness to provide safety and security. Thus the purpose of empathy as explained with Maslow's hierarchy of needs theory is to make the other person happy by providing a sense of security and lending support as is the goal of empathy could mean a positive influence of one person on the other. Empathy highly enhances social interaction as it adds elements of familiarity, connectedness and consideration between people and help to instil and maintain human values.

Theory and Therapy

Apart from the Maslow's basic needs theory which would identify empathy as a love and safety need, any psychotherapeutic framework could successfully utilize the concept of empathy and develop a therapeutic model based on affective interaction between therapist and client. In fact any client centred therapy requires empathetic connection between the client and the therapist and development of an Affective Therapeutic System based on the Intuition-Connection-Consideration-Prediction-Motivation (ICCPM) model of empathy could be an effective method of therapy in which different stages of empathy are identified and evoked between the client and the therapist to reach the final goal of mutual understanding.

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Saberi Roy is a writer/poet/analyst/political commentator/psychologist and writes on science, arts, psychology, religions, politics and philosophy. She has Masters degrees in Philosophy (MA), in Psychology (MSc) and in Consciousness Studies with QM (more...)
 
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