For me it is an experience of one merging their pain with an others.
Going into sympathy reflects merging old pain together with an others circumstances.
Let me explain.
In a circle with Dr. Marshall Rosenberg in 2004, he began demonstrating a deepened empathy pattern and I found myself curious about how some of us in the circle were independently holding the space and others where crying in sorrow. I asked an advanced trainer who had worked with Dr. Rosenberg for many years about the differences in experience. I was told that those who were not sobbing didn’t have a similar pain as the person who was receiving empathy. Those who were had that same abuse in their lifetime that stimulated old pain. Fortunately this intensive was to transition from moral judgments and right and wrong thinking. This explanation was shared with clarity and as a matter of fact. What I learned was that those identifying with the pain had an opportunity to heal themselves in witnessing the resolution in the person who was receiving empathy from Dr. Rosenberg. The key was to feel their pain rise up and let their thoughts rest. The skill was to resist going into their own story that would hijack the circumstances away from the speaker. I call this the ultimate witnessing ability. (This is when you can stop yourself from hijacking someones story away from them and making it about you.)
Empathy practice, the NVC way, is to fully hear what someone is saying without interpreting it back through your past experiences and personal perspectives. The only way someone is going to feel seen and heard is if you are able to listen to their words while being attentive to what you are hearing. The following ways of habitually listening are not empathetic, instead they challenge the speaker.
- Comparisons – telling your perspective or someone elses
- Being an authority
- Moral Judgments – no right and wrong, not speaking to what’s wrong with someone
- Coming up with solutions
- Asking questions – your job is to listen, not understand