It is a common misconception that psychopaths have no empathy. Depending upon the way you define the word “empathy,” this is far from the truth. These troubled individuals often have and make full use of what is known as cognitive empathy. Through life experience they begin to understand how a person is supposed to respond to situations or someone else’s feelings. And they react, or try to react, accordingly. They learn the mechanics without experiencing the feelings.
Having cognitive empathy can be either positive or negative depending upon your response. If you are the kind of person who seeks to be kind, compassionate, and contribute in a positive way toward other people, having cognitive empathy helps guide your response. If you are not, then it can be used as a tool for exploitation. As in the case of those troubled individuals who have no concern for anyone but themselves.
The other form of empathy is known as emotional empathy. It differs from cognitive empathy in three important ways:
- You feel the same emotion as someone else;
- When someone else hurts, you experience that distress within yourself in response to that person’s predicament; and,
- You feel compassion along with a strong desire to ease their suffering.
It is the above that strengthen the enhanced empathy that we see in highly sensitive people. We live these components in magnified proportion.
So, why does this matter when it comes to spirituality in an HSP?
People who call themselves spiritual believe that there is more to life than everyday materialism. They seek a higher calling. Spiritual seekers have rich inner lives, analyzing incidents, people, and emotional/mental states for the self-growth that it brings. They also possess virtues like compassion, kindness, and open-mindedness. All traits common to highly sensitive people.
When you combine the traits that define emotional empathy with the pursuits of spiritual people, there is a kind of magic that happens. We open ourselves to exponential personal and spiritual advancement. We grow into something called “Spiritual Empathy.”
Spiritual empathy employs another HSP trait, depth of processing, to assign meaning to all that we feel through the gift of emotional empathy. We are able to burrow through the shallowness, self-centeredness, and entitlements that pervade our world. We seek the altruistic alternatives. In so doing, we find ways to highlight the deeper joys that accompany selflessness and benevolence.
As an HSP, at times when I have felt these joys, they move like energy through me. Love, on a whole new level, in motion within my skin. Bringing elation that I have never achieved through any other source.
It is a beautiful paradox that is hidden from so many. The secret I share here is that the greatest joy you can feel comes from releasing all thought or desire for yourself. And we as HSPs have an advantage. We can use our intense empathy to grow into this superior spiritual state while at the same time making a vital contribution to a world in decline.
Copyright 2022, Monica Nelson