Teaching Empathy


Well-Known Member

I was struck by Cedar's thread on the necessity of boundaries for compassion, and the sense that empathy could be taught. I googled teaching empathy to adults. This was the best article I saw in my brief search.

Here is a link. I forget already the therapist's name, but he has a very nice explanation of empathy, his belief that it can be developed, and exercises on how to do so.

This therapist uses the exercises in couples therapy and says he continues to be amazed at the results. I see actually that I am not that empathic with my son *my empathy seems to break down with his pain. I tend to try to negate his sad, bad feelings, instead of hearing him--because they are so painful to him--and thus to me. I have a hard time maintaining boundaries around his and my own pain. I tend to try to problem solve instead of hearing him.

We easily devolve into bitter accusations to deal with our hurt--each of us blaming the other. How in the world did this happen?

M goes crazy when this happens. He accuses us of retreating to English to better insult each other. And to shut him out. He cannot understand and therefore cannot help us or stop us--before we fall into oblivion.


Active Member
Thank you so much for this Copa. I especially like the part when they remind us to validate the other persons feelings and to be a good listener. I think it is difficult for us parents to do this with our own partners/children as we tend to want to "fix things". It was a good article and worth the read.

Scent of Cedar *

Well-Known Member
From the article:

Allow yourself to listen without out using your preconceptions

Allow yourself to know that you know nothing… everything you need to learn you will be learning right now.


    • If your empathy encourages you to experience strong authentic emotions of your own (as opposed to emotions related to suppression, avoidance, denial or defensiveness) let them flow as long as they are not disruptive (anger) and hold an awareness of which emotions are yours and which emotions are your partners.
    • Feeling the sadness of your partner may make you cry…
    • Know that your time for expression will come… your ability to meet the emotional needs of your partner will best prepare them to do the same for you.

Very nice, Copa.

Thank you.



pigless in VA

Well-Known Member
I am reading a very instructive book called Healing the Shame that Binds You. I pulled a quote from it: "Part of the work of love is listening." Not talking. Not judging. Not fixing. Listening.