Empathy vs. Sympathy


Gus, a sure-footed horse belonging to CO State Representative Wes McKinley, keeps Lisa Speaker safe on a 3-day pack trip in Pinon Canyon.

by Sandi Martinez

Both of these words carry an innate grasp of the human condition.  One of these words however, carries the most weight in ‘energetic communication and understanding’ both in human and animal interaction.  Our best friend has just lost their 10-year position at a job they loved.  Our neighbor’s house has just burned down.  Perhaps we just received some bad news from the Doctor.  You just had a wonderful and meaningful conversation with your best friend.  They sat patiently, quietly and truly heard what you were saying.  No judgment, eyebrows weren’t raised in contempt; just a smile and a warm hug after.  We are sympathetic to these situations and to those close to us and vice-versa, because we’ve been through similar experiences or we know someone who has. 

In turn, are our animals sympathetic to us?  Do they really nod their head and say aloud, “Yes, I know how you feel!  That happened to me…”  Instead, when you walk through the door, and you’ve had a horrific day, they come sometimes carefully and maybe at a slow pace.  They nudge your hand or your leg carefully.  They are unsure if they should come any closer.  Animals are the most powerful empathic beings on the planet.  Notice how when you are floating on a cloud with happiness, your pet wants to float right along with you!  Your horse nudges you when you’re feeling helplessly sorry for yourself; they neigh indulgently as if to remind you – and what about that horrible tsunami that killed all those people in Japan in March?  You can sense them sensing you.  Perhaps in the middle of the night, you hear a noise in the house.  Your fear-factor raises 20 notches.  Your dog senses your fear, and is up and running around the house, their warning bounces loudly off the walls.  But there was no one there.  Or was there?  If animals are sensitive to energy, might they be sensitive to other kinds of energy?  What about human beings; are we much more aware and sensitive to each other than we realize?  Are we so empathic, that we don’t know where our energy begins, and someone else’s ends?

We tend to pick up on energy especially through touch.  A comforting pat on the shoulder can be felt in different ways.  Intention is the driving force behind our communications, be it verbally, energetically, or physically.  Learning to apply and integrate healing touch, will enhance our everyday relationships with the people we love and the animals we care for, and in turn care for us.  Sympathy threads and connects – Empathy is the ability to put yourself in the shoes of another and feel exactly what that other person is feeling.  Put together, these two channels of communication are a powerful tool when interacting with our animal and human partners!

Thanks for visiting!  We look forward to seeing you again!