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Understanding Empathy and Symapthy as Behavioral Tools for Emotional Safety

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Alirazab is a Clinical Psychologist at DuaGo Clinic, Pakistan and obtained his Masters of Science in Clinical Psychology from BUI Islamabad

Empathy, Sympathy and Emotional Safety

Empathy, sympathy and emotional safety are inter- related health terms. Sympathy is the term that came from the Greek- origin and it was first used in sixteenth- century to label someone's feelings with a biased feeling of one's own. Emotional safety was a concept given in the perspective of family therpay (couple therpay) manuals and it meant to provide mutual care to each other in a family or a couple- setting.

I found these terms interesting and tried to develope a relationship among them by generalizing (only theoratically) them on the daily- life situations. A person who may have gone through life- adversities, may have also gone through lack of empathy, plethora of sympathy and emotional- dysregulation.

From childhood, an individual may be prone to lack of empathy when he is not able to communicate his feelings to the other people for several reasons. These reasons may involve.

  1. Poor socio- economic status.
  2. Poor Interpersonal relations with family members.
  3. Poor and limited communication with other relatives, friends, school teachers and other school- fellows.
  4. Poor cognitive- perceptions about life- eevents.
  5. Poor adaptation to the environment.
  6. Poor emotional bond with one's own self.

There might be several other reasons but I have focused only on some major reasons which I came to face during my Psychotherapeutic- practice.

Empathy and sympathy both act like a behavioral tool. Empathy becomes a constructive behavioral tool which promotes emotional- safety. Sympathy becomes a destructive behavioral labeling on one's own self which leads to the self- harm or harm to others.

Understanding Empathy

  • Empathy is the term given by a psychologist named Titchener almost a 100 years ago. All the mental health professionals recommend empathy to treat individuals with emotional- dysregulations.
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Empathy "Pereon Looking Straight" VS Sympathy "Person Looking Sideways"

Difference of Perspectives

Difference of Perspectives

10 Steps to Improve Empathy and Reduce Sympathy

Here are given the 10 to improve empathy and reduce sympathy separatedly.

Improving Empathy (First 5) and Reducing Sympathy (6- 10)

  1. Try to understand the environmental situation first.
  2. Try to feel what the other individual is feeling for whom you want to show empathy.
  3. Try to adopt the environemntal situation and make your next step accordingly.
  4. Try to communicate verbally and non- verbally to the individuals you want to show empathy with.
  5. Try to talk about the solution based exit from the previous awful situation and try to replace it with the present agreeable solution.
  6. Try to perceive the previous situation correctly.
  7. Try to change your own perception about the previous situation which made the other individual emotionally weak.
  8. Try to generate the new possibilities of perception in a broader canvas of thoughts.
  9. Try replace the previous narrow perception with the present wider perception of the situation.
  10. Try to convey this present positive perspective to the individual for whom you wanted to reduce your sympathy.

Empathy, Sympathy and Emotional Safety

CharacteristicBehaviorallyEmotional SafetyEmotional Dysregularity






Not needed



See Through Vs No See Through of Emotions

See Through Vs No See Through of Emotions


  1. Give yourself an emotional- outlet.
  2. Don't chase all thoughts .
  3. Stay in the present moment.
  4. Drop- down the painful thoughts from mind to the ground.
  5. Broader the perspectives of thoughts .
  6. Broader the meanings of the perspectives.
  7. Feel what others feel (be empathetic).
  8. Do what is best to come out of a painful situation.
  9. Think positively.
  10. Do solution- based coping.
  11. Convey and communicate well to others.
  12. Don't be afraid of the sympathetic- labels people put on you (you are not what people think you are).

Empathy and Sympathy: Perspective Change for Emotional Safety



  1. Braddock, L. (2018). Sympathy and projection, and why we should be wary of empathy. In Philosophical Perspectives on Empathy (pp. 91-107). Routledge.
  2. Catherall, D. R. (2006). The Emotional Safety Model of Treatment. In Emotional Safety (pp. 245-258). Routledge.
  3. Gruen, R. J., & Mendelsohn, G. (1986). Emotional responses to affective displays in others: The distinction between empathy and sympathy. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 51(3), 609.
  4. Schipper, M., & Petermann, F. (2013). Relating empathy and emotion regulation: Do deficits in empathy trigger emotion dysregulation?. Social neuroscience, 8(1), 101-107.
  5. Sprunger, K. L. (1993). Trumpets from the Tower: English Puritan Printing in the Netherlands, 1600-1640 (Vol. 46). Brill.
  6. Wispé, L. (1987). History of the concept of empathy. Empathy and its development, 2, 17-37.

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.

© 2022 Alirazab

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