Empathic resonance, the key to helping others by preventing their problems from bringing us down

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Robert Maurer
@robertmaurer
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The emotional connection we create with the people around us is a powerful fuel for the soul. We all need understanding and validation. To feel that there is, at least one other person in the universe, who understands and supports us.

However, in a hyper-connected society, we are increasingly connected, but also more absent and, therefore, more alone. Many people are physically present, but mentally and emotionally distant. They nod their heads absently as they look at their cell phones. They forget the conversation because they never got involved.



Of course, we can't connect emotionally when our heads are elsewhere. Empathic resonance, on the other hand, involves connecting with the other's inner world to help him cope with problems or simply give him the support he needs.

What exactly is empathic resonance?

The concept of empathic resonance has its roots in Humanistic Psychology. In the context of Rogersian psychotherapy, empathic resonance implies a deeper way of experiencing the interpersonal relationship since it takes into account what the other expresses - both what he says, what he is silent, what he expresses with words and what he expresses with body language.

Unlike empathy, empathic resonance does not involve stepping aside to put yourself in the other person's shoes, but rather using our "I" to connect with the other person, being as receptive as possible to their experiences, feelings and ideas , but without losing sight of who everyone's feelings belong to.

Helping others by preventing their problems from dragging us along with them

Empathy gained prominence while the concept of empathic resonance remained in the shadows. However, it is essential to help others without being swept away by the storm.

Empathy is the attempt to tune into the experiences and emotions of the other. It is putting yourself in his place. But often empathy fails to take off and is limited to sympathy or empathic concern that can harm us and others, preventing us from taking the necessary psychological distance to be useful.



Empathic resonance does not imply being "identical" to the other, but maintaining some sort of separation. That distance is what allows us to give the proper help. Empathic resonance allows us to experience his situation, but in a different, often more complete way. So the trees don't stop us from seeing the forest. We may be able to identify the other's major problems and conflicts or the dysfunctional strategies they are putting into practice.

Empathic resonance involves experiencing one's problems and emotions, but without these clouding our rationality because the boundaries of our "I" are not erased, but rather act as a necessary defensive layer that allows us to offer the appropriate help.

How to develop empathic resonance? Essential skills

• Awareness and full attention. It is the first step without which it is impossible to emotionally connect with the other. It consists in being fully present in the here and now, paying attention to our interlocutor. It implies a genuine presence and a sincere interest in the concerns of the other.

• Experiential research. It involves an active search for the more complex experiences of the other. It means going beyond what you see and not being satisfied with the superficial, but trying to deepen the deeper meaning that usually hides behind the words.

• Active emotional expression. It means putting into words or translating into actions what we feel. When we express our vulnerability or emotionally open up, we encourage the other to do the same to connect on a deeper level. It is not being ashamed of pain, failure or any other emotion, but using them to build bridges.


• Unconditional appreciation. Any criticism or attempt to judge cancels empathy. This is why empathic resonance requires unconditional appreciation. It does not necessarily mean agreeing with the other's ideas, but rather validating their emotional experiences by showing unconditional acceptance so that the person feels understood and supported.


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