The power of empathy

By Maham Jazib Hussain
Fri, 07, 19

In a chaotic world like this, we often feel an urge to flee from the daily hassles and stress exerted upon us....


In a chaotic world like this, we often feel an urge to flee from the daily hassles and stress exerted upon us. Be it a bunch of household chores, work, academics or anything that demands instant fulfillment, there comes a time when we are no more capable of handling the overwhelming work pressure.

To keep on going in this demanding life, it is essential to have a healthy mind. A distorted perception of reality, an imbalance of chemicals in the brain and a body constantly under stress - all of these account for poor mental health.

Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, how we feel, and how we act. It also helps determine how we cope with stress, relate to others, and make choices. Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood to adulthood.

There are a lot of stressors in our lives and staying mentally healthy matters not just on an individual level but on a community level as well. How we perceive stress and how we help others cope with their problems is what determines a good psychological health. And it is only possible when we interact and relate with one another.

In this respect, as psychology students, every now and then our teachers use the word “empathy”. What does empathy mean?

Well, empathy is a term, not just confined to psychologists, but it is a characteristic that every other person should be able to develop in oneself. In simpler terms, empathy means to “feel with the person”. It is to put yourself in someone’s shoes and feel the same things as the other person is feeling. Empathy is the ability to understand other people, recognize their pain and have an instinctive desire to help them.

It comes as no surprise how empathy could be related to mental health since the two work mutually. How overpowering empathy could be in treating mental illnesses could be evaluated by a simple fact: who doesn’t want to be loved and cared for? Being treated with dignity and respect matters more for someone who is mentally ill and seeks guidance.

In clinical settings, with empathy we can connect with our patients, we have an understanding of what it is they are going through, and by acknowledging their emotional state and listening attentively, we can engage our patients and empower them to participate actively in the treatment process.

Besides clinical setting, in our homes, we can develop a sense of active listening by being receptive to the demands and needs of our fellows/family members, treating them with utmost care and attention, explaining to them that their opinions matter in order to reach agreements that are beneficial for everyone. All such actions could promote a sense of well being and a healthy psychological state between one another.

This is how empathizing could help people come out of their shells and break the vicious cycle that mental illness might have caused them. We need to inculcate empathy more and more in our attitudes and dealings to promote mental health within the community. After all, a healthy society works as a driving force behind a successful nation.