Empathic Resonance, the Deeply Emotional Connection
Resonance is a very common phenomenon in the musical universe. They say, that if you place two tuning forks one in front of the other, and vibrate either of them, the other will spontaneously emit the same sound. Empathic resonance seems to follow a similar path. In fact, it’s understood as the intense connection of emotional and cognitive realities between people.
Resonance is one of the most beautiful words in our language. It’s like an echo, a sound that starts from one side and impacts many places at the same time. It’s a stimulus that transcends and leaves its mark in multiple ways. In fact, it’s an area that’s been arousing the curiosity of psychologists for decades.
You might have heard, for example, of resounding leadership. This idea was shaped by Daniel Goleman. It means that the person who takes the lead is able to connect and understand the emotions of their team and use them to improve their performance. These types of leaders are able to read the feelings of the people they lead. Furthermore, they use that knowledge to generate change or support that benefits them.
Feeling the emotional resonance of the other person is the deepest and most enriching form of empathic connection.
The humanistic psychotherapist Carl Rogers was one of the great exponents of emotional resonance. In fact, he applied it in his person-centered therapy. One of his goals was to always connect with and understand the emotions of the person in front of him. In other words, to transmit to them an authentic, intense, and welcoming empathy. His ultimate aim was to make that person feel heard, understood, and accompanied throughout the whole therapeutic process.
In therapy, the professional should never be “infected” or “dragged down” by the complex emotions of their client. Otherwise, they’d be unable to carry out their work as a psychologist, transforming agent, and promoter of change. For this reason, one of the components of emotional resonance is also the protection of those who experience the emotional resonance of the other.
Let’s learn a little more.
One step beyond empathy
If we had to name a concept that’s always inspiring and positive, it would undoubtedly be empathy. However, sometimes we forget the fact that this psychological reality has important nuances. In fact, it may not be as exceptional as we think. Firstly, there are those who only experience emotional empathy. They’re the people who know that you’re suffering but don’t understand why. However, cognitive empathy would allow them to go a little further and understand what your problem is.
There’s also instrumental empathy. This is the kind that people use to connect with you but with one purpose only: to manipulate you. However, the most important factor that defines empathic people is the clear desire to act. They’re the people who feel your emotions, understand you, and take action.
Empathy differs from empathic resonance in the depth of connection. In fact, empathic resonance involves a complete openness, capturing the reality of who we have in front of us. We understand their emotions, thoughts, and personal situations. Likewise, when something “resonates” with us, it invites us to act and to promote helpful, supportive behaviors…
Empathic resonance, a form of ecpathy
Professor of psychiatry, J.L. González term introduced the term ecpathy. It defines the ability to connect empathically with someone but without being impregnated with the emotions of the other. In this way, empathic resonance is similar, in that it means not being carried away by other people’s feelings and being able to act in an active and practical way.
The University of Toronto conducted research that states that empathic resonance is an essential skill that every psychotherapist must develop. This is because they need to connect with the patient and make them see that they’re understood. However, they must also be able to act without feeling blocked by the emotional reality of the patient. This is absolutely essential.
How can we show more empathic resonance?
Both empathy and empathic resonance are two dimensions that should be more present in our society. Indeed, we need people who look into our eyes and understand our emotions and needs and act accordingly. Unfortunately, in this new digital world of rushed, superficial relationships, and ever-growing narcissism, these kinds of capabilities tend to be completely overlooked.
Is there a way to develop this kind of empathic resonance? Indeed, there are several strategies, but the most decisive is the will to do it. Genuine interest in who’s in front of you and proactivity are key. Indeed, emotional resonance involves connecting, understanding and acting.
Let’s now look at a series of very basic strategies:
- Learn to focus attention on the present moment. Things are happening around you that you’re not aware of. Slow down and set your sights on the here and now.
- Transcendence and meaning. To empathize in a resonant way, you have to transcend, to go beyond what your eyes see to find meaning. You might say to yourself, my colleague seems tired, but I think that tiredness relates to a kind of sadness. Maybe she has problems at home, I’ll ask her if she needs any help.
- Willingness and proactivity. Ask yourself, what can I do to make that person feel better? How can I support them?
Finally, we’re all capable of activating and developing this ability. We can get the emotions of others to resonate with us in a way that’s significant enough to make valuable interventions based on that knowledge. In fact, to proceed in a way that would allow us to shape a more humane, affectionate, altruistic world.It might interest you...
All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.
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- Buchanan, Tony & Bagley, Sara & Stansfield, R. & Preston, Stephanie. (2011). The empathic, physiological resonance of stress. Social neuroscience. 7. 191-201. 10.1080/17470919.2011.588723.
- Geach, B., & White, J. (1974). Empathic Resonance: A Countertransference Phenomenon. The American Journal of Nursing, 74(7), 1282-1285. doi:10.2307/3423239
- Watson, J. C., & Greenberg, L. S. (2009). Empathic resonance: A neuroscience perspective. In J. Decety & W. Ickes (Eds.), The social neuroscience of empathy (pp. 125–137). MIPress. https://doi.org/10.7551/mitpress/9780262012973.003.0011