Narcissist versus Compassionate Empathy.

Understanding Caring Versus Empathy

As of March 2021 Cognitive Principle Therapy has been upgraded to incorporate concepts from four areas/writers in psychology. These include:

-Stephen Porge's Polyvagal theory of the nervous system.

-Daniel Kahneman's "Thinking Fast and Slow" The concept of System 1 and System 2

-Dr. Iain McGilchrist's work on the left brain-right brain functional theory

-Lisa Feldman Barrett’s  book on "How Emotions are Made"


The above 4 concepts have now been built into the Cognitive Principle Matrix to provide a different way of thinking about and treating psychological problems from a systems perspective.

The key starting point is to divide the brain and the body into System 1 [right brain] and System 2 [left brain] and accept that there are only four emotions generated in the body, namely fear, anger, sadness and happiness and these align with Polyvagal theory. [flight, fight, freeze and calmness]. The other 200+ emotions are developed in the brain as stated by Lisa Feldman Barrett.

-With this model it is easy to understand communication differences which exist between dominant left brain [men as a generalisation] and dominant right brain [women as a generalisation]


One common way to see the differences is how System 1 & System 2 view Caring versus Empathy.

Caring definition:

Displaying kindness and concern for others

The three types of empathy that psychologists have defined are: Cognitive, Emotional, and Compassionate.

Cognitive Empathy

Cognitive empathy definition: “Simply knowing how the other person feels and what they might be thinking. Sometimes called perspective-taking” Daniel Goldman, renowned psychologist and author of the 1995 book Emotional Intelligence.

What it’s concerned with: Thought, understanding, intellect.

Benefits: Helps in negotiations, motivating other people, understanding diverse viewpoints, and ideal for virtual meeetings. Cognitive Empathy is about thought as much as emotion. It is defined by knowing, understanding, or comprehending on an intellectual level. As most of us know, to understand sadness is not the same thing as feeling sad.

Emotional Empathy

Emotional empathy definition: “when you feel physically along with the other person, as though their emotions were contagious.” ~Daniel Goldman

What it’s concerned with: feelings, physical sensation, mirror neurons in the brain.

Benefits: Helps in close interpersonal relationships and careers like coaching, marketing, management.

This type of response might seem disconnected from the brain and thinking, but as Goldman points out, emotional empathy is actually deeply rooted in a human mirror neurons. All animals have neurons that fire in a certain way when they see another animal acting, making them relate to that action in their own body and brain. Emotional empathy does exactly that with the feelings someone experiences in reaction to a situation.

When your partner—or anyone you deeply love—comes to you in tears, it’s a natural response to feel that pull on your heartstrings. Like crying at a wedding or cringing when someone stubs their toe, it’s a deep-seated, gut reaction that often feels like a visceral human response. Connecting with another human in this way is intimate and can form a strong bond.

Like Cognitive Empathy, Emotional Empathy has its flip-side. “One downside of emotional empathy occurs when people lack the ability to manage their own distressing emotions,” writes Goleman. “[This] can be seen in the psychological exhaustion that leads to burnout.” Feeling too much can make even small interactions overwhelming.

Compassionate Empathy

Empathy definition: “With this kind of empathy we not only understand a person’s predicament and feel with them, but are spontaneously moved to help, if needed.” ~Daniel Goldman

What it’s concerned with: Intellect, emotion, and action.

Benefits: Considers the whole person.

Feelings of the heart and thoughts of the brain are not opposites. In fact, they’re intricately connected.

Compassionate Empathy honors the natural connection by considering both the felt senses and intellectual situation of another person without losing your center.

Compassionate Empathy is taking the middle ground and using your emotional intelligence to effectively respond to the situation with loving detachment. We don't get sucked in and take on the person's burden or feeling. We balance mindfulness with compassionate caring and could be considered compassion when expressed genuinely.


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