The term ecpathy comes from the Greek ek-patheia (feel outside) and refers to the conscious process of separate our feelings and circumstances from those of the people around usa vital complement to empathy that balances the scales for one’s emotional and psychological protection.
Proposed in 2005 by Doctor of Psychiatry José Luis González de la Rivera*, ecpathy is a new concept that can be considered complementary to empathy. The origin of empathy is relatively older and dates back to 1904, the first time it was included in the dictionary. webster English language. Although its German equivalent, ‘Einfühlung‘, is probably much older, as Freud often uses it throughout his writings.
The Royal Spanish Academy defines empathy and ecpathy as follows:
- Empathy Element: ability to identify with something or someone. It connects us with others.
- Ecpathy: makes us voluntarily exclude the feelings that come to us from other people and that are not beneficial to our well-being. Activate the conscious mind to know to what extent it is good to be empathetic without falling into antipathy.
According to the definition of Gonzalez de Rivera**, empathy is “the mental function that allows us not to be focused on oneself and to see things from the other’s point of view, to immerse ourselves in the feelings of others”. As for ecpathy, “it is the compensatory mental action that protects us from the affective flood, and allows us not to let ourselves be carried away by the emotions of others.”
What is it for?
Through ecpathy we are able to establish a border between our feelings and those of others so as to avoid excessive involvement in the problems and pain of others, so intense that one can even come to identify with the other person and feel the problem as their own.
This is a balancing strategy established to protect oneself so that one’s ability to actively listen and support others is not diminished by emotional exhaustion. Since, when this happens, an interaction can be created that, far from being healthy, fails to relieve the other and makes oneself suffer.
Acting ecpathically does not mean being indifferent or ignorant of what might be happening. Ecpathia is a mental resource that registers the ability to engage with others from a healthy level. in which the objective is to learn to separate the loads and understand when the learning or improvement processes do not belong to us.
The importance of ecpathy resides in this ability to modulate the capacity for involvement and the feeling that seeing someone suffering can cause us. In other words, it is a good regulation between ecpathy and empathy that allows us to offer the appropriate response and the necessary support to the person who needs our help.
Ecpathy as a mental process is essential to value other people, but without falling into what is known as ‘compassion fatigue’ or letting them become ’emotional vampires’ of our energy. Both positive and negative emotions are usually contagious, being able to activate the ecpathy mechanism as a regulatory and protective process helps to stop this contagion and emotional impact that can be harmful or toxic.
*González, J. (2004). Empathy and ecpathy. Psiquis: Journal of Psychiatry, Medical and Psychosomatic Psychology, ISSN 0210-8348, Vol. 25, No. 6, 2004, pp. 5-7.
**González de Rivera, J (2004). Empathy and Ecpathy.
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