In our relating to the world, we carry our inner expectations and needs in pictures, responding with our reality through the ‘lens’ of our interpretations.
When we are unaware of this, we are also unaware of two opposite tendencies within us:
To feel sorry for others is already a step out of our own reality picture, but it still carries that reality picture with it, mobilising our own interpretation of what needs to be done to alleviate the other’s pain. We move towards the other with compassion and love, but carrying our needs and expectations with us.
To feel critical and distant from others is to step more deeply into our reality picture, interpreting ever more strongly what needs to be done or not done. We move away from the other with judgement and criticism, keeping our needs to ourselves.
However, both sympathy and antipathy can serve our relationships to others and each has the potential to meet the needs of the other. At their best, sympathy provides a warm support, antipathy an awakening clarity. At their worst, sympathy provides a suffocating dependency, antipathy a cold indifference.
When they are both strongly present and in conflict with each other, the result is either the sentimental, shallow ‘helper’, or the domineering, over-bearing ‘do-gooder’.
Through the experiential method of Goethean Psychology we can recognise the reality of these two tendencies in ourselves. The method involves a stepping out of, but not a stepping away from, the gestures of each and seeing them clearly, perhaps for the first time. In returning, we take with us both an inside and an outside experience of the gesture and the emotional content that we ‘see’ in it.
This ‘seeing’ is the same imaginative perception that we use to make all our perceptions meaningful to us, but in stepping out, then stepping in, we become aware of the faculty that we take for granted and we develop in our consciousness what is called Empathy.
Our awakening to this faculty brings us a clearer experience of what we observe in the world, whether of people, animals, plants or minerals.
We enter inwardly more deeply into all that we outwardly observe.