Multisensory Aphantasia and Empathy


To begin, let me clarify my understanding of empathy vs sympathy.  Empathy means experiencing someone else’s emotions while sympathy is an ability to understand them.  I have full multi-sensory aphantasia, meaning  I have no internal sensory response to thoughts, memories, or imaginings.  In discussing the experience of empathy with non-aphants I realized that I also do not experience the type of shared emotion that is the basis for empathy.  I can feel sympathy, but I cannot internally experience something that is not actually happening to me, even if it is something that I have experienced in the past.  For example, I have a 3rd degree burn, but as I listen to another person with a similar burn describe what they felt as they were being burned I do not experience any sort of shared feeling, more of a “knowing” that it’s a horrible experience.  

I am curious to know if this is a common experience for people with multi-sensory aphantasia?  If so, how has it effected your relationships?  And, how have you (or have you) increased your capacity for compassion without the experience of empathy?

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