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?