I am very much into Emotional Intelligence (Master Thesis Transpersonal Psychology titled “Responsibility of Thought and Feeling”). When I teach at University, this is how I define and differentiate the difference of empathy and sympathy and maybe it will help you. Your example of the “3rd degree burn” is a perfect example of empathy.
Empathy is the “understanding” of any emotional state of another through personal direct experience of the same. Easy example is with someone grieving due to death of a family member. An empathetic response is being able to connect with the “loss” another is experiencing because you have felt “loss” in your life. You are not identifying with their specific “loss” because it was not your family member and you did not even know the person that died. With empathy, your “story” or “narrative” is not involved with the process.
With sympathy though, the feeling of “loss” is identified but your personal experience (Ego) is overlaid onto the social narrative. So staying with the “grieving” idea-a sympathetic response would be something like “I remember when my Mom died….”. You connected to the “loss” another was feeling, but you put yourself into the narrative by adding your own “story” into the mix.
We ALL are empathetic since we all experience the same range of emotional expressions. The issue is that it is hard to not involve our Ego and write ourselves into the script of a social narrative or experience. It is not “good” or “bad” but part of the Observer Principle-we directly affect Reality through attention and intention. Part of the “Dance of Life”.
Another thing that makes what you are exploring difficult is that emotions are “ineffable”- meaning they are beyond linguistic constructs or definition. For example, when I ask a class “Do you love something or someone?”, they all respond in the affirmative. When I ask them “What is your definition of love?”, there is NEVER agreement on the definition-even though everyone “knows” love and expresses it. The difference lies in the personal relationship or perspective to the experience. In a way, this part of what makes LIFE interesting.
I set this up to answer your main question of how you increase your compassion towards others. The simple answer is to increase the “compassion” or love and acceptance of yourself. The simplicity of the answer does not mean the execution is “easy”. You cannot “give” to another that which you do not “give” or have for yourself. Simply stated, you cannot LOVE someone MORE than you LOVE yourself. This capacity and capability is cultivated through “unconditional acceptance”.
Unconditional Acceptance is the perspective where you accept things as they are-this does not mean things are perfect or balanced or that there is not room for improvement. Practicing this allows you to participate in Reality while maintaining a sense of independence or “free will”. There can be a fire at your house, but you do not have to “panic” because everyone else is.
Without a strong foundation of Unconditional Acceptance, you cannot reach Unconditional Love. Most of our relationships are built on “conditioned” love; “I love you because….”, “I love it when….” or “I love the way….”. When you identify with conditioned love, agencies outside of yourself are then given control or authority over your internal state. Unconditional Love is LOVE without a fixation or focus. It is empathetic because it just “is”. It is the capacity to rest in the space “I LOVE” or “I Feel LOVE” for the sake of LOVE itself.
I recommend you look at some of the work from the Heartmath Institute;
They are doing some good work about exploring emotional states within scientific protocols. Hope this answer helped you.
YOU ARE OK!!!!!! The only way to affect change is to question everything-especially yourself. I prefer operating from an “I don’t know” mindset-this allows for change and growth. This allows me to see my Aphantasia as a beneficial tool. I am not distracted from imaginative imagery and have better focus because of this. I have found that psychedelic journeys like with Ayahuasca allow me to experience multi-sensory input and synesthesia. No difference whether my eyes are open or closed. The first time I “saw” music in the air was quite an experience!
Have a Great Day!