…A Question of Semantics
What do you think? How are those two different? Which do you find to be easier or more natural to you? Could you give examples of how either one looks in your own life or in the life of someone you know or have heard or read of?
I know I’m being a bit obsessive over “technicalities of meaning”. But these words are not very useful if I use them in ways that other people don’t interpret them.
My friends like to point out my emotionality. One friend has thanked me many times for helping her come to terms with her emotions. Which I find dreadfully ironic–the idea that I can help someone else discover and express her emotions, when I, myself, continue to struggle with finding words to express all of my own emotional complexity.
The problem, I find, is that for every word that there is to express an emotion, I experience that emotion in so many degrees and shapes, that I need more than one word. If there are two similar words which seem to express one emotion, I divide and conquer, placing specific meanings in one word category and other ones in the other word. When I go to talk about a specific emotion, I discover that the standard word for what I want to express is too broad and non-specific to actually convey what I’m trying to communicate.
I think this is what I’ve done with the words compassion and empathy. So, here I am now, with two words. I can see how they are somewhat related, but in my own brain they occupy and identify very different cognitive domains. But when I try to use them how I understand them (or how I feel them inside of myself), I’m not understood.
I’d appreciate any help or input so that I can take in and process how other people see, feel, understand, think about and use these words.