A free, on-going group for those facing emotional challenges and anyone looking for an accepting environment.

The Highlands Empathy Circle is a sharing and listening circle to help participants understand themselves and others. It is a place where people with mental and emotional challenges can find support. It is a place for people who value difference and mutual respect.

What then is empathy?

To know that you are different from me, and to want to know what it is like to be you, is part of my capacity for empathy. It’s the part of me that’s interested in you. Often that interest is enough to help both you and me become more accepting. The difference that initially may have been a barrier, that made us awkward or cautious, even fearful of each other has now become a thing we want to explore.

When mistrust changes to interest, possibilities barely dreamed of begin to appear. Imagination and excitement re-emerge. Empathy works a magic that rewards both those who offer it and those who receive it.

The word empathy itself comes from the Greek, meaning to “feel into”. It wasn’t until early in the 20th century that it was brought into use as a psychological term to describe one person entering the experience of another. A few decades later, the American psychologist, Carl Rogers, found it to be one of three core conditions for emotional growth.

Although there is considerable disagreement over how empathy works, today there is nearly universal agreement that empathy plays a key role in enhancing the quality of our everyday encounters and therapeutic relationships. Recent neuro-scientific research suggests that human beings are born with a capacity to read others’ inner experience. With the exception of those who have a biological impairment, all of us can pick up cues from others and make accurate enough judgements of what others are feeling. This gift from nature can be nurtured or neglected. The Empathy Circle is part of a quiet, global movement for greater nurturing.

The Empathy Circle is an inclusive group. We welcome anyone who experiences a lack of acceptance because of a mental condition (depression, anxiety, bipolar, schizophrenia etc.) or because of race, religion, sexual preference, gender, ethnicity or age.

It is a fundamental principle of the circle that we grow stronger in our emotional life when we are prepared to experience the feelings of others. We are engaged in learning how to enter into the experience of a person different from ourselves whether they be a family member, friend or stranger.

We are also called upon to practice self-empathy, to be understanding of ourselves when we don’t live up to our own expectations. We discover that it is the expectations that are “wrong” rather than us. We become more forgiving of others when we learn to forgive ourselves.