When we think of empathy, we usually think it’s about how we relate to other people’s feelings. Empathy begins with how well we first learn to relate to our own feelings and emotional needs in childhood, explains NASW California member Richard Brouillette.
“How well we connect with ourselves will determine how we connect with others,” he says in a column he wrote for Psychology Today. “In my clinical work, I use the idea of empathy styles to help my clients understand the way they handle their own emotional needs, and how they either show up for or avoid their partner’s emotional needs,” he states.
Empathy style says a lot about the type of partner you subconsciously look for and are most comfortable being around, Brouillette notes. “It may also explain why you keep finding yourself in relationships that feel eerily similar, even when you’re sure you’ve tried to find a different kind of partner.”