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  • Nicole Nemiroff, MA LMFT

What you've been missing about Empathy

Updated: Feb 17, 2019


When it comes to #empathy, first things first: know your #biases. Know who you are what you are predisposed to feel. What are your #blindspots? Emotions are #biological, but can also be #socially #influenced. We will talk about how your #conditioning, #trauma, and #values affect your feelings in posts to come. For now, let's focus on your identity to start off with.

Obviously, we are constantly becoming ourselves; constantly being more of ourself; constantly learning more about ourself. The following information is meant to help with a basic understanding of some of your identifying factors. This will help us to keep learning about you + empathy.


Know your self to know others (Don't worry - I am explaining how to below. You don't have to do it on your own).


Who Are You?


ADDRESSING is an acronym that will help you to remember easily many different factors that go into your social #identity and how you intersect with others. Your identity, as a human, is intersectional! We meet others at many different points. Let's begin.


How do you identify about yourself? Here is an excellent skeleton from which you can get to know yourself and your privilege in the world better. Of course, it is not all-inclusive, but it is meant to get your gears going. This is best to use as a #partnerexercise where you can talk about the following with someone else you trust. It also makes for a great journal entry!

The experience I hope for you is to gain an ownership of yourself. The goal isn't to answer the questions and notice your identity with a sense of ego or correctness, but with a sense of mindfulness and ownership of who you are in the world and how others might see you. Here are some factors for addressing . . .

Format [letter]:[description]. [examples/questions]

A: #Age. Are you a young adult, for example? How do other age ranges see young adults? What kinds of assumptions does being a young adult give you?

D (1): #Disability from birth. Do you have vision problems caused by genetics? Were you born with one foot smaller than the other? Do you have developmental disabilities?

D (2): Disability developed over time. Disabilities can be both observable and invisible. How often do you have to go to the dentist? Did you develop depression as a result of your environment? Did you get an injury? Do you live with an illness?

R: #Religion. Do you practice an organized religion? How does that create in-groups/out-groups in your life? How do you view others who practice religions? Are you spiritual? Are you Atheist?

E: #Ethnicity. What ethnicity are you? Are you a majority or minority? How do you view other ethnicities? What historical impact has your heritage had on world resources and social structures?

S (1): #Sexual Orientation. How do you identify? Does your outward appearance match that? Does your gender match that? How do you view others who are different from you in that way?

S (2): Socio-economic status. What #SES were you born into? Where are you now, if different? Does this match the rest of your community? How do you view others who are different?

I: #Indigenous background. Are you a native? Are you a non-native? How do you view natives?

N: #National Origin. Are you from the country you reside in? Were you born there? Did you move? How do you view immigrants?

G: #Gender. Does your gender match your sense of yourself? What parts of your story have been influenced by your gender? Does your gender effect how you walk in the world?

Other factors to consider include (but are not limited to) the following: #education, #body type, #talents, #access to #nature, #relationship status ... what else can you think of?


Here is a 'This vs. That' list to represent what in each of these categories has typically held the most privilege in #Western societies. Privilege meaning #power, #status, and #agency. Your privilege will largely impact your biases, pre-conceived notions, and even, yes - your #emotions!

A: Adults v. Children, Adolescents, Elders

D: Able-bodied v. Persons with Disabilities

R: Christians v. Jews, Muslims, other Non-Christians

E: Euro-American v. People of Color

S: Owning and Middle Class (access to higher education) v. Poor & Working class

S: Hetero v. LGBTQIA+

I: Non-Native v. Native

N: Citizens v. Immigrants & Refugees

G: Male v. Female, Trans, Intersexed


The ideas I present in this post are largely based important work of Pamela Hays. I have added and paraphrased for the purposes of this blog. Her work was taught to me in graduate school during my work in the EXA program at CIIS.

Reference: Hays, P. A. (2001). Addressing Cultural Complexities in Practice: A Framework for Clinicians and Counselors. Washington, D. C. : American Psychological Association.

#address #empathy #selfknowledge #growth #therapy #intersectionality

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