Empathy and Christmas shopping

Christmas shopping is making me happy. Not only are the shops full of inviting things, but they have reduced their prices so that I can buy more expensive gifts than budgeted for.

Often I come back from Christmas shopping with things for myself – today, for example, I found glittery card and stick-on stars that I just had to have. I like to think that this is not just my selfishness coming out, but that there something more going on here that empathy can help understand.

Our main way to understand and feel with the Other – for Christmas shopping or for other purposes – is via ourselves. We have to start from ourselves but, for empathy, we need to go beyond ourselves and step into the Other’s shoes to imagine the world from their perspective. When we go shopping for presents for other people, it is quite tough to find something they would like because it requires us to imagine how it would feel for them to receive that present. It is so difficult that we may end up buying something we would like instead, confusing Other with Self.

Shopping for presents is good exercise for our empathy. Finding little treats for ourselves is – I suggest – a joyful side-effect of exercising the empathic imagination.

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