If you can learn a simple trick, Scout, you’ll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view – until you climb into his skin and walk around in it. (Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird)

In 1909 Edward Titchener introduced a new word in the English language: ‘empathy’.

He went back to the original Greek to create a less Germanic word for ‘einfühlung’ which had been coined in the mid-1800s.

The word literally means ‘in-feeling’.

We generally use it to describe an ability to understand and appreciate another person’s feelings or experience.

To imagine what it would be like to be them, to walk in their shoes …

But before we can imagine what others may be feeling we first have to be able to identify our own emotions.

For many this is difficult; for Andrew it was almost impossible.

In psychotherapy, identifying and labelling one’s feelings is sometimes one of the hardest things to do.

Peter Fonagy introduced the concept of ‘mentalised affectivity’ to refer to a skill that that we all need, the ability to mentalise emotionally, that is to feel and think about our feelings at the same time [1].

This requires a comfort and familiarity with our own emotions. ‘Emotions relate directly to our achievement of, or failure to achieve, specific wishes or desires’ [2].

Beliefs about having achieved goals or desires will inevitably generate an emotional response.



Popularised by science journalist Daniel Goleman in the 1990s, the concept of ‘emotional intelligence’ was developed by psychology professors John Maher and Peter Salovey in the United States.

In 1990 Maher and Salovey published a paper presenting a framework for emotional intelligence, a set of skills hypothesised to contribute to the accurate appraisal and expression of emotion in oneself and in others, the effective regulation of emotion in self and others, and the use of feelings to motivate and achieve in one’s life [3].

14 years later Mayer and Salovey, with colleague David Caruso, published findings on research into emotional intelligence. They defined ’emotional intelligence’ as ‘the capacity to reason about emotions, and of emotions to enhance thinking’.

It includes the ability to accurately perceive emotions, to access and generate emotions so as to assist thought, to understand emotions and emotional knowledge, and to reflectively regulate emotions to promote emotional and intellectual growth [4].

They proposed a four branch ability model to clarify emotional intelligence: 

Branch one reflects the perception of emotion and involves the capacity to recognise emotions in others’ facial and postural expressions.

Branch two, facilitation, involves the capacity of emotions to assist thinking.

The third branch, the understanding of emotion reflects the capacity to analyse emotions, appreciate their probable trends over time and understand their outcomes.

Branch four reflects the management of emotion which necessarily involves the rest of personality [4].




[1] Allen, J. G. (2006) Mentalizing in Practice. In Allen, J. G. & Fonagy, P. (eds.), Handbook of Mentalization-Based Treatment (p. 10). Chichester: John Wiley & Sons.

[2] Bateman, A. & Fonagy, P. (2006) Mentalization-Based Treatment for Borderline Personality Disorder: A Practical Guide. Oxford: Oxford University Press (p.3).

[3] Salovey, P. & Mayer, J. D. (1990) Emotional Intelligence. Imagination, Cognition, and Personality, 9, 185-211.

[4] Mayer, J. D., Salovey, P. & Caruso, D. R. (2004) Emotional Intelligence: Theory, Findings, and Implications. Psychological Inquiry, 15, 197-215.


(This is an edited excerpt from my book A Lawyer’s Guide to Wellbeing and Managing Stress published by ARK Group in 2015.)

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