General Question

Trance24's avatar

Is it possible to feel what another person is feeling?

Asked by Trance24 (3311points) December 28th, 2007

In the scence that you are physically feeling another persons emotions.

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7 Answers

Perchik's avatar

I’m not quite sure what you’re asking here. If you’re asking “Is there some kind of machine that will let me feel exactly what another person is feeling?” then your answer is no. If you’re talking about the more abstract “Bob says he is sad, how can I feel that sadness?” then I think the answer to that is a bit more complex.

Assuming that’s the question, I’d say no. You can be told exactly why Bob is sad, he can describe his feelings, but unless you somehow are Bob, and have experienced everything he has in his life, you can’t fully grasp why Bob is sad, and how that actually feels.

If you’re asking a more physical question of “Bob says his hand is hot, Is there a way for me to experience that feeling in my hand?” then I’d answer I don’t know. I’m sure there’s been research put into artificial nerve stimulation. (if not research, I know it’s been thought about in SciFi genres.) I don’t know if they’ve been able to say something like “this one nerve makes your brain think your hand is hot, so if we stimulate it in this way, your hand will feel hot, even though it’s cold” My guess would be that the technology to do this is a few years off.

Maybe you’re asking if there’s a way to translate Bob’s nervous system reactions into your own, and I’d assume that that’s a couple decades off.

bob's avatar

I’m OK! I mean, sometimes, I get sad—like everyone—but I have people who can understand what I’m feeling, and that helps. Thanks for worrying, Perchik.

But my hand is hot.

gcross's avatar

@perchik: very astute answer:)

@bob: rofl&cgu!

Have you ever seen the movie, Fame? I don’t know how realistic and accurate it is, but it suggests that acting students are taught how to portray certain emotions both by pretend and by relating the emotion/experience to a like experience in their own backgrounds. Tootsie, with Dustin Hoffman, also had students learning how to act, as Dustin, in his non-Tootsie persona, was either an actor or attempting to become an actor (I forgot which).

Role-playing gamers try to do the same thing. So do couples and groups undergoing therapy.

The closest we can get, at this time, to understand the emotions another individual is experiencing is by either remembering a similar incidence in our own past or by trying to imagine ourselves in their circumstances. It’s not a perfect thing, but it is the best we have at this time.

This is why people watch so much television and why we read so much fiction. We ourselves cannot hope to experience every possible event that humankind can endure. So we read about it and watch reality shows and make-believe in part to help us see how others might endure those experiences and to try to picture ourselves in them as well.

If this is an individual with whom you are interacting, and s/he is experiencing something you wish to understand better, it helps to ask them to express their feelings to you. Instead of trying to tell them what they should do about it, just listen. Be a good listener, help them get it “off their chests”, ask them leading questions to help them come up with their own answers, rather than make suggestions or recommendations. Instead of using any “in your shoes I would…” kind of remarks, try using “what do you feel/think/believe would help you…?”

And finally, don’t forget the “how can I best help you to (improve/get-over-this/comprehend/endure/cope/fill in the blank)....?”

panspermia's avatar

when someone has a either stomachache or pain i feel uncomfortable…but if you ask me physically what i feel, i sometimes cry when people vulnerable

gailcalled's avatar

Off-topic: What does cgu stand for?

ironhiway's avatar

Feelings are a response to somthing physical or emotional based on that persons development and personality. You can have some empathy for those going through simalar or exact circumstances or through intensive study and probabilities, but no one can feel what exactly someone else is feeling, because of all the variables.

gcross's avatar


Rolling on the floor laughing and can’t get up:)

And a bonus!
Been there,
Done that,
Got the T-shirt,

Need another closet! :)

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