In order to empathize with another person, you have to recognize that he actually exists apart from and without specific reference to you. You must understand that she has a distinct identity and an interior life of her own, with which you might possibly empathize.
While there are some interesting exceptions to this rule, it’s a useful place to start a discussion of why some people can’t empathize, or why their ability to feel empathy is severely restricted. We can look at the spectrum of psychological disorders in terms of ability to recognize and tolerate separateness, then understand the ways that this ability will limit our capacity to feel for other people.
by Joseph Burgo, Ph.D.