Feeling Empathically Toward Other People and the Self: The Role of Perspective Shifting in Emotion Sharing and Self-Reassurance

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Feeling one’s own emotions empathically when negative thoughts about the self arise, a defining element of self-reassurance, promotes resilience to prolonged emotional reactivity. We propose that feeling empathically toward the self is accomplished by first stepping into the shoes of an objectified, undesired self-aspect, after which the process of perspective shifting should be completed by reengaging the self to experience the moment in the first person. We hypothesize that the resumption of the egocentric perspective in perspective shifting, a cognitive characteristic of sharing other people’s emotions, is crucial for self-reassurance as well. The relationships among flexibility in perspective shifting, self-reassurance, and emotion sharing were examined in community participants. Our results show that quickly switching back to a visuospatial egocentric perspective after adopting an opposing perspective relates to self-reassurance and emotion sharing. We conclude that both reassuring the self and empathizing with other people involve flexibility in perspective shifting.