Cancer: Deep Empathy

June 18, 2020
Reading time: 4 minutes


This week, we leave behind the fast-paced energy of Gemini and welcome the New Moon of Cancer. We’ll trade heady conversations for deep emotional expression. We’ll move from the realm of thoughts and ideas, facts and logic, and into the realm of feelings. We move from the head to the heart. 

This transition couldn’t be more perfectly timed. 

Those born under the sign of Cancer are solid, grounded, and deeply nurturing, but beneath their competent outer shell lies a sweet, tender, and intuitive being. Cancers are known for being the most emotional of all the astrological signs; they need a lot of love, security, and reassurance. On the flip side, they are equally tenacious, fight for their loved ones, and place a high value on family. Simply put, this month is all about emotions, how we care for others, and what we desire for ourselves and those we love. 

Cancers want to care for everyone. But be mindful that, as we seek to care and fight for others, we don’t lose ourselves in the process. This month, we are invited to feel all of our feelings. To create a nurturing, loving space for everything we feel.

As we make room for our feelings instead of pushing them away, we become vessels of love for others because we’re able to be empathetic to those around us. If we are unable to acknowledge and honor our feelings, we will never be able to do so for others effectively. This is part of what it means to have empathy. 

Many of us consider ourselves to be genuinely empathetic people. However, it is likely that we unconsciously only offer this gift when it is convenient, when we want to, and when it feels positive.

But what about when it’s hard? 

The subject of empathy is more layered than we may realize. Psychologists distinguish between three types of empathy: emotional, cognitive, and compassionate. Not all forms of empathy are the same, and understanding these nuances can help us be even more supportive to those around us. 

Cognitive Empathy

This first type of empathy is the ability to understand how someone feels or how they are going to feel without actually feeling their emotions. Putting ourselves in someone else’s shoes helps us communicate with them so that they can receive and understand us best. For example, if your friend calls to share that they just lost a loved one, you won’t communicate with them as though everything is fine. You will show cognitive empathy by softening your voice, listening instead of talking, and asking how they feel.

Emotional Empathy

Emotional empathy builds upon cognitive empathy. Not only are you taking on the perspective of the other person, but you can feel their emotional experience as well. Using the example above, while speaking to your friend who just lost their loved one, you won’t just understand their distress; you’ll feel it as though it is your own. You will imagine the pain of losing someone you love and, in so doing, will share the experience with your friend in a more profound way.

Compassionate Empathy

This third form of empathy combines the first two and puts it all into action. Through an intellectual and emotional understanding of others’ pain, we are moved to help in any way that we can. Because we understand our friend’s pain, and we can feel it ourselves, we are inspired to care for them in action. We might cook them a meal, offer to help with any pressing arrangements, or provide childcare if they need time alone.

All three forms of empathy help us to care for the people we love effectively. But they also help us to be more empathetic toward ourselves. We understand our emotions better, we can feel our emotions without judgment, and then take action to care for ourselves. Empathy becomes a circuitous process; the more we give, the more we receive. Being empathetic to ourselves helps us to offer empathy to others in greater and more significant ways. This practice of empathy will be available for all of us this month. Rethink moment: Here are some gentle questions to get you started:

If you are unable to be with your own painful emotions, how will you be able to be there for others?  

Can you listen to another’s experience without offering your experience and without needing to fix it or make it right?

Can you hear without offering your opinion?

Can you offer compassion and empathy to those who have lived a very different experience than you? Or those who disagree with you?

When listening to the pain of another, can you allow your feelings of distress without making them responsible for that distress?

These are all questions we can examine and explore this month. Negative emotions such as fear, shame, and judgment can limit our ability to grow spiritually—especially when we resist them. When we listen to the messages that our negative emotions are bringing to us, steps can be taken to change our lives and our emotional state. In this way, we all have the ability to take control of our emotions. Feel your feelings and make the changes that they are guiding you to make.

But there is a caveat: Emotions are signals to us. Our feelings are data, not facts. We can honor them and examine them without making them “facts” because our emotions are biased.

By doing so, you are healing yourself, and you are also becoming a healing force of real empathy for others.


  1. This was a good article. Very important to honor our emotions. Very thought provoking for me. Will work with this information! Love it. Thank you.

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