The German poet Rainer Maria Rilke wrote about the unusually high degree of empathy he felt with others, even comparative strangers, describing a "paper-thin" barrier between his soul and those of the people around him. This sensibility both helped and hampered him as an artist, giving him a strong sense of the thoughts and feelings of others, while often denying him the tranquility to write about them.
The stereotypical view of a poet, influenced by figures like Rilke, is that of someone prone to extremes of emotion. It is reasonable to think that this is an approximation of the relationship between empathy and happiness. An intensely selfish person is not likely to be either very happy or intensely unhappy. Even major life changes, such as winning a lottery or losing limbs in an accident are subject to a process known as "hedonic adaptation," which means that they do not, in most cases, have a particularly significant effect on happiness in the long term. A person with little empathy is, therefore, relatively self-sufficient in emotional terms. Those with a great deal of empathy are strongly affected by the feelings of those around them. This means that they experience both happiness and unhappiness with great intensity.