Reena’s thoughts on Empathy:
Empathy is generally defined as the ability to place oneself in the other’s shoes and act from that perspective.
I have never done drugs. I do not have the faintest clue on what the addict goes through in the withdrawal phase. I am not the best-placed person to help this person find sobriety. Books and medical theories do tell me something, and so does the addict himself. It is communication that bridges the gap, not empathy.
The best that I could do as a therapist would be to ask strategic questions, which help me see the other perspective. But again, the remedies that I will suggest beyond that point, would be from a therapist’s angle, not that of the patient.
Empathy then, appears to be an expanded version of sympathy, invented by seekers who wished to reach a higher state of being.
‘Feeling one with the universe’ has been accurately reported by very few. The body and mind were always the separators. Saints, then, devised the method of seeing yourself as a minuscule part of a universal energy, and induced a desire to attain oneness. Empathy can therefore, be best described as a goal, that the world is working at. Nobody has yet reached there.
Trent: I think Reena demonstrates some skepticism, but I am a bit more extreme:
Empathy is a subject that I have been passionately arguing against since late 2015. I used to believe that it had value. The more arguments I have had with people that are for it, the more I am convinced it is ego-generated and dangerous.
Empathy creates an illusion that an individual understands and shares the feelings of others. This assumption along with our quick fix mentality makes us believe that we “get it” and would respond similar to that person.
The trouble with this is the assumptions. People vary greatly in context (prior experience and knowledge).
I am working on a book about the myth of empathy, but I recommend Against Empathy by Dr. Paul Bloom in the interim. It’s only one part of the argument, but it’s well researched. The good news for the empathy believers is that he believes it is real, but gives reasons why we shouldn’t use it.
Trent and Reena want to know: What do you think about empathy?
Cover pic source: Flickr Creative commons: John Suler