The Healing Properties of Empathy in the Context of the Self

In this blog post (and the related article (draft)), the argument is that empathy is the matrix out of which the self emerges. In this conversation, empathy is positioned as an on-going process of distinguishing, sustaining, and strengthening the structure of the self. Paradoxically, the structure of the self is distinguished, sustained, and maintained through failures of empathy. These failures of empathy occur within a context of successful empathy that lays down and builds psychic structure in the self. This structure enables the individual to deal with the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, as setbacks, breakdowns, defeats as well as accomplishments inevitably arise in the course of life. The self is to the function of integration exactly as the coral reef is to the micro organisms that live and die there. The self is the beautiful, multi-colored grave yard of skeletal remains of processes that have produced results, sedimented, and accreted in a boot strap operation of coping with the physical environment and context of human interrelations. Another word for “self” is “character,” though some conditions and qualifications need to be added. Accomplishments in the direction of excellence produce character. Character is what remains after experiences have been processed (or not processed) and left behind in an on-going living into the future by the eruption of spontaneity. The self function is a center of spontaneity, possibly emergent in large-brained organisms. The self function is the spontaneous intentionality of generating possibilities, synthesizing the manifold of experience, constituting content as meaningful, integrating the on-going stream of lived temporal unfolding, and laying down a network of experiences that provide a multilayered sediment of experience. This sedimentation (context of associations of experience) provides the structure required to support and implement vicarious experience – enabling one individual (self) to experience emotions with, in, and through the other individual. Note a subsection of this material – in particular the discussion of the self by Thomas Metzinger – has been submited exclusively to a journal for its exclusive consideration. See the detailed discussion: CHEmpathyandSelf20081212

Categories: Empathy, Hermeneutics, Philosophy, Self

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