Empathy trends: My score for last year’s (2016) top ten list of trends

This is the score for my trends from last year (2016). I ascribe “thumbs up” or “thumbs down.” A “thumbs down” means that while the trend might still get traction at some point in the future, it has not really taken off. In some cases I add the qualified “dreamimageofclipboard on” to indicate a really remote possibility. Who knows what tomorrow may bring; and, in this particular case, I did not! Not to make excuses; but … brain storming and thinking outside the box are not for the faint of heart. Good news – the better part of my bonus is tied to being engaging and provocative, not to being right. Still, being right does have its uses, and I am working on it. Stand by. For those who want to reread the original post here it is [http://tinyurl.com/hvzjyju]. This is the summary:

(10) Brain science and neurotransmitters become what they already are – metaphors– but what makes the metaphor work is – you guessed it – empathy. Thumbs down. Debunking is ongoing but lacks a critical mass. For example, the see The Myth of Mirror Neurons by G. Hikok and my own video glossary of distinctions needed to debunk neurocentrim (https://youtu.be/bdZo5EaweJc)

(9) This is an election year [2016]; expect empathy as spin (and as a method of manipulation) to be in evidence. Thumbs down. Near zero evidence of empathy from either candidate – possibly part of the problem. And the real winner is whoever can be the biggest bully or the biggest victim. The recommendation: In the face of bullying, empathy sets limits, sets boundaries, is assertive about denouncing boundary violations and reestablishing firm limits.

(8) Empathy is distinguished from compassion – and defined. Thumbs down. Hamid Zaki commits the blooper of the day by identifying compassion and empathy in his New York Times debut [http://tinyurl.com/gwmfpxp]. Painful – though, as we are learning, there is no such thing as bad publicity. Keep ‘em talking!?

(7) Empathy and Jihad – read the details. Thumbs down. No sign of using empathy to get inside the heads of the suicide bombers – whether to stop them dead or to stop them and rescue them from themselves – we suspect the Israelis are doing it, but they are not saying much and it seems not to be working very well.

(6) Long shot: historical empathy will transform the gun debate. Thumbs down. Dream on. To quote John Lennon in a moment of deep cynicism and resignation: “Bang, bang, shoot, shoot … happiness is a warm gun.”

(5) Empathy is oxygen for the soul – and how to use this as a litmus test. Thumbs down. Personally, I will keep banging the drum. Needs to be made more specific and actionable. If one is short of breath due to life stress, perhaps one’s soul needs the expanded empathy that will enable it to breath easier. This year [2017] I will be checking for peer-reviewed, evidence-based research publications that operationalize empathy and related inflammation reducing interventions (and reporting on them).

(4) The empathy gap widens – between mental health professionals and clients seeking treatment. Thumbs up. Unfortunately, this is a negative trend so that going forward it is not a source of satisfaction, but of cynicism. The story teller Isaac Bashevis Singer (1902 – 1991 – Nobel prize in literature 1978) is supposed to have said: “If you are a pessimist, you have a good chance of being a prophet.” A lesson for me?

(3) Let them eat cake (again) – especially when it comes to insurance reimbursements for “behavioral health.”  Thumbs up. Same idea as above.

(2) Yet empathy lives – and what that means. Tough call here since it is so vague; but I am going to give myself a break and say “Thumbs up.” This is already such a route that I have already demonstrated I have overcome my attachment to “being right.”

(1) “No wi-fi: Talk to one another.” Thumbs down. Dream on.

Final score: 30% thumbs up. The bottom line – and this is not a recommendation: I could improve my score by being less optimistic. Stand by for this year’s [2017] trends.

(c) Lou Agosta, PhD, and the Chicago Empathy Project




Categories: brain science, Empathy, empathy psychotherapy, historical empathy, mirror neurons, narrative empathy, Neurology, psychotherapy, resistance to empathy, talk therapy, Yiddish Mafia

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