In addition to mastering the unknown through its depiction, the “pay off” is to confront images of the fragmentation of the self, annihilation of the self, and loss of control of the self’s boundaries. That is perhaps why audiences are strangely attracted to horror films. They give a specific form to our most primitive fears, binding these deep fears to a specific something that can be objectified and can be overcome by the cinematic equivalent of the “cavalry to the rescue” or even by counter magic. It should be noted that people run from the theatre if they believe their lives are really in danger; but the views stay in their seats, having actually paid money to be frightened vicariously by the experience of watching a horror film.
This work aims to be educational in a brain-storming way about the role of empathy in the community and the market for empathy services. Hanna Holborn Gray has said that “education should not be intended to make people comfortable, it is meant to make them think.” I hereby also add: The intention of education is to expand one’s empathy. Amazingly enough that is not as comfortable as many people might imagine, which brings up to the first trend – resistance to empathy.
the word itself in English “empathy” was not invented until a Cornell University psychologist, Edward Bradford Titchner, was translating (1895) one of the innovators who are credited with founding psychology as a science, namely, Wilhelm Wundt – and Titchener invented the word “empathy” to translate the German “Einfühlung”.
Virtual reality (VR) is coming to psychotherapy. The one thing that immediately occurred to me: Psychotherapy invokes a virtual reality all its own – even without goggles. This is especially the case with dynamic psychotherapy that activates forms of transference in which one relates to the therapist “as if” therapists in conversations that have aspects of a past or future person or reality.
When one experiences the lack of empathy as a boundary issue or even a boundary violation, including a dignity violation, then the response is narcissistic rage in an attempt to get back one’s own and re-establish the boundary. I suggest this is a primitive, primary process response that is rarely well thought out or even all that adaptive – except perhaps in a context of self-defense against an immediate danger – but it is a common response. This does not jive with the average everyday understanding of empathy but it is the heart of the matter: wherever there is empathy – can narcissistic rage be far behind?
Surveys show that most people think that empathy is compassion. The world certainly needs more compassion, but it is not synonymous with empathy. Empathy tells you what the other person is experiencing as a vicarious experience, and not an identification; compassion (and ethics) tells you what to do about it. Empathy is oxygen for the soul. If one is feeling short of breath at the end of the school year or business cycle, it is possible that they are in need of expanded empathy.