The title statement echoes Freud’s celebrated slogan “Where id was, ego shall be!” Neither of these statements is an “either or” proposition. Freud did not propose to replace the id with the ego. It is not even clear what that could possibly mean. The idea is to expand the influence, control, and power of the second term over the first one. The ego expands its power; likewise, with empathy.
As Tolstoy famously noted, all happy families are alike. What Tolstoy did not note was that many happy families are also unhappy ones. Figure that one out! Sherry’s answer to Tolstoy is her memoir about the successes and breakdowns of empathy in her family of origin and her subsequent life.
Testing a person’s decisions and preferences using probabilities, bets, and lotteries is an engaging exercise, and nothing is wrong in doing so. However, unless one also adds empathy to the mixture of economics and logic one misses something essential—the person!
The four phases of empathy – receptivity, understanding, interpretation, and responsiveness- are exemplified in literature in rebroadcast of this Grand Rounds talk from Rush Medical in Oct 2016…
First, these recommendations are about getting back your power—or at least some of your power—in the face of bullying. Sometimes that looks like making a tactical retreat, much as one might dislike doing so, in order to reestablish boundaries and integrity. The idea is to de-escalate the potential confrontation. What de-escalation looks like is different according to the situation.
Since the bullying is a boundary violation, the way to reestablish empathy and order (where “order” means common courtesy) is to reestablish the boundary between persons.
One does not need a philosopher to tell one what empathy is. What then does one need? How about a folktale, a fairy tale, a Märchen? Rather than start with a definition of empathy, my proposal is to start by telling a couple of stories, in which empathy (and its breakdown) plays a crucial role. Both stories are anonymous folktales from the collection edited by the Brothers Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm. The distilled wisdom of the ages accumulated in traditional anonymous narratives will do nicely. Now available to listen on Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/episode/6pCIwUknKqxZwIqau0m1YW
Empathy means being firm but flexible about boundaries. The most empathic people that I know are also the strongest and most assertive regarding respect for boundaries. Being empathic does not mean being a push over. You wouldn’t want to mess with them. Where such people show up, empathy lives—shame and bullying have no place.
Empathy flourishes in a space of acceptance and tolerance. But acceptance and tolerance have their dark side, too. People can be intolerant and unaccepting. Be accepting of what? Be accepting of intolerance? Be tolerant of intolerance? Yes, be tolerant, but… Read More ›