In empathy one person is quite simply in the presence of another human being. Empathy is supposedly like apple pie and motherhood. What’s not to like?
Yet being empathic can be confronting and anxiety inspiring because one has to dispense with evaluations, filters, diagnostic labels, and egocentrism and be with the other person as a way of being.
Empathy arouses subtle and pervasive resistances. A Rumor of Empathy engages such resistances to overcome them. People are naturally empathic and given half a chance empathy will come forth, but it is inhibited by limited natural endowment, individual deprivations, and organizational conformity. Classic interventions can themselves represent resistances to empathy, such as the unexamined life; over-medication, and the application of devaluing diagnostic labels to expressions of suffering.
Agosta explores how empathy is distinguished as a unified multidimensional clinical engagement, encompassing receptivity, understanding, interpretation and narrative. When all the resistances have been engaged, defenses analyzed, diagnostic categories applied, prescriptions written, and interpretive circles spun out, in empathy one is quite simply in the presence of another human being.