The Withinness: Empathy stems from the embodiment of the whole as self

Empathy stems from the embodiment of the whole as self


Empathy is the therapist’s allowing himself to be used as part of the patient’s self. It is an affect with that precognitive nature. Empathy is defined as a mode of observation that attempts to capture the subject’s inner life. It requires the observer to draw out of him- or herself a state of experience that approximates that of the other. Such assessments allow the therapist to find the answer to fundamental questions, such as What is the patient experiencing? and Where are these reactions coming from?


Under these therapeutic circumstances, what the therapist empathically finds out may be true transexperientially, but first he or she must be able to answer even more basic questions, such as What am I experiencing, and Where are these feelings coming from? “Embryonic features of the same emotional problems with which the patient is struggling are present in the therapist,” says A. Storr, if he could tune in himself.


In short, first one has to empathize with oneself. R. D. Laing said, “Each person, not being himself either to himself or the other, just as the other is not himself to himself or to us, … in being another for another neither recognizes himself in other, not the other in himself.”


by T. Byram Karasu, M.D.