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Victims' Symptom : glossary:empathy
 
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Empathy

An individual's objective and insightful awareness of the feelings and behaviour of another person. It should be distinguished from sympathy, which is usually nonobjective and noncritical. It includes caring, which is the demonstration of an awareness of and a concern for the good of others. The imaginative projection of a subjective state into an object so that the object appears to be infused with it. The action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner (Greenson, 1960; Rothenberg, 1990). Empathy may be described as the ability to “put oneself into another's shoes”, or as a sort of emotional resonance. Heinz Kohut introduced this term in psychoanalysis (Kohut, 1984). Some individuals do not have the ability to perceive the emotions of others (e.g. persons with autistic disorder). On the other hand, people with personality disorders can demonstrate empathy for others in a way that they are superficially charming, but usually use this ability to manipulate others since they lack sympathy or compassion for others. Such lack of empathy may be seen in sadismMuch of the behaviour is complementary to that of masochists; the difference is that sadists are the perpetrators rather than the recipients ... (Morrison, 1995).

(T.J.)

References:

  • Rothenberg RE. The new American medical dictionary and health manual. Sixth edition. Signet book, 1990.
  • Kohut H. How does analysis cure?. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1984: (p. 82).
  • Greenson RR. Empathy and its vicissitudes. International Journal of Psychoanalysis, 1960. 41, 418-424
  • Morrison J. DSM-IV Made Easy. New York, The Guilford Press, 1995.:474.

See also:

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