Entry points for empathy

Empathy is an ‘entering into’ the life world of another person, said the Russian scholar Mikhail Bakhtin.

Sometimes that entering into is easy. If the other person is someone we know well or someone we love, we have many entry points into their world and multiple experiences that help us understand their feelings and emotions.

Sometimes empathy forces itself on us, pushing us into the other’s life world. As when I sat face to face with a group of young men and listened to their leader speaking of the friends and brothers they had lost in inter-communal violence. At one moment, the young men stopped being unfamiliar, strangers, and all I could see in front of me were faces like those of my own sons.

But sometimes we are reluctant to enter into another’s world; dyspathy blocks the way. The other person may have done something terrible, may hold views that we despise, may be so different that no connection seems possible. Then empathy requires commitment, choice, and support. We have to find ways to cope with the difficulties, to put the dyspathy on hold, and allow entry points to reveal themselves.

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  1. […] the empathy blog, Lynne Cameron talks about entry points for empathy. I like the idea of needing to find an entry […]

  2. […] the empathy blog, Lynne Cameron talks about entry points for empathy. I like the idea of needing to find an entry […]



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