It’s all very confusing – or is it?

I was excited to see that my favourite Saturday columnist, Oliver Burkeman in the Guardian, was this week writing about empathy. Then I was disappointed because he seems to be saying that compassion is more important than empathy. In the Empathy Manual I argue that the most important thing we need is empathic understanding of … Continue reading

Empathy in police-community interaction

We’ve just published a new academic article about talk in a public meeting after a police shooting in Portland, Oregon, in which we examine how metaphors interact with empathy: Ritchie, D. & L. Cameron (2014) Open hearts or smoke and mirrors: Metaphorical framing and frame conflicts in a public meeting. Metaphor & Symbol, 29, 204–223. … Continue reading

Walls that separate

My research found three key ways in which we stop empathy with others: lumping – “They’re all the same.”  Seeing people only as a group and not as complex individuals. distancing – “They are too far away to bother with.” Positioning people as ‘far away’, metaphorically, from ourselves. blocking – “It’s just not possible to … Continue reading

The dark nurturing power of shame

When I read Brené Brown on what shame does to us, I find her describing a dark nurturing of dyspathy: “When we feel shame, we are most likely to protect ourselves by blaming something or someone, rationalizing our lapse, offering a disingenuous apology, or hiding out.” “Shame is much more likely to be the cause … Continue reading

The challenge of empathy: Blocking and lumping

Empathy is stopped by the barriers we put in place between us and other people. Empathy is stopped when we don’t see other people as individuals but as a group, lumped together. We are social beings and need the pleasures, comfort, and security of being in a group. The problem comes when we define ourselves … Continue reading

Empathy gap, in a queue for the loo

Last Sunday it was sunny at last and we went to a festival of art and craft. A lovely day was marred a little by an incident in the queue for the ladies’ toilets. As I went through the entrance, there was a group of women and girls waiting. Some seemed to be waiting for … Continue reading

E – M – P – S Where dyspathy comes from

In an earlier post, I explained “dyspathy” as my term for what stops empathy. Today I describe how I came to that idea. At that time, I was working with a colleague from the city of Portland in the north west state of Oregon. Now, I have visited Portland and it seemed to me like … Continue reading

Dyspathy: a dynamic complement to empathy

                               Understanding of the world of the Other emerges from the interaction of empathy with dyspathy. Ideas of complementarity in human life and thinking occur in various sources familiar to me, beginning from mathematical set theory and including the figure/ground of Gestalt Theory, the shadow in Jungian psychology, relational pairs forming themata in Social Representations … Continue reading


Empathy refers to understanding the Other. The Living with Uncertainty project is developing a multilevel, dynamic and dialogic model of empathy that encompasses the various processes, capacities and phenomena connected with ‘empathy’. The model describes how one person (the Self) can understand another (the Other) through dialogue and interaction: not just the Other’s thoughts and … Continue reading

Why do we feel empathy with non-humans? but not too much

Here’s an interesting article – or at least, an article about an interesting idea – it is rather long and intense: why do we feel empathy with non-humans?  Last summer I went to see “War Horse” in London and was amazed by how the large wooden framed puppets became ‘real’ for the audience very soon … Continue reading