Understanding empathy and related phenomena
Journal/Book: Amer J Psychother. 1999; 53: Belfer Educ Center, Room 402 Albert Einstein Coll Med 1300 Morris Park Ave, Bronx, NY 10461-1602, USA. Assn Advan Psychotherapy. 232-245.
Abstract: Over a period of time, the author arrived at a few tentative postulates concerning empathy and related processes based on some of his experiences and observations. The central theme of these postulates is, firstly, that interpersonal interaction is an interaction of the personal-space fields. Secondly, empathy, therapeutic benefit, and the professional stress are all related to the same process of interpersonal interaction. This interaction takes place as an enmeshment of personal spaces oft he interacting individuals, and involves transfer of a wide range of information in the affective, cognitive, and other areas. This is because the personal spaces have fieldlike qualities analogous to what Kurt Lewin described. Thus, such phenomena as empathy, therapeutic benefit, professional stress are all consequences of the same process. It is possible to substantiate these postulates by diverse evidences in the published literature. The natural consequences of such an interpersonal interaction ave empathic understanding transfer of mood states (like hope, distress or expectancy), affective states (like anxiety, sadness, anger or hostility), ideas, images and even attitudes and values, etc. This phenomenon of transfer can explain such processes as therapeutic benefit in individual and group settings, professional stress, shared delusions, and even experimenter bins. Whether one becomes aware of such transferred information or not depends upon the intent and sensitivity of the participants.
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