In American culture, empathy is like a drug. How we feel about anything has become more important than how we think about something. Elevating the importance of one’s feelings allows us to justify whatever we do and frees us from accepting responsibility for our actions, but doesn’t allow us to make progress on our most pressing problems.
Here’s an example from my work:
Jan called, and said her friend referred her to me. In her voicemail Jan mentioned her friend suggested I might be able to help her with a few problems she was having at work. I had been a therapist for about ten years and had gotten many calls like this one. But as I listened to her voice mail something made me think there was more to the story.
In our first session Jan told me how much I had helped her friend and that her friend had told her I was a very understanding and caring person. Generally when I am being flattered before someone has had any experience working with me I become cautious. Jan had already seen several other therapists but not surprisingly they hadn’t really helped much. One thing I know for sure is that I am not a lot smarter than every other therapist! [Read more…]