Hi, it's Edwin Rutsch, Director of the Center for building a culture of empathy. And today I'm here with Arthur Clarke. Thanks for joining me, Arthur, for this discussion. Thank you very much for having me. My pleasure. Well, let me give a little bit of a background, that you're emeritus professor at St. Lawrence University in Canton, New York, and you're a professor of, and coordinator of the counseling and Human Development Program, and a very prolific author, I think, five books or so and two of them are right here, let me get him up. One is this, this is an older one, from 2007, empathy in counseling and psychotherapy practice its perspectives and practice. And this one is just out, I believe, empathy and mental health. And that's an integral model for developing therapeutic skills and counseling and psychotherapy. So really, really a pleasure to be able to talk to you because you, you've thought a lot about the empathy as well as early memories, is there more you'd like to say just by way of introduction about yourself,
I now live on Cape Cod, in Massachusetts, and get to go swimming most days and a great summer. So things are going very well in my life. And I do spend time with empathy. One thing with empathy. If you say you know something about it, people expect you to be empathic all the time. So that can be a challenge.
Yeah. And they're always judging you for not being empathic that you're writing about empathy, but you're not in passing
know what's going on here. Good,
yeah, great, well, so you're retired, you're enjoying life and getting out on the on the water. And you've, you've thought a lot about empathy, you know, having written on besides these two books, you have numerous you know, papers, as well, as I saw, you know, numerous articles on Psychology Today, you know, about empathy. And so, so we just, you know, talk about your, you know, interest in empathy. So the model you have of empathy, how that model came about, and kind of go into the, into the depths of it, I have my own model to maybe at some point, we can sort of compare and contrast those, but maybe just start with how you got into, you know, creating this model into the, into the interest in empathy.
Sure, maybe it'd be good if I started with the 2007 book that has pictures of my children on it when they were young, and my mother in law. And at that time, I was interested more from a theoretical point of view, different theories, and Carl Rogers was prominent in is prominent in the field. And it seemed as though he had pretty much all that could be said about it. And as I read, materials, that seemed to be the case. But then, with further readings and investigation, I found who were more far more individuals that really deserve credit, for giving focus to empathy, particularly in therapeutic contexts, and in everyday life. So that featured the text 13 theories. Well, time went on, read more on empathy, and practiced, and I was teaching at the time, our graduate students, and I thought, and teaching, usually there was a skills focus. So I would talk about empathy and its value, and we would all agree, it makes sense. It's important. And that was what the literature said. But it seemed as though empathy was focusing on one skill, as a counselor or a therapist, which was reflection, reflection of feelings. So you might be saying, I see your books behind you and say, You lean over and you drop four or five of them on the floor. You just happen to do that. So I said to oh, that's, you know, that's so upsetting to you. And you said, and that that could be a reflection of feeling. And so, the literature to seem to be limited, not always, but many cases, to that technique of reflection of feeling. But then I read further as I do, and further experience So, knowing that, you know, empathy, if you think what it is, I think understanding a person or trying to striving to, and a building a relationship. And if you can do that, usually you can interact with them fairly effectively, using different things that you may say, as I said to you, you drop the book, but then I know you're a little bit and I say, oh, that happens. And I do that too, sometimes. And we move on. But so I, I thought, let's look at techniques that beyond reflection, and that's what the book took me toward. And I ended up with 14 techniques. And I call them stage skills. And then there were 14 strategic skills. So 28, in all, are in the book. Direction. Yeah.
So what I'm hearing there is Carl Rogers did active listening and passive listening in the therapeutic, and you're sort of looking in deeper, you're saying, oh, there's a lot more to empathy than just this act of listening. And so you got, do you want to go through some of those at the
Sure. Okay, let's say, one that comes up, called confrontation. And we can do this, talking about this therapeutically. And it also can work in everyday life to confrontation is usually you're doing something that's kind of self defeating, not in your best interest, but you're contradicting yourself. So let's, I'll jump into the book idea. So you say, I've been meaning to clean up those books for a long time, now, I gotta sort them out. And then you tell me that, and a couple of weeks later, I visit you, and you haven't done anything with it. So I say to you, and this is when it's not helpful. You know, you haven't done anything with the books, you know, I think that you need to get going on it.
Okay to you're telling me what to do here to
Yeah, so that's not empathic. However, an empathic statement, and I'm still trying to understand your frame of reference. I may say, you know, you've been pretty busy recently, you have a lot to do that's quite important. And maybe the books is something to you. That's kind of on the backburner, and you'll get to it in time, perhaps in the winter. See the difference between the two? But the first one, I made no effort to understand you.
Yeah, you're just telling me what to do. And the second one, you're sort of putting it in the context, like in the CLI, I didn't do it, and, and trying to understand why I didn't do it. So the motivation, the reasoning behind it,
reasoning behind it. So with a each skill. And here's the challenge, throughout the therapeutic process, always stay empathic. An attitude is that as Rogers talked about, so it doesn't start and then stop. You see, if you didn't you seem empathic and understanding, but then you start changing, and you seem to get directive or imposing, demanding or whatever is the case, you've lost your empathy. I think the point I'm trying to make in the most recent book was, you never leave it? Because how could you leave it? If you're always trying to understand a person? And you're always trying to keep a relationship with them? That's positive? If that makes sense?
Yeah. It's, it's like you don't give a little bit of empathy, then you start directing people or start detaching or doing a whole lot of other things that are not empathic. So I'm hearing there that you just kind of keep an empathic state of being or, which is actually I'll just plug, you know, the model I'm using for empathy is, like you I'm very influenced by Rogers, you know, building on Rogers work. He had he had called him and said, Hey, write a paper called empathic and unappreciated way of being, which I think is one of those really excellent papers. And it's that way of being so I even take a little bit farther and say that as a human being, we want to hold and maintain or nurture that empathic way of being where we're sort of, relating and passively of the world on an ongoing basis, and also it being mutual and then working towards a culture of empathy, which is create a culture that has that empathic way of being. So I think you're, you're kind of moving sort of in that direction by saying it's just not a one time, little bit of empathy here, but you're kind of expanding the being this sort of the ongoing nature of empathy.
Yes. Which I think you have probably found this too. And this got me really going in terms of trying to understand what empathy is reviewing the literature, there is a ton a proliferation of definitions. There's no consensus. And you can ask anyone what it is, and you'll get a different answer. So that becomes a problem. Particularly if you're trying to say how to do it. Because you could say, well walk in my person shoes or pick up on their feelings. But those 10 that tends to be vague. Yeah, I bet it's commonly used. So there was little research on what is empathy, what it but it's emerging, it's developing. So I thought, I tried to come up with a definition, gave it a lot of thought, because you have to go beyond what is failing, narrow, unrestricted views of the conceptualizing empathy. Rogers helped. He wrote an article in 1964. And it was in a book on behaviors of phenomenology. And so he said this, empathy is interpersonal. You and I are talking now, art could be a group of people. And we try to understand and appreciate each other, listening and that, so, but that's well known, that's accepted. It most would agree that's what empathy is. However, he also said, there's a subjective empathy. Subjective he talked about in his article, that would be things like a personal taste of food, or a view you have of a person, but it's personal. And he felt at the time, and he was consistent through with writings do not go into the subjective view, keep yourself out of the equation. Meaning that if you do veer into your own views, that can be biased and narrow, and they can also be outside of that they are outside of the client, or the person's frame of reference. Okay, he said that, so I'm not so sure about that. Because it seems that I'm not sure how you can keep yourself out of it. For example, when I said you had reached over and knocked over the books, okay, people listening or viewing, likely imagine the books toppling down. Or they could picture them in their mind. And they can also identify with you and so knocking the books over and you talk about the books, you'd say you did it earlier, we can you have a subjective view. So I can understand, I can't help but feel along with you, and identify with whatever this problem might be. And it could be a joyful experience, because I'm human, and I connect with that. So the subjective view is new that in, but I also found in the literature support for this. So that notion then becomes part of the definition of the but it's often overlooked.
When you think when you're saying subjective, do you mean like you're listening to me your, you know, you know, maybe you're doing reflection, or I take an action you could say, Oh, I see your you've dropped a book and a movie you see I'm like, frustrated, right? And I'm hearing you're frustrated, or I could have dropped in said yay, great. And you would have been like, Oh, I see you dropped a book and you know, I'm understanding you're joyful about it. So that's the sort of the interpersonal sensing into me My experience is that
it but it's, it's me. It's it's your experience, but I'm feeling it, or I'm identifying with it are viewing a picture. And again, in my mind, this could probably work better if we had a story we can come to that under early recollections. I think we can review this, maybe through one of your early memories. But so I'm listening to you and you're talking about your life. What? When did you say something to me?
Really memory? Yeah, so sure.
Oh, I'm sorry, I didn't know if we should get jump into that just yet. Okay, whenever you tell me something, some thing you happen, that was a good deal or not so good. But you have to describe it to me, let's get away from the books you just talked about something had happened a few days ago, or it could happen in the future, whatever is the case, something that you can tell me, and it might even be distressing to you. Or it could be something that's a relief for that.
Yeah, so it's something kind of current though, I'm growing some tomatoes out in the front yard. And, you know, those are the only things I'm really growing. So it's kind of nice to you know, get out of the office, go look at the tomatoes, see if the ripening, you know, checking them I put a lot of mulch down. So they have their well covered, you know, and there's also a lot of compost that I put on gotten some compost from the local community composting center. And, and I picked them and I don't, I It's a lot of fun to do this to grow them. But I'm, they're not the best tasting tomatoes. And yeah, and I did plant them a little late. So it's a little bit late, you know that they're kind of ripening kind of late in the seasoning season. But anyway, I just like going out watering, something just to get me out of the house a little bit to have some kind of an activity to do. So I enjoy that.
That's just right. So what I'll do is talk about my experience, but this would be for someone, not just me, anyone viewing this. And this is a subjective. Now I'm not just listening to your words, I'm feeling it. So when you said you kalana the, the tomatoes, I pictured you on your knees, digging a hole, and putting these little plants in, then I pictured you with some mulch around here. And that. And I could identify with that. I did that a few years ago, myself, I don't have to fully identify but momentarily identify with that. And I didn't have very much access, either. That didn't come out at all. But then when you talked about the tape I.
App your videos frozen. Morning. We just had a little technical glitch, you know, we're just sharing your experience with with planting divinity imagining me planting and then remembering your experience of your tomatoes not working out. So well. was the last thing I heard.
That's right. And so then I could taste a little bit. And it almost tasted a little acid. It wasn't as sweet as I felt. But I had that was all within me a bit almost an intuitive sense to that it's going to be okay, the tone you had with your discussion, that it wasn't going to be catastrophic. And as it turned out, but you did well with it. That would be an example of subjective and if a person can be okay, and think about, you can imagine the story. You can't help yourself by imagining it when a person describes it. But typically what happens if you use your head? You just kind of listen to the words. Instead does this resource that we have subjectively If we are receptive to allowing it to kind of resonate within ourselves, and so unleash your kind of imagination or your identification, or your sometimes you can feel it, I can, I can have an embodied sense within me what it's like, particularly if it's profound in some way, in that, so that's a subjective view.
Okay, well, let me reflect that. Yes. So I could be, you know, sharing the stories of the tomatoes, you know, planting them. And you could be doing reflective listening, just reflecting what you're hearing me say. But there's another component of what's going on in you while you're doing the listening. And you're being impacted by that you're imagining planting, you had planted tomatoes, before, you were sort of identifying with it, you were, you could sort of feel the different aspects, your whole body is sort of involved in the imagination, and the listening of that, and, and you're calling that subjective of the person, you know, what's going on in them is the subjective quality. But if but if you were listening to me, like I know, I shared about my tomatoes, and then instead of saying, Oh, I hear you, you know, planted these tomatoes, you're feeling a little frustrated, maybe that they're not growing as well as you want. But you're sort of satisfied, that's okay, you're enjoying the, you're enjoying the, the process of dealing with plants. And so that would have been staying present with me and listening to me. And you could be having all those subjective thoughts going on behind the scene. But if you were to say, you're listening to me, but you were to say, Oh, I that reminds me of when I planted tomatoes, and then the tomatoes didn't work out very well, and that kind of stuff so that you're experiencing, that you're having those experiences, it's not like you're get sharing them back with in that case, necessarily. It
isn't it isn't. Because there's an objective empathy we'll talk about in a bit. But so for now, no, I want to hear your story. I don't want to tell you about, oh, my, it did occur to me, it can't help it, that I had my tomatoes, but not now. Not before we listen to your story. And typically, that can happen with the empathy that a person brings their own material in, oh, that happened to me too, sometimes, even before you finish your story about the tomatoes, all of a sudden, and then they talk about their tomatoes for 10 minutes. So losing you. So to stay with the person for that period of time. You're honoring them, in a way, but you're also resonating, and it's much more lively, engaged way to allow empathy to be experienced? Because I'm, in fact, for a period of time, I am you if that makes sense. Because I'm, I'm right along with your story. But what happens? Is it the people that total won't be empathic, but that's not enough. You have to know what is the ingredients of empathy, other components. That's why these subjective empathy kind of makes sense. And by the way, this isn't a lot of literature to this
morning is or is not, it is how it is
to bring that in my most my new book. So the subjective in that, that in to support it. Because it doesn't do very much good if there's a model out there. And there's no literature, that classic literature, current material that is accessible, so that others can tune into it or read it to be familiar with it. So that that becomes a subjective.
Okay. Now, you're listening to me, but you have this other you know, feelings, thoughts, imaginations coming up in you while you're listening to me, but you're still staying present with me and continue to listen, that's fine with me.
That's another word would be resonating.
I'm resonating. Yeah. Now,
that may sound well, it's really hard to do. I have to talk to you and all of this and do all this imagining and identifying. But I think It kind of happens anyway, you can't help if you're talking about something to imagine it or identify. So, but there's also a training, say a person doesn't do as well with that, I think this can be trained. And that, again, is supported in the literature, train yourself with imagination, or even allow yourself to know, that's what it is, you know, to allow that enrich the person's story through that. So that you have that.
So can I just, when you're saying, Yeah, where's the imagination, you as the listener in this scenario, are the are the listener, and you're imagining things are the and they're, you're saying that your imagination could be deepened. And their skill, it's a train that you could do some training of your imagination to be more imaginative, or,
or even, to endorse it as a possibility. Because it may not be familiar to a person that's trying to be empathic. That part of that is your imagination, that you know, because it's not the connection may not be may or may not be familiar with that. So to allow that, and identification, one problem with the identification is particularly therapeutically, you may over identify. And so say a person is in therapy, counseling, and they have issues or difficult, challenging hardships. And it can become burdensome to an individual, or even further trauma. So you're trying to be empathic and you identify with their experience and that are painful. But if you stay too long with it, excessive identifying, so that you're, it then becomes one of stress, and ultimately burnout, because it's too much you can leave it. So what is necessary. And here's where Rogers also spoke in the 1964, article, objective empathy. And he said, objective is reputable sources of knowledge. It's a experience that a person has, and they build us up. And it's a way of looking at data, and then using it. That's objective, and that's in the scientific community, this is how things are done, empirically. Now, at the time, he also said, This is not empathy. Empathy is not being detached and kind of remote and looking at information data. That's awesome. That's not empathy. And so he rejected it. Because he said, it's you're objectifying a person when you do this, for example, the DSM, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, American Psychiatric, big manual in terms of various disorders, he would reject that. He wouldn't make sense of it, all that data. Because if you look at it, you're not being you're not connecting with a person, if anything, you're building up expectation, and a bias toward them to behave in a certain way. And it's a very narrow way of doing that. So but now, here is where I differ from Rogers again, by the way, it's rather humbling to think about differing from Rogers, I always thought that he was the ultimate person to bring to talk about empathy. But, you know, it's been a long, many decades, that he died in the early 80s. But not only that, he had a point of view that we can build on, and we can go and grow from, but the objective of empathy is, if you're talking about something on an everyday basis, then I can connect with my experience much the same way of identifying that, but also through my life experiences, but when you take it into a therapeutic context, there are theories and knowledge, that is well substantiated documented, that I can use to make sense of you to understand you, for example, a defense mechanisms such as denial, Say a person has an issue with substance abuse. And then they deny their misuse or abuse of the drugs. They need to protect themselves. It's threatening to them. So the denial, I don't do that, you know, I, it's something I've gotten away from. It's not important to me. But we know that that isn't the case. Sadly, on the other hand, a person may say they've rationalized, it gives me some relief, it gives me a break, I have a lot of pressures in my life. And then they say I need to have my, whatever means to get high. Okay. But we also know that that is maybe true, plausible, but that's another aspect of it, there's a lot of maybe
just problems in person with the person that they're encountering because of this matter. So if you can understand the defense's, that subjective data, it's in the literature. But rather than just think the person's lying, they're just trying to cover it up. That doesn't go very far to understand them. But if you can go to defense mechanisms that have been known for over 100 years, and Freud first introduced them, and they have been refined and much data given to them. So that framework can be quite helpful in understanding that person. Why wouldn't you use it, you have it. And so to say objective, empathy doesn't fit. That seems to me to be very limiting in terms of understanding the breadth and the scope of empathy, which is really trying to understand the person,
if that will let me reflect a little bit on what I'm what I'm hearing here. So you actually started with identifying and so let's say I'm, I'm working on maybe Yuki, stay back with the story of the tomatoes, it's an easy one. So I'm working on I'm having trouble with with the tomatoes, it would identification be like, Oh, I remember when I had trouble with the tomatoes, too. I know how that feels the frustration of it. So is that what you're considering to be identification identifying with me, and
I think that would be that's with that, it'd be more what knowledge, I could give you what you know, there, I say I attended a training session on growing tomatoes, which I hadn't. And then I am able to tell you, you know, you need to fully water the tomatoes. When you put mulch down, that's not a good idea, I inform you, it but in a way of putting it in words that are understandable. I know, I might say to you, you put down mulch, by the way I could be way off on this. And I went to a workshop, and I found out that's not a good idea. It's best to put down soil, and that then enriches the plants. And it makes them more edible or whatever.
Well you're describing it, you'd you'd started talking about identification, then you went into the objective empathy. So what you're describing now is that identification or is an objective empathy because you're you're referencing learnings that you've had about the planting of tomatoes, which would be the objective, I would understand that as the objective empathy. You had some courses, you saw YouTube videos, you had some formal training about it, you know, some college, you know, they've got the case study, they study these things in depth, how tomatoes work and how to propagate them. There's different varieties of tomatoes, and different ones work with different soils. You just hit know that whole sort of knowledge, academic knowledge that not even from your own experience, but just that you've learned through reading or trainings or something like that. So that that would be the objective. Empathy, as I understand is, is all those sources of information that are coming into your awareness. But the thing I was trying to get to you move past that pretty quickly was the idea identification. So I was trying to just go back to the what were used. I was trying to get within that scenario, where is the identification of me or with the tomato clan? I can
see that because you're I'm identifying with your struggle, you're trying to make sense of this. And it hasn't worked out real well. And I'm kind of holding back on my knowledge for a little while. So my identification last to a point, then I shift from it. And I shift into another modality, which is objective, which is data. And then I share that with you. So what is happening here is that there's a movement, I will be in identification, or I may be imagining, I've heard that it allows it to resonate, I have a pretty good understanding of you. And then I can then switch to another modality, which is objective. And I may think that gives you data, then, and that will help you because I understand what it is, you're frustrated, but I have something I can offer you. And I want to share this with you, and helps me on this. And then you, you, you feel more understood, because rather than I just spoke to this guy, you know, he was okay. But it didn't really go anywhere. He gave me some good stuff. And you know, he went on YouTube and everything. And that was that was helpful today. And you feel you do go away feeling more understood. And I feel I understand you more. And we can then have a discussion on this planting a little bit that I know and you know, but that's, that's objective. So what I'm saying here is, a lot of times with empathy, it stay in your frame of reference. You all it's that phenomenon. Right? This brings me in? It's a two way Yeah, it's two parties. It because otherwise, when you think of a human connection, if I just listened to you, then that, what about me? I have something to offer and say, and let's have a human encounter with my mentor. But it's always in the service of you. It isn't that I'm I'm still trying to understand you make things a connection with you. So if I offer the little knowledge of empathy, of tomatoes, Rotten Tomatoes, you feel gratified
by that? Yeah, it's like, oh, that's the solution I'd be if it hits on the mark. Right? It could be Oh, I would feel a sense of excitement, right? Like, oh, I might be able to really solve this problem. I'm gonna go out there and try this. So sure. For example, yeah,
you could do that. Now, I hope and trying to explain the model, let's say you, you say to me, instead, you know, you sound like, you know, everything you need to know about tomatoes. And I find that offensive, you say to me, I find it offensive, you know, you shouldn't be telling me what to do. I was enjoying until I talked to you, and listen to you about your internet search. So then I then switched to interpersonal empathy. Okay. And I, I say, I say to you, that you know, I think I went too far. I think I, I was pushing my ideas on you. And you don't need this. You don't need a lecture from me. You don't have to listen to that. And I was off base.
Well, that's, that's the thing with there's, there's really subtle things that are going on here and how to sort of identify those. Because when you're listening to me, and I'm talking about the tomatoes, you know, I feel good, I feel understand. And, you know, understood I'm, I'm sort of exploring that you might be identifying, saying, Oh, I had that experience too, with my tomatoes. And then you sort of interrupt the flow of my, you know, kind of ex self exploration. So that would be one way to interrupt. Another way would be to interrupt with, Hey, I've got all this technical knowledge. Let me just sort of throw that in. So there's a there's a point where it's sort of like appropriate, and maybe not for Hulk, holding that sort of empathic presence. There's maybe a presence of empathy and that you have to sort of read Are you staying within that presence? are you shutting it down somehow? That's right. And so you're, you're saying, If you sense you sort of shutting it down, the person starts constricting. You're saying, Oh, well, let me step back and just listen some more. And I know it from myself, right? So I have a problem, I'm telling my friend, first thing they jump in is with advice. They know it all. But I'm, like, totally pissed off. Because they think, Hey, don't you think I've thought of all those things already, the problem is so much deeper, you're not even listening to get to the deeper aspects of the problem.
So you bring up an important point. The objective data is things that I'm thinking about in my mind, I can't help it almost once you start talking about tomatoes, start thinking about, I get done internet search, I went to this training, but keep quiet about that stuff. Hold off on it. And it may fit or may not. But typically, what people do is immediately they taught talking about their own story, you had an operation, oh, I had an operation to and before you finish your story, I'm telling you about my operation, but it's out way. So if anything, objective experience. And then if you have to acknowledge, wait, wait until the story has been told. And you will fully listen to it and you will understand it like with the tomatoes in so after 10 minutes, it may or may not be helpful for me to share this. And it like that, but therapeutically, it's similar. I have very same thoughts, like for you and say getting if we could jump back to the substance of yours, so that I'm thinking this person, oh, let's say depression. Okay, so you're talking about a depressive episodes, and we first meet, and I'm listening. And I'm thinking objectively, this sounds like it's a milder form of depression that I'm hearing. Or it may, on the other hand, be major. But I'm thinking that these are objective thoughts I have in my mind, but I don't share those with you. I listen to your story. And I only perhaps later, do I, I may make reference to the DSM, because I'm checking in on a diagnosis. But I don't tell you that, but it informs my way of listening to you. So that if I can get a sense, it's more of a mild type of depression that you're experiencing, then that helps me understand you. But how did I come up with that, I listen to your story, I allowed it to resonate, I interacted with you, interpersonally, I talked to you about it. But then I was able to objectively reach, go to a source and get a sense of what this literature has helped me with. And that then informs my way of working with you. Let's say I, I don't get do that. I meet you next time. And I just decide, well, I'll base it on your story. I haven't had any way to appraise this, to kind of gauge it in terms of other people's experience. But if I look at that literature, the DSM, for example, I can then work more effectively with you. And you're probably gonna feel more understood, let's say example that I looked at the literature. And it's more of the same here, it's more of a milder case of depression. Because I look at the indicators. And you've told me this in your story. And I'm kind of reassured with that literature. And then when I meet you, I know that probably the level we need to work at, it will not be extensive. On the other hand, I listen to the story. And I hear elements of it that indicate it's a major depression, it's chronic, ingrained, then, when I made to the next time, I can probably work more effectively with you knowing it's more extensive, the type of treatment that you would benefit from, you see, based on objective data. Rogers did not go in that direction. You didn't like the idea of assessment or appraisal, because, again, it veered outside of the client's frame of reference, and that's where the distinction is. He provided this framework, but he didn't talk about subjective and objective and and, you know, we are now Yeah,
yeah. And he was his approach was, I will just listen to the person. And the solutions will come from the person being heard themselves. So whatever creativity, innovation problem solving happens, that he would not, you know, he might, he kind of went to maybe something going on like, Oh, I feel a little depressed myself or feel, at some point he is a listener might just share a little bit to let the person know where he was, but not really so much giving suggestions or advice or like that. So that's a little different. The Maybe
it's his work group work toward the latter part of his life, he did more of that sharing of his own experience, particularly with intuition, which we haven't talked about much, that's also part of the subjective model, to let you go ahead,
oh, I was gonna just baby at this point, share a little bit of the framework model that I'm using for empathy. So I don't come from the therapeutic world, I come from this, the human being out there, having done a lot of world travel, you know, kind of just relating to people. So I think in terms of empathy, more from a cultural, social, interpersonal part, not from that, what's happening in the therapeutic world was a client therapist relationship. So the definition I'm building on is empathy as a way of being, which is also Rogers had an address that, that it's, it's more, a way of being is more the, how you are, as a human being, like your sense of your attitudes, your, you know, the, the values, you have the sense of presence, you know, lack of Judge not judging everybody yourself, you know, being a big sort of a block to that. And then within that way of being, there's different facets of that. So there's the other oriented empathy, which is what you're calling the interpersonal, listening to someone sensing where they are doing empathic listening, reflective listening, their self empathy, which up map's bit to your subjective empathy, which is sensing into your own sense, your own feelings, and you know, what's happening in you, you know, a lot of that could be kind of, with Gene gendlin, with focusing, you know, there's a lot of tools there for sensing into the feelings of yourself, you're sort of adding identification, as well as the objective, you know, when you're sensing into yourself, then there's imaginative empathy, which is role playing, which I see very distinctive. And I should add to that the framework, I'm not using the client therapist framework, I'm using the empathy circle, as the container. So in the empathy circles, what sort of what I've really been focusing on is using Rogers, active listening, but we have usually four people to a circle, one person is the speaker, and they select who's going to be their active listener, they share on the topic of tomatoes, or depression, or whatever. And that person only reflects back what they're hearing the person say. And we usually have a time limit, five minutes, six minutes until they feel heard to their satisfaction. But there is a time limit so that somebody doesn't go on for, you know, dominate the time. But then when that time is up for they feel complete, the listener becomes the speaker, and they select someone in the group to speak to, and that person reflects back with their hearing the speak the new speaker, say, in the same way, so and they get their five minutes. So they've been the still listener, but then they become the speaker, and then they can say all the things they can all the things you're talking about the subjective the not the seven, yeah, the the subjective, and whatever is coming up in them, they have a shared time to share that on any topic. They can reflect, you know, build on what they just heard, or they can come up with, I got a whole different topics. Other thing I want to talk about, it's your time, it's your free speech, and you speak to that person, they listen, they reflect back and then somebody's kind of keeping time. So just five minutes is usually the typical time and then the time is up. And then that person who was the active listener, then becomes a speaker and we go for two hours. Oh, like just doing this just and so That's sort of the container, I think that container is more of a container that maps on to life more generally, then the client therapist, like I see, you know, is the listener and client, you know, listener and active listener and speaker is a bit like the client therapist relationship. But then you're, you're, you've done your listening, but then you get met with empathy yourself. And I think that might be what's missing from the I see it is missing from the therapeutic is that the person is only receiving empathy, working on their situate their problem, versus learning to empathize with others, and take those skills out to build a more empathic culture. So I see a lot of overlap with what we're talking about with those two different models.
The difference with the similar? Yeah, because it's listening, and acknowledging the person feels understood. And my bet and that five minutes they feel deeply understood.
And do they comment on it all the time? Yeah, all the
time. But they also feel connected with the other people. So if you're looking at what is empathy, is it one of feeling understood, being understood, sharing, but also connecting. And there's a third element, and I think you're touching on those two, because then what's the outcome of that? It seems like if that was the case, and they felt empathize with, they're going to take that and go into the world with it. Because they feel sometimes, for the first time, what it feels like to be empathized with deeply. And so your model, I think, fits very well with the community that is going to because it's five minutes, it's kind of very clear what is done, but each person is on it. But each person then gets an opportunity to share what it was like to listen to the individual, by the way, where it could be augmented, you can you could talk about, I imagine that I identified with our I felt it in my body, or I had an intuitive sense when you were talking, it was going to be okay, you can start using some of the terminology to add to your model that we have been. Alright was the objective. And knowing that the objective can wait, you don't want to impose, but it can also be something that could be heartening or edifying. Why would you hold that back? If that helps the person in terms of feeling understood or connected? So I think there's a compatibility in what we're doing?
Yeah, I see it is well, because you're, you're describing what's going on in this in the mind and body and experience of the listener, the person who's listening, right, all kinds of stuff going on there. Or they could even feel it, there's maybe even anxiety of Oh, my listening or doing a good job of listening is always like a self judgment. Or they could even be having judgments. Like, you know, I really think what this person is saying is pretty ridiculous, doesn't know what he's talking about. Or, or she, and what when it's your turn to speak, you're welcome. To have the full spectrum, you're welcome to be judgmental, you know, it's like, yeah, you're full of shit. Like, well, I hear you say, I'm full of shit. And that's sort of the core of mediation, too. Because if you can bring people into that relationship, you know, of listening to each other, that's like the core of conflict, mediation, people working things out, they might start off with judging each other. But as they start feeling heard, they start opening up and they develop that sense of understanding and connection, and work through conflict. So I use it for abuse it and political mediation, etc.
When you hear also, though, because if we limit empathy to the person's frame of reference, the person talking, that then doesn't allow you to give your perspective and all that you bring to it, the human experience you have, it's not seen as that fair game, because you have to stay within and that's fitting narrow, because we all have our limitations in and it's kind of isolating to, so the focus, what
is the context, but who doesn't get to speak fully? Who are you saying that
you were talking about what when you disagreed with someone, and you're talking, you are giving your external frame of reference, you say, and a lot of times that's seen as a No goal with empathy. And I'm making the point no, you have much to talk about right here. Martin Buber, the philosopher, the existential relation. Therapist talked about the I thou relationship, that I look at you as I. And I honor that I respect that quality within you, I value you as a person, but then I have thou, I also have my own value, I have my way of being too, and only when we can meet and share is that a full human way of being. And that's kind of where I'm going with this subjective objective, because that allows that are the firm's out as a possibility.
So you want to have both parties to really share who they are, because unless they can both share who they are, you're not going to get to a deeper sense of connection between the two. And I think, in that was a discussion between Buber, and Rogers. And Buber basically say, well, with your therapeutic approach, you'll never get to the I bow, because it's sort of this one way listening. And it's also two parts. One is it's one way less than the other, I think it was sort of a client therapist framework instead of human beings, you know, to human beings. So he saw some limitations, I think to that, yes, there
was there was a disagreement with that, and the dialogue, and over say it was limited, but at the same time, the power of what Rogers did His work is so important, because again, to personal makes a difference, because that's when it's articulated. And it's voiced, it has to be expressed. Because if you're resonating, say, identify or have an intuitive experience with me, unless you verbalize that, and talk about what's going on, it doesn't go anywhere. You could, you could knowledge it or nod your head, but it has to be spoken. And ultimately, the intrapersonal is what makes the difference, because then the person has the words. And that's what Rogers did so well, with his work, too. But he was also criticized vehemently for being just using reflection, just trying to acknowledge the presence feeling. And he had much more to offer than that. But it was in sometimes he stereotype because of a very limited view. And the model that I kind of developed, takes the look at other skills throughout the stages of counseling, that beyond the reflection, ended up with 14 of those 28 Total with a strategic skill. But that's a whole area of therapy. Sure.
Yeah. What was Rogers I see him is so foundational with the empathic listening is that is really sort of a core piece. And with that, as a foundation, you can just keep building, you know, on it, and it's so the other thing is, it's so practical, it works. You know, it's, it's, it's not, it's not exhortation, like there's a lot of exploitation and be more empathic, but it's just exhausting. And it's, it goes nowhere. It's like having a real practical, kind of a mindset, and skill and a way of developing that way of being or that mindset is just so foundational. And I think he was he was doing his his group work. So he was, you know, kind of trying to make it more of a group. Process and was also doing it was in mediation, conflict, you know, is in South Africa and Ireland and so forth. So, I think it's a solid, you know, foundation that, you know, everybody we just keep building more tools and practices around that.
It is that and he, he, at the same time, with all admirable work. I think he struggled with that notion of listening to the client, internal frame of reference, and having his own point of view, because he had something to say a lot. I remember seeing him in Boston at a lecture just before, a few years before he died in the early 1980s. And a member of the audience talk stood up toward the end of the lecture and had a question, what would you what area that you would like to get to have you not done in your life in this and he's he's I said, empathy. And I remember thinking, it just doesn't make sense to me. This guy, you know, I was a young guy at the time, he knows everything you need to know about that topic. And he himself, I think, would be very pleased to see how empathy has broadened, and been examined in various ways, and expanded and found its way into various venues and aspects of life. So because I think that was his nature, he wanted this to be of benefit to people.
Yeah, I was reading, I was a little disappointed, there was not more innovation somehow, you know, around this, and I was surprised, because it seems like the empathy circle, like small groups, using mutual empathic listening is kind like the next logical step. And I'm just wondering, and he went into, you know, the, the encounter groups that I think is like, I don't know, it just seems horrible, in some sense, because people just go at each other, it gets pretty violent. He's pretty rough. And there's no mediating process like mutual empathic listening. And so I was so surprised, because it seems like what we're doing with the empathy circle is just the next logical step here, instead of just one person doing the listening you, you make it mutual. And there's a sense of, I think, also a sense of equality. Within that. It's like people say, Oh, they'll say, I'm willing to listen, because I want to value equality, you get five minutes, I get five minutes, we all get five minutes. So people sort of appreciate that, that quality of equality, yeah.
And then when you mentioned the group movement, and then counter, and there were, those damage was done. Yeah, the model, because it was like, very few limits on it, in terms of constraints and protecting members. And so, and I think Rogers was appalled with that, as it turned out, in the last few years have a slide. Because when you think of your model, the empathy circle, that you are using boundaries, you have a five minute period of time, it's very clear what you do, you can have introduce your own topic, but and then it's clear what you do afterwards. And the person's within a two hour meeting. So it's organized, and it has a structure. And I think you bring in objective empathy, by doing that, with boundaries, because empathy can be sometimes seen as kind of reckless at times, if you're only listening to a person, and not using some constraints on them. It also can be seen as soft empathy. And I think that's another hindrance, that it's not, it's not viewed in a way of simply listening to a person. And it's kind of a mellow way. And, and I think that is a limited notion of empathy, at the kind of, that's why I think a more broader groundwork is needed. Because otherwise, it just, it doesn't help show the promise and potential, but it has,
yeah, that's why you then two books on empathy. So you really value that empathic approach, as I see is actually a key to just better social well being, if we can nurture this, this empathic way of being throughout society, I think we just create huge benefits within within society. And the model of the empathy circle, we, we do the circle service, you know, circles held every week, people come in, and then we do this facilitator training. So we have a five week training, where people come and learn to facilitate an empathy circle, you know, they learn how to introduce it, and they learn how to deal with challenges, you know, for example, you bringing new people in somebody's sharing somebody, instead of reflecting, they start putting their own stuff in there, and you got to say, Oh, just reflect back what you're hearing. When it's your turn, you can say whatever you want, you know, 100% free speech, but just reflect back for now. And so there's all kinds of different blocks things. You know, they might say, Oh, I had that experience or, or know that stupid or something like that guy. Yet. We want you we want to hear all that. But first hear them out. So you've got expression, met with empathy, and then expression met with empathy. So it's always a combination of sort of free speech and empathy. You know, all the all the way around. And as it that stew kind of goes, I find people just become more open more or trusting, they're able to share more deeply. And a general sense of deeper relational empathy sort of forms out of that, and, and like the way you're bringing in is, yeah, what's going on with the listener? With? What what are all the what's happening in their heads? You know, as they're listening? And how do you sort of, really, you know, deal with what hold that is at one level, you have to hold that you have to set it aside for now. And just be present, until it's your turn to speak. And then you can, you know, share all that you've got a context for it. Yeah, you have
a context. And by the way, it when you speak of that, and you talk about your empathy circle, that then is a way of building the trust, because people can trust it in the process, they see that this works. And I feel more deeply understood, but they also feel protected. I think people feel that in their that group, that there are boundaries, and it isn't freewheeling. There are restraints on it. But I also feel that you're touching on allowing people to be themselves to share more broadly than the individual's frame of reference. You seem to go beyond that, too. So perhaps my model can kind of augment and building politically from a training perspective, yeah, to one of the things that come your way, those intuitive feelings or imaginative kind of reactions, that there's a place for them. I think they happen anyway.
Yeah, they do. Even even in the reflection, these things leak through the reflection, even if you do a good reflection, the things that are coming up, you know, they're subtly brought in to the interpersonal, I think, too, you can't kind of like keep, you can't keep it out,
you can't keep it out. So what happens, I think you have this objective reactions are resonating, but then you have kind of reasoning that filters through your mind. And when you put those together, then you can have the interpersonal, you express it, because you've felt it, you've been there. And you've also from a life experience or therapeutic experience, you have objective material, and you bring a full person, to the encounter with this individual. And then it comes out, it just comes out because it sounds almost as we talk, you've somehow have to go on subjective interpersonal objective, I think this naturally occurs, they this they summon, they come to an individual, but then it's a time and you allow it to resonate, allow it to bring through your reasoning process. So it isn't so much. I think this I gotta switch to this and that. And particularly, if there's training on the model, then it becomes more feels more natural.
So there's something happening in someone, you're just trying to divide the different parts that are happening, but in reality, they kind of happen at the same time they happen. They come and they go and that moves. And it flows, there's sort of a an integrated wholeness of things sort of bubbling up. Yeah,
that's right. And it's definitely putting it's giving giving a name to them, my way of understanding that these seem to be the components. At least this is a model from and I could see that using because you talked about training with your empathy circle, that, you know, to talk about some of the things we have discussed, to bring together.
Yeah, well, this this model, I see I'm into let's build a culture of empathy. So I'm sort of into social political change. I just ran for Congress. Yeah. I didn't only got 3% of the vote. But it was an empathy message. I thought, well, here in the San Francisco Bay area, just to say, hey, we need a culture of empathy, we need to kind of raise it into the political because I think it happens is, it's like, you know, it's therapy, you know, people go to therapy, they get hurt and stuff, but then they go back into the world where they're just getting the shit kind of beat out of them, you know, the cultural stuff that's going on, and that we can shift the culture to make empathy, a primary social value. And, you know, I've been trying to get like, the first thing I did running for office is I reached out the other candidates and did an empathy circle with them. So we're modeling. And so you already have Trump and Biden do an empathy circle, you know, where they listen to each other. Alright, versus a debate. I think we'd be transformational in the culture. You know, or you get any high profile views, you sort of learn the process by observation. And then, you know, people are doing it in schools, and then they take it to their family. And then, you know, you just kind of there's a lot of different ways of, you know, training the whole population in the skills, you know, seems to me,
when you speak about there is literature, in the popular press on empathy, as you're talking about it, and you have a particular model, this academic material, on empathy, and that, so I think there is a coalescing of ideas around this, and it takes time, but I think it doesn't, there is a movement toward, because when you think of it, how else are we going to get out of some of the mess we're in, if you can understand a person politically, that are at least one of their view, and they then they feel more understood and respected, and a sense of trust that you can do that, then perhaps they may listen to your view. And we can have a kind of going back and forth a reciprocity. So that that is important the level you are working at, to also take it to the more societal, a more of the area of the therapy, but that nevertheless, with sharing of ideas, yeah, we can enrich each other's if you're absolutely
happy, say it's all overlaps. It's all integrated. The Empathy is like, whatever level you're working at, it's kind of the same dynamics and weight in terms of the political, we went to in Los Angeles to impeach Trump rally, you know, back before COVID. And we had, there was several 1000 people, you know, marching down the street, and in a counter demonstration of, you know, pro Trump folks, but we dropped brought one person from each side into this empathy tent, we were set up at the, at the city hall in Los Angeles, on the lawn had our empathy tent, and I mediated between the two of them and got the sides to do empathic listening with each other. And each of them, we did six pairs of people, and each pair ended with hugs between the participants. And on the other side of the street, they were screaming and yelling at each other, throwing out the tats and signs, and it was only the police keeping them apart. So and that I think I sent you the video of that,
yes, I looked at that, that was okay. But when you think of it, what what an encounter between two people in their hugging, and across the street, they're going out one another in a belligerent way. And so what's going on here, and so but you know, that keep up the good work, I was so interested in what you're doing and reading about your video work and getting the word out. And, and I'm doing my thing here. So we'll do that and many others. We're not alone in this at all. There is a movement to that
answer. We're trying to promote as a movement to think, hey, we need to work together with each other to see how we can bring these different insights. And, you know, and it seems to me, even the therapeutic could do more with the mutual empathy as for group work, you know, where you're teaching. So it seems to me that there's a space for for that plus teaching these skills in the schools from the earliest age to
yeah, yes, that's right.
Well, okay, well, I should let you go. We're gonna for almost two and a half hours, I could talk your ear off here.
No, we're good. We we talked about just an hour, and it's been an hour and 20 minutes. And so and I've enjoyed this so much, and hearing about you and you listening to me and to listen to my above my model for that, and you you grasp it very well. Yeah, calorie clear? Well, I tried to be clear, but nevertheless, it says something about your listening ability to be able to pick that up. And then we use our examples and ways to help clarify examples always help with empathy, too.
Yeah, I'm working on that empathy as a way of being model I'm developing a course for it is going to be a six or seven week course, online and something I can talk to you about that sometime when it's further.
I could just say one thing, and I know we need to wrap up our time together. One way that I found and introducing empathy to a group is to ask the question, when did you feel deeply understood by a person or it could have been that person anytime you're with them you felt deeply understood? What is it that went on? You first have to hear what happened. But then what what was it that you experienced? And that is a, I think a great way to introduce a topic of what empathy is, it doesn't define it in any way. But it gives us a sense of a connection to it. And maybe you use that already,
too. I usually don't. But what did come up to me is I did a family empathy circle once on a fourth of July, I think it was with our family members. And we went for like four and a half hours, empathy circle. And the question was, what are early childhood memories that you have? And it just kind of as long lines? Because that's you've done a lot of work to just for to everybody who is sharing just like growing up? What were your memories, I was just really, but we were doing the empathy circle, we're talking about it within the context. You know, the framework of the empathy circle, it was, it was it was another thing was very moving, you know, people are just sharing those early memories,
your early memories, it's something that I've done a lot of work with writing and that and experience with the empathy works really well with it. I find it very difficult now, to listen to a person's memory, from childhood, early childhood, without empathizing. Because for a moment, and a memory, they usually take about a minute to share all the things we were talking about, I think, occur in that moment of their early recollections if you allow it to resonate, and then allow it to kind of build on what you know about from your own experience, too.
And it's very meaningful for people I think, to share this, too. Well, great. Well, thanks, Arthur. There'll be a link to you know, info about you, your LinkedIn so forth in the chat and to be continued. I hope thanks so much. It
was that would be good. And touch. I appreciate this. You take care. Take care. Bye now.