“I’m interested in everything that might be flawed and messy about empathy, how imagining other lives can constitute a kind of tyranny, or artificially absolve ourselves from guilt or responsibility. How feeling empathy can make use feel we’ve done something good when we actually haven’t.
“We start to like the feeling of feeling bad for others, it can make us feel good about ourselves. So there’s a lot of danger attached to empathy, it might be self-serving or self-absorbed, it might lead our moral reasoning astray, or supplant moral reasoning entirely. But do I want to defend it, despite ackowledgin this mess? More like, I want to defend it by acknowledging this mess”
Leslie Jamison, The Empathy Exams.
One messy thing about empathy is that we can’t be sure whether our connection to another’s experience might just be our own projection, desire, aspiration or delusion – or whether it’s kind of real.
From: Standing At the Edge: Finding Freedom Where Fear and Courage Meet by Joan Halifax
Roshi Joan Halifax PhD is a Buddhist teacher, Zen Monk and Anthropologist who explores the edges of human experience and writes incredibly compelling books about the intersection of spirituality, psychology and human consciousness.