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Purser, G.S. (2013). Empathy: What is it and why it matters (2013) by David Howe, published by Palgrave Macmillan. Att: New Dir. in Psychother. Relat. Psychoanal., 7(3):303-307.

(2013). Attachment: New Directions in Psychotherapy and Relational Psychoanalysis, 7(3):303-307

Empathy: What is it and why it matters (2013) by David Howe, published by Palgrave Macmillan

Review by:
Gulcan Sutton Purser

The restlessness of the soul yearning for a genuine meeting with others… it is as if the capacity for genuine dialogue and meeting has been lying dormant, in wait, for someone to seek out the real self.

Hycner, 1991, p. 65

Empathy is necessary for good relationships. In its absence, behaviour becomes puzzling, even dangerous. In psychotherapy, the theory of how people change is about the role of profound human connection, the most important way this happens, in my view, is through empathy.

But let someone really listen, let someone acknowledge my inner pain and give me a chance to talk more about what's troubling me and I begin to feel less upset, less confused, more able to cope with my feelings and my problems …. (Mazlish & Faber, 1999, p. 8)

David Howe's fascinating new book examines what empathy is, why we have it, and how it develops. He explores the important part empathy plays in child development and therapeutic work, as well as its significance for the way society organises itself.

Written with Howe's intellectual assurance and wit, this book makes the subject accessible and relevant. There are some real gems to be found. I was excited to review it, as I am a great believer in the importance of empathy in our work, and the deeper one understands it, the more one appreciates its significance. One can see the author's enthusiasm and fascination for the subject when he says:

My hope is that if you are able to appreciate empathy's deep roots and marvellously varied and colourful character, you will be as excited, intrigued and committed to the concept as I have been in researching this book. (p. 9)

With this compelling book, David Howe invites the reader to go on an illuminating journey of discovery into how empathy was first conceptualised and how its influence has steadily risen and spread.

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