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Shapiro, T. (1981). Empathy: A Critical Reevaluation. Psychoanal. Inq., 1(3):423-448.

(1981). Psychoanalytic Inquiry, 1(3):423-448

Empathy: A Critical Reevaluation

Theodore Shapiro, M.D.

In 1974, I wrote of the development and distortions of empathy. The opening sentence was, “Psychoanalytic literature abounds with references to empathy; most authors advocate its use and decry its absence” (p. 4). That statement still holds in 1981; it describes a state of our science that contrasts markedly to earlier literature in which insight gained by interpretation was cited as the most important process to be explicated. Even though Freud mentioned empathy in his treatises on jokes (Freud, 1905) and group psychology (Freud, 1921), he never attended to it as a central instrument of analysis. Instead he espoused free-floating attention of the analyst to his associations and intuitions along with logical review of the apparently random data of analysis.

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