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Bornstein, M. Silver, D. (1981). Epilogue. Psychoanal. Inq., 1(3):489-490.

(1981). Psychoanalytic Inquiry, 1(3):489-490


Melvin Bornstein, M.D. and Donald Silver, M.D.

Although Freud suggested the importance of “empathy” for psychoanalysis when he stated that empathy was that psychological activity which plays the largest part in our understanding of another person, the term has not received widespread attention until recently. As we look at the papers in this issue, we find that the term takes different routes and leads to different places. In approaching these contributions systematically, our conclusion is that the use of the term is currently in a state of flux and that it is premature to attempt making a comprehensive statement.

In two papers empathy was described as the scientific core of psychoanalysis; one (by Lichtenberg) emphasizing its role as a form of perception of psychological activity; another (by Schwaber) emphasizing its role as a mode of analytic listening. In a third paper (by Schlesinger), although there was agreement on the importance of empathy, it was viewed differently. In this paper, empathy represented a special vantage point by which the therapist develops a sense of interacting within the various relationships that comprise the patient's experience while allying the analyst with the patient's working ego. In a fourth paper, an empathic-like understanding arose from several cognitive and emotional sources in combination. In yet another paper (by Shapiro) empathy was viewed as not making any contribution to the scientific activity of psychoanalysis. Empathy to this author suggested emotionalism, sympathy and romanticism, and was perceived as representing a trend that might erode the scientific position of the analyst.


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