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Riker, J.H. (2020). Empathy, Compassion, and Meditation: A Vision for a Buddhist Self Psychology. Psychoanal. Inq., 40(5):327-339.

(2020). Psychoanalytic Inquiry, 40(5):327-339

Empathy, Compassion, and Meditation: A Vision for a Buddhist Self Psychology

John H. Riker, Ph.D.

In this article, I explore three important claims: (1) that Buddhist meditative practice is an important way in which therapists can enhance their abilities to be empathic by helping to clear the mind of incessant predispositions that both organize and distort perceptions; (2) that empathy and compassion are different and need to be carefully distinguished insofar as empathy is a psychological ability that allows us to know the inner state of another singular human being, while compassion, in its Buddhist formulation, is an ontological mood that extends care and concern to all creatures who participate in the endless “perpetual perishing” of all that exists. I develop the idea that compassion ought to be included in what Kohut calls “mature narcissism,” for it adds a metaphysical dimension to the social and psychological dimensions that generally concern modern persons. Because compassion brings together the acceptance of transience, wisdom about who we ultimately are as metaphysical beings, and care for the world beyond our small localities, it gives substance to what Kohut termed “cosmic narcissism.”

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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