Situating empathy in our lives

Nancy Nyquist Potter

in Mapping the Edges and the In-between

Published on behalf of Oxford University Press

Published in print June 2009 | ISBN: 9780198530213
Published online February 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191754388 | DOI:

Series: International Perspectives in Philosophy & Psychiatry

Situating empathy in our lives

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As we have seen throughout this book, the absence of empathy toward BPD patients is anathema to successful therapeutic relations and patients’ potential healing. This last chapter on virtues, therefore, focuses on the importance of cultivating clinician empathy. I begin this chapter with a discussion of how a deficiency in empathy toward these patients raises difficult questions about the status of BPD as a personality disorder. Thus, this chapter brings together questions of empathy and blame, disorder and responsibility that resonate throughout much of the book. I have placed this discussion at the end of the book instead of at the beginning because I believe readers are now in a better position to think critically about the status of BPD as a personality disorder. Keep in mind, though, that I am not arguing that it is not a PD but that careful analytic and scientific work lies ahead of us in order to answer the many questions that this book raises. I am arguing that, to the extent that the symptoms of BPD are picking out a genuine disorder, they ought to be met with the empathy appropriate to the suffering and distress that anyone living with mental illness experiences. I argue that an understanding of a particular kind of empathy, called controlled empathy, is crucial for clinicians to develop in order for them to work with BPD patients.

Chapter.  8792 words. 

Subjects: Psychiatry

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