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In the beginning was the relationship - Martin Buber

"From early on I have suspected that the so important-sounding task “Know thyself” is a ruse of a cabal of priests. They are trying to seduce man from activity in the outside world, to distract him with impossible demands; they seek to draw him into a false inner contemplation. Man only knows himself insofar as he knows the world – the world which he only comes to know in himself and himself only in it."  Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

"Relational empathy.
When looked at through a sociocentric lense, empathy provides a means of knowing relationships not only egocentrically in terms of its particulars, but also holistically as wholes which are more than the sum of their parts. In their ground-breaking work examining the role of empathy in the psychological development of women, Stone Center theorists have recently shifted descriptions of empathy in a sociocentric direction by referring to it as the "relational skill par excellence."(Jordan, et al., 1991)"

Dorothy Della Noce 

Lori Gruen writes about relational ethics of empathy and the foundational premises;
  • Abstraction vs. Context
  • Individualism vs. Relationality
  • Impartiality vs. Connection
  • Conflict vs. Responsiveness

Empathy Circle on Relational Empathy.
 Toward a philosophical foundation for the empathy curriculum: A draft manifesto on, What is an “empathic way of being", and how can we nurture it? 

As humans, we have the inherent capacity of connecting empathically with other humans (and with other living beings, as well.)  Yet too often, our families and our societies shut down this natural ability. We are taught that it is ok to connect with some people, but not ok to connect with others (people who are seen as "the enemy", or "bad", or too different.) In addition, we are often taught to dehumanize others – whether in major ways or in more subtle ways. This includes whenever we find ourselves instrumentalizing people, relating to them only as a role instead of as a full human being. 

"The CARE Measure (and thus the CARE Approach) is based on a broad definition of relational empathy in the clinical context, defined as the ability:

1. To understand the patient’s situation, perspective and feelings (and their attached meanings).

2. To communicate that understanding and check its accuracy; and

3. To act on that understanding with the patient in a helpful (therapeutic) way (Reynolds, 2000; Mercer & Reynolds, 2002). "
(CARE Approach)


  • Starting with a relational empathy view. That is about being aware of the felt sense of the community and the empathic relationships between all the members.
  • In this scenario, if one person is listening to others in need, they may get tired because they are not able to share the feelings that are coming up for them. They start to feel alone perhaps, unheard.. So in this case someone might say they are having empathy fatigue, but looking at the community level they are in need of empathy. So there is really an empathy defect. That person need to be heard and seen by others to feel connection and to move through feelings that may be blocked. Listening in an empathic way can actually energies and resource one. 
  • Most of psychology and society in the west comes from an individualistic view of life, even though it is not supported by science. It is actually irrational, if 

(Fagiano 2019)Relational Empathy
Mark Fagiano
University of Central Florida, Orlando, FL, 
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This work explains the practical benefits of a new and pluralistic notion of empathy that I call relational empathy. Rather than defining empathy as a thing or an activity, as most scholars have done, I define empathy as a set of three conceptually distinct though experientially overlapping relations: the relations of feeling into, feeling with, and feeling for. 

I then turn to historical discourses about empathy from the late 1700s to the present to demonstrate how different conceptualizations and definitions of empathy during this time span are descriptions of one, two or all three of these relations. I then explain how relational empathy has the potential both to dissolve mere verbal disputes about what empathy is and to shift our attention away from narrowly conceived theories about the ‘nature’ of empathy and toward more practical concerns. 

Finally, I explain how my theory of relational empathy can help to resolve a number of problems throughout the healthcare system.