Carl Rogers on Empathy

KarKar
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Carl Rogers Empathy Lecture

Published on Dec 10, 2012









Companion to: Rogers, C. R. (1975). Empathic: An unappreciated way of being. The Counseling Psychologist, 5(2), 2-10.

EARLY DEFINITIONS: The state of empathy, or being empathic, is to perceive the internal frame of reference of another with accuracy and with the emotional components and meanings which pertain thereto as if one were the person, but without ever losing the "as if" condition. Thus it means to sense the hurt or the pleasure of another as he senses it and to perceive the causes thereof as he perceives them, but without ever losing the recognition that it is as if I were hurt or pleased and so forth. If this "as if" quality is lost, then the state is one of identification. (pp. 210—211. See also Rogers, 1957.)
 

A CURRENT DEFINITION: With this conceptual background, let me attempt a description of empathy that would seem satisfactory to me today. I would no longer be terming it a "state of empathy," because I believe it to be a process, rather than a state. Perhaps I can capture that quality.
 

An empathic way of being with another person has several facets. It means entering the private perceptual world of the other and becoming thoroughly at home in it. It involves being sensitive, moment by moment, to the changing felt meanings which flow in this other person, to the fear or rage or tenderness or confusion or whatever that he or she is experiencing. It means temporarily living in the other's life, moving about in it delicately without making judgements; it means sensing meanings of which he or she is scarcely aware, but not trying to uncover totally unconscious feelings, since this would he too threatening. It includes communicating your sensings of the person's world as you look with fresh and unfrightened eyes at elements of which he or she is fearful. It means frequently checking with the person as to the accuracy of your sensings, and being guided by the responses you receive. You are a confident companion to the person in his or her inner world. By pointing to the possible meanings in the flow of another person's experiencing, you help the other to focus on this useful type of referent, to experience the meanings more fully, and to move forward in the experiencing.
 

To be with another in this way means that for the time being, you lay aside your own views and values in order to enter another's world without prejudice. In some sense it means that you lay aside your self; this can only be done by persons who are secure enough in themselves that they know they will not get lost in what may turn out to be the strange or bizarre world of the other, and that they can comfortably return to their own world when they wish.

Perhaps this description makes clear that being empathic is a complex, demanding, and strong - yet also a subtle and gentle - way of being.

Carl Rogers  
To perceive the internal frame of reference of another with accuracy and with the emotional components and meanings which pertain thereto as if one were the person, but without ever losing the "as if" condition. Thus, it means to sense the hurt or the pleasure of another as he senses it and to perceive the causes thereof as he perceives them, but without ever losing the recognition that it is as if I were hurt or pleased and so forth. 

 

THE PERSON-CENTERED APPROACH

The first quality is empathy. Many people believe that this is the single quality which is most important in all forms of therapeutic listening. It means getting inside the world of the person who comes for therapy (usually called the client, though some people not in this group prefer other words such as patient or consulter) so that that person feels accepted and understood. Two things are important about this:

  •  (1) that the empathy be accurate, and

  • (2) that the empathy be made known to the client.
    Both of these are learnable skills, and they do make a huge difference to the relationship between client and counselor or therapist.

The second quality is genuineness. If empathy is about listening to the client, genuineness is about listening to myself - really tuning in to myself and being aware of all that is going on inside myself. It means being open to my own experience, not shutting off any of it. And again it means letting this out in such a way that the client can get the benefit of it. Genuineness is harder than empathy because it implies a lot of self-knowledge, which can really only be obtained by going through one's own therapy in quite a full and deep way. It is only a fully-functioning person (Rogers' word for the person who has completed at least the major part of their therapy) who can be totally genuine.

The third quality is non-possessive warmth. It means that the client can feel received in a human way, which is not threatening. In such an atmosphere trust can develop, and the person can feel able to open up to their own experiences and their own feelings.


Post edited by Kar on
You can become a slave only by voluntary consent.
I am highly allergic to circumcised souls and red flags with Venusian star on them.

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  • KarKar
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    Rogers In Ten Minutes

    Published on Feb 13, 2014

    I do not own any of these images. This 10-minute video is intended as an introduction to the humanistic psychologist Carl Rogers. It is not intended as a comprehensive or definitive account of his thought. This video is for educational purposes only.


    You can become a slave only by voluntary consent.
    I am highly allergic to circumcised souls and red flags with Venusian star on them.
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