Topsy-turvy: Paul Bloom Against, Vaknin for Empathy (Vaknin and Rutsch)

Uploaded 8/11/2013, approx. 54 minute read

So, hi, I'm Edwin Rutch, and this is Dialogues on How to Build a Culture of Empathy. And today, I'm here with Sam Vaknin. Is that, am I pronouncing it right? Yeah, so you're kind of a spokesperson for psychopaths. You've been diagnosed as a psychopath, three times diagnosed, maybe more by now, and you've written a book, Malignant Self-Love, and it's about narcissism and psychopathy. And you've talked a lot about empathy, written about empathy on your website. I just saw there's this great documentary out there about you now. So, you're really doing a lot around the topic of psychopathy, narcissism, and empathy.

What we wanted to do in this discussion is talk about, at least initially, is talk about the Paul Bloom article, which was in the New Yorker, the main New Yorker, called The Baby in the Well, the Case Against Empathy.

And so, before we kind of start, is there more you'd like to say, Sam, about just introducing yourself?

Well, we've said everything that's very, very sane. Just not to nitpick, but I've been diagnosed as a psychopathic narcissist. That's a variant of narcissism, which also has psychopathic traits. So, I'm essentially a narcissist, but I have pronounced and prominent psychopathic traits.

Oh, okay.

Just to be clear on the definitions and so forth.

Yeah, and we had done an interview once before already, a record interview was a Skype interview, just the audio. So, we've talked a lot about you and the work you're doing. So, we wanted to talk about was the Paul Bloom article, and I thought we could maybe, it doesn't have to be really in-depth, but he starts the discussion off saying that Barack Obama has talked extensively about empathy, and he has a couple quotes in there that he starts it off with, and that's actually quite accurate, because I've been tracking Barack Obama's comments about empathy, and he's mentioned at least 70, 80 times in books, in his book, in interviews, and in his speeches.

So, what do you think about that to kind of start with, just in terms of Barack Obama, you know, and empathy?

Every decade or so, there's a buzzword, catchphrase, a policy, sort of the medicine that will cure all social and cultural ills. And today, Barack Obama is writing the crest of empathy.

So, empathy is now the buzzword, the key word, and there is a prevalent belief that should empathy spread, or should it be applied and implemented more widely, or should it be taught, should people go through empathy education or re-education, and so on and so forth, then many of the social, cultural, geopolitical and political ills and financial ills that we are all suffering will vanish literally over and over.

That's a bit of a naive way of looking at things, and I think that's precisely what Paul Bloom is trying to say.

Okay, so you're saying that there's these buzzwords that come within the culture. I'm going to do a little bit of empathic reflection here, if that's okay with you. You're saying that there's like these buzzwords that come into society, and right now empathy is kind of one of these buzzwords. People think it's going to solve all the social ills, and that Barack Obama is kind of writing the crest of that wave, and you're feeling that Paul Bloom is kind of addressing that in his article.

It's a meme, you know, empathy is a meme.

So, it's the current post-modern meme. Things are so bad. We apply a lotion of empathy. We solve our wounds with empathy, and the wound will heal, not even scar tissue, but I think it's a pretty naive way of looking at things.

Oh, and so you're also saying that there's a naivete about that, that it's kind of a naive way of looking at that.

Yeah, I believe so.

Well, I would say that, you know, as the director of the Center for Building a Culture of Empathy, that's kind of my mission in life, is to really build a culture of empathy and to actually foster empathy. So, I'm really glad to have this dialogue with you about the role of empathy in society, and since I am coming from that role, that position that if we foster it, it will really address a lot of the social ills that we have.

So, the next thing Paul gets into is the definition of empathy.

You know, he talks about empathy coming from the German word einfuhlung, you know, feeling into, and then he kind of talks about Adam Smith, who in the Theory of Moral Sentiments, talks about sympathy, but addresses kind of some of the qualities of empathy, and part of it being, what does he say here?

You know, he talks about that if you see someone, I think like a beggar, that you will, and it has sores, that you will start itching because you feel the sores, you know, because you're kind of having that empathic connection. He called it sympathy, and he had some other kind of stories like that. If somebody's on a tightrope or something, they're balancing, I think, that you can kind of feel yourself in their position, kind of balancing.

So, in terms of the definition of empathy, what kind of were you around that?

Einfuhlung, in the German term, einfuhlung, was invented within the Theory of Aesthetics.

Actually, einfuhlung was meant to explain why people who view art and interact with art experience emotions. How come art provokes emotions in spectators and viewers and so on? Art is an object. How can an object achieve that?

So, the Germans invented the term einfuhlung in the sense that the art object somehow infiltrates the psyche and provokes innate emotions. So, it has very little to do with empathy. It was part of the aesthetic experience of art.

But empathy is, as you well know, probably better than me.

Empathy is an umbrella term. It's an overarching kind of word that describes a series of abstract concepts as well as psychological constructs. When all these are put together, we get the net outcome is what we call empathy.

But empathy involves many, many elements, many, many processes, and this is precisely the reason that narcissists and psychopaths cannot empathize because many of these elements and processes and triggers are missing.

Generally, there is, I believe, the main question as far as empathy goes is this. When we experience empathy, do we put ourselves in someone else's place? Do we project ourselves into the other person and thereby everything that we emote, everything that we feel is actually our feelings, not that person's feeling.

So, is empathy a projection or is empathy an introjection?

We take the other person's feelings and so on and so forth. We sort of import them tax-free and we experience them.

I think this is the main debate between the major schools of psychology which deal with empathy. Some of them say that actually empathy is an impossibility, that all that's happening is that we are conditioned in the process of socialization to experience certain emotions in response to certain stimuli, certain sights, certain sounds, certain smells, certain events.

What we do is we project and then the other school says, no, that's not true. It's a learning process.

Empathy is an acquired thing and so we learn to identify in other people emotions and psychological processes that we then appropriate and comprehend via identification.

So, we introject these and we really feel what the other guy is feeling.

There is a debate about this but there is, I think, one fact that sort of raises very serious questions with regards to empathy and that is the fact that infants, even as young as six months old, show distinct signs of empathic reactions. Their facial features change if, for instance, mother cries. They react in a completely different way if people around them are sad or if people around them are happy.

So, we have empathic reactions, clear and distinct and well-substantiated empathic reactions in infants.

Yet, at the age of six months old, no infant knows what it means to be said and no infant knows what we assume, that no infant knows, really knows what is the meaning of emotions, full-fledged, I don't, emotions.

So, infants are reacting not because they know how the other person feels but they seem to be reacting reflexively, as a kind of instinct. That seems to indicate that empathy is indeed more of a projection than an introjection.

It's not that we feel what the other person is going through, it's that we are triggered to the other person processes and emotions that are happening inside us.

So, you're talking about the early definition of empathy, the einfuhlung, which was in art where the idea is that you kind of project your feelings into the art and then that definition has kind of evolved to this notion of that we kind of feel our way into the emotions of others.

So, there's kind of two ways.

How does the empathy really work? Is it a projection or is it a kind of a feeling into the experience of others?

For me, as I understand it, it's through mirror neurons that as I see you moving or you see my hands moving, that you have mirror neurons, you're shaking your head, that I can feel my neurons for shaking my head are firing so that I'm feeling within myself the experience. I can see you kind of holding your hands like this and I can kind of, my body kind of simulates your experience that you're doing and in that way, I can get a sense of the quality of your experience, of your physical experience, which is also connected to the emotional experience. So, your head is shaking kind of at a certain rate. If it was going like this really fast, then I would have a feeling of high intensity emotions versus kind of just a slow, kind of a ponderous kind of a shaking of your head.

So, it seems to me that those two projection and feeling into can both happen, that it's not one or the other, that both of those states of being can kind of happen, that I can kind of just project something onto you like, hey, I'm feeling cold, so you must be cold kind of thing. Or the other would be seeing you kind of shivering, feeling my body shivering and saying, oh, I'm feeling that you're perhaps cold.

Even if mirror neurons do operate as they're supposed to operate, it's still your mirror. Something that's happening in you, it's still projection. It's something that you experience, you're experiencing your mirror neurons.

So, you're interpreting, so we must make a distinction between the base experience of empathy and the interpretation or reframing that we superimpose on what we feel.

So, you may interpret it as though you are, you know, you're interjecting, as though you're actually experiencing my emotions or my experience.

But the fact is that whatever happens, happens in the confines of your mind.

And we had this debate before, and I advise the viewers to refer to our previous interview.

We had this debate, it was quite fierce and furious, if I remember correctly, where we try to discuss what is known in philosophy as the intersubjectivity agreement. In philosophy, that's a basic question. How can I know what's going on in your head? How can I know that your kind of sadness is my kind of sadness? How can I know that if I prick you with a pin and you experience pain, and I prick myself with a pin and experience pain, how can I know that my pain is your pain?

How can I make this equation? And there is, it's known as the intersubjectivity agreement problem.

And the idea is that people reach some kind of unspoken agreement as to what constitutes pain, or what constitutes love, or what constitutes sadness, and so on.

But the veracity of this agreement cannot be objectively verified. It's a totally arbitrary agreement. We just agree that if I stick a pin in myself or knew, we are bound or likely to experience an identical, to have an identical experience.

But there's no way to prove it, of course. We can demonstrate physical, physiological correlates. We can show certain bio-electrical conduction, and we can show a certain flow of blood in the brain through functional MRI, and we can show physiological correlates of the experience.

And they may even be the same with you and with me. It still doesn't say anything about the subjective content of this objective phenomenon. Blood may flow to the same area in your brain as it does in mine, and yet there's no way of proving that I'm experiencing this blood flow as you're experiencing this blood flow.

So there is a major problem in Wittgenstein and other philosophers.

They coined the term private language. We are all prisoners within our mind, and we are all using, essentially, private languages.

We are trying to build bridges all the time. And one of the major bridges is, of course, empathy.

Empathy is an attempt to build a bridge, at the very least, by way of projection, saying, you are equal to me, and if something is happening to you, you are bound to feel the same way I do, as bad as I do, as good as I do.

And so if you feel as bad as I do, I owe you consideration. I owe you compassion. I would like to give you compassion, even if I don't owe you compassion.

But it's all built on not a very firm foundation, as far as rigorous philosophy is, you know, the logic, and it's built on an arbitrary agreement.

So the empathy in terms of feeling, knowing that you're feeling what another person is, you can't really prove that you're saying you can't prove that I'm feeling what you're feeling, or that, you know, we do something called empathic listening around the, you know, kind of based a lot on the work of Carl Rogers, who in his therapy did this reflective listening.

And it's like one person will share their experience, and then it's reflected back by the other. And, you know, you're kind of guessing, you're kind of saying, well, here's what I'm kind of saying. So you're doing a bit of an error check.

It's a little bit like, I don't know if you know, computer packet switching, how it works, you send data. And then there's like, you know, you kind of check the data, a check some, check some, and then you're saying, you know, am I getting this right? This is what I'm getting.

So you have a little bit of a check some kind of experience with the empathic listening. And then that kind of helps the person kind of feel that they're kind of being heard.

But it's a lot of times you're wrong, you say, you know, you say, Hey, this is what I'm hearing. Is this right? And they'll say, No, that's not what I'm saying. What I'm saying is this.

So there's a little bit, I think that what Carl Rogers did was have that create that works around that checksum. And there's something about that, that mirroring or that reflection that helps with that interest subjective, that subjective understanding, you feel like you actually are getting closer to someone else.

We are, we're all faced with a major problem. We have to use language. Language is a very limited tool. We would like to believe that it's not, but actually it's a very limited tool.

Anyone who has read Zen Buddhist texts, or Zen Buddhist treatments of language, it's arbitrary. It's the meaning of languages is in flux that people don't usually agree. Even on the meaning of totally objective words, the language also does not usually represent usually anything that is any, anything that is identifiable versus if I say table, which table, what table, your table, my table. So language is a very, very limited and problematic tool.

And so not only do we have a problem on the subjective level, but we also have a problem in on the communication level, on the objective level of exchanging information. And this is a problem of all therapies, but especially Rogers empathy therapy or, you know, empathy, education therapy.

That's a, but I think Paul, the problem in his essay, the problem was in his essay was dealing with the, in my view, it is entirely different issue. He was dealing with the application of empathy in the public sphere, in the sphere of policymaking.

Oh, before we get to that, let's, I was going to try to be a little systematic. So, so he really want to get into that, but I think that's really interesting. So it's, you know, he talks about that empathy is instinctive mirroring. He talks about James Bond getting his testes mashed in Casino Royale. And that, you know, all the men in the theater kind of crossed their legs and are like, they're feeling it, you know? So that's the first thing.

Then he said, he talks about Adam Smith talking about the delicate fibers of the, you know, seeing the beggars soar that you start itching so that, you know, he's just making the point that this happens, the empathy happens through mirroring. And then he talks about Daniel Batson and the empathy altruism hypothesis. He says, Batson has found that simply instructing subjects to take another person's perspective makes them more caring and more likely to help. So that if you, so he's doing the mirroring, you know, which is maybe through mirror neurons notion. And then the, that if you take someone's perspective, like I take your perspective, I imagine myself in your situation that that kind of makes through that Daniel Batson's work that people want to contribute more.

And then he goes into the research that he says, empathy research is thriving these days. So there's a lot of research going on. And the idea is that with the research, if you can understand empathy, we can see why people have low empathy, and then we can address those problems.

So and then he goes into why is there low empathy, and then there's a series of reasons. So up till now, I just wonder if anything's coming up for you around what you've heard so far.

Well, in the context of narcissism, psychopaths, it's a very interesting question whether if empathy can be learned, if it can be acquired, then the major pillar of narcissism and psychopathy can be eroded. I mean, if empathy can be learned and acquired, the vast majority of manifestations of narcissism and psychopathy will have vanished, will vanish. I mean, the lack of empathy underlies most of the psychodynamic processes in narcissism and psychopathy. It is the crux and the crucible of narcissism and psychopathy.

I personally I am invested in the perhaps invested in the notion that narcissism and psychopathy are incurable. It would be a major financial disaster for me.

I just interviewed someone recently about this article and I mentioned you. And he says, Oh, it's amazing someone can make a life, you know, make a career out of being a psychopathic narcissist. You say that's amazing that that can happen in this world.

So it's exactly what you're addressing.

Yeah, I made a career not only of being a psychopathic narcissist, but of studying and talking about it and talking and so a bit of a difference.

But, but really, when time comes, I mean, you'll give me the cue, we can discuss narcissism and psychopaths and try to see why, why there are why in my view, it is unable to feel empathy and why it would surprise me mightily.

If in their case, at the very least, empathy could be learned or acquired.

So there's this whole question of his empathy. Can you, you know, study it and learn how to raise or lower it.

And you're kind of thinking that psychopaths and narcissists are kind of like maybe born that way. And it's like, you know, it's kind of hope is born or nature, nature, nature is both. It's both probably.

Yes. Well, that's what I do. I do think that there is a percentage of a population, whether it's 1% as bloom says or whatever, there's a percentage of a population that is beyond empathy, that is not amenable to empathy, that is unable to acquire empathy.

And I think this has to do with very, very complex psychological processes and constructs that underlie narcissism and psychopathy. And we will be able to discuss that later in the situation.

Yeah, that's right. Because he actually goes into next, why is there low empathy?

And he says one ideologies that people create these political and religious ideologies. And that kind of just, you know, a distance then says them, you know, the Christians versus, you know, the Muslims or, you know, fascists versus fascism versus communism. So there's these ideologies that create differences. Then he goes into bad genes that you have abusive parroting, brutal experiences. And he's tying that in with the psychopathy, which you're talking about.

There's and then there's evil is empathy, erosion. So he goes into the work of Simon Baron Cohen, who talks about, you know, empathy, erosion, that evil is just another way of talking about evil would be is to call it lack of empathy or, empathy, erosion, then into the work of Emily Bazalon, who wrote a book about bullying that, that bullying is about a lack of, of, of empathy. So he kind of starts talking about that actually does bring that up to the things that are inhibiting empathy and bringing in the psychopathy, which is kind of your specialty of knowledge and experience and narcissism too.

I think a lack of empathy is an indispensable ingredient in evil. I agree. But I don't think it's the only one. I think even, I think evil implies premeditation and planning. I think evil implies pleasure in inflicting pain and hurt upon others. I think, I think there's a panopoly of other elements, ingredients and components in evil, which are very little to do with the lack of empathy. Although I agree that evil is not possible without a lack of empathy. It's a necessary condition, but not a sufficient one.

So there's other factors then that would lead into evil.

One would be the pleasure of inflicting pain or on others.

These other factors, there's these other factors.

There's more of a constellation of factors with empathy being one of them.

And of course, premeditation and planning. I mean, even, even people have, are usually goal oriented. The goal may be pleasure because they say this, but whatever it is, all even people are goal oriented. I mean, Adolf Hitler was goal oriented, whatever else you wish to say about him. Even people are goal oriented, so there's premeditation and planning.

And some of them enjoy what they do, so they're the same. And some of them don't, and they are indifferent to other people.

And yes, the lack of empathy is essential. And without it, there would be no evil. I agree with it fully.

But to say that evil equals the lack of empathy is a reductionist view, which denudes and deprives evil of components, which are very important and without which we will not be able to control the evil and confine it and constrain it.

A misunderstanding of evil is evil, is dangerous. And I think this empathy based approaches to evil, where they say, well, there's only one problem, you solve the issue of empathy, there will be no evil. I think it's not only evil, it's bloody dangerous. It deprives us of the weapons that we need to confront and confine it.

So if you're just simplify it, that empathy, that evil is a lack of empathy, that that's too simplistic, that you need to go into more deeply to understand maybe the motivations for seeking pleasure, and the use of the with goals, how goal. And really, it's important to understand the whole constellation of experiences around evil, and not just simplify it to one term like empathy.

Yeah, because if you look at Nazi Germany, it would be completely wrong to say that there was no empathy there. The Germans felt empathy towards each other. It is just that they did not feel empathy towards the Poles and the Ukrainians and the Russians, and of course, the Jews and the Gypsies and homosexuals and many other groups.

But so there was no problem of lack of empathy there. There was, for instance, a problem of exclusion. There was a problem of a narrative. There was a problem of who is human being? And who is vermin? That's there was a evil in Germany was compounded phenomenon, not it could not have been reduced only to the issue of empathy, because empathy was there. It was just misdirected. It was exclusive, not inclusive. It was and so on.

And actually, Paul Bloom himself mentions in his essay that you could get two groups to be fully empathic, only in complete disagreement as to who deserves the empathy, which is very true.

So, you know, it's very simplistic to say evil is lack of empathy. And that's a problem.

So yeah, so you would like to see the full understanding of what evil is. And you think that that's to, for me, you know, what you're talking about with the in the in the Nazi Germany, there was empathy within, you know, within the group kind of an in group empathy and lack of empathy for other people. And for me, that's like, I look at a culture of empathy in which I define as empathy for everyone, and encouraging empathy. So it's like, if Germany had had empathy for everyone, you know, I mean, the people had empathy for each other had empathy for, you know, everyone in the world, as well as we're supporting empathy between others. And for me, that's kind of like my definition of a culture of empathy, where you kind of support that, that kind of that way of being, and they do.

And so Paul goes into enthusiasm for creating more empathy, which is very fitting.

So he's saying that there is all this, you know, interest in fostering empathy, he mentions Jeremy Rifkin about the empathic civilization, you know, he talks about that we need more empathy, even an empathy for the biosphere, kind of a global empathy.

Then he mentions Paul Ehrlich, humanity on a tightrope, which he wants to, he also advocates for, you know, more empathy to emotionally join a global family.

And so he's just saying, there's these movements out there for creating more empathy in the world, and that these are very sophisticated books, you know, these are scholarly, these people have a reputation and so forth.

And so he does talk about this movement, which I guess I'm part of, to foster empathy out into the world.

And then here, I have a here, here with your permission to have a personal experience.

Okay, great.

In my other capacity, actually, I'm an economic advisor to governments. That's my job. That's what I do.

And so I've been advising governments in Africa and Eastern Europe and Middle East and so forth. That's how I subsist, not on my narcissas.

So I witnessed the effects of misguided empathy, misguided global empathy, empathy for everyone, everywhere, not the Nazi type of empathy, which is exclusive, but your kind of empathy, which is inclusive, and globalized, and indiscriminate, and unlimited, and so on. And I've witnessed the outcomes and effects of this kind of empathy in places like Sierra Leone, and Nigeria, where I've been advising to presidents and governments, and so I had first and experience.

And so consider, for instance, the issue of child labor. There are a zillion NGOs, well-funded, a zillion NGOs who go around and fight child labor in the name of empathy. They empathize with the children and the children's plights.

And they have these heartbreaking and harrowing stories of how children crawl in mine shots, and so on.

And these NGOs were very successful. They did succeed to reduce the level of child labor in numerous countries in Africa, in Latin America, and in Southeast Asia, to levels which they considered to be either acceptable or, you know, the default level.

Yet this had devastating economic effects on the families of these children.

These children go to work because there is no alternative. Economic, educational, environmental, there simply is no alternative. In many cases they are the main breadcrumbs. In other cases their supplementary income is very important to the country.

Yet in other cases, if you don't work, they end up being male and female prostitutes, and so on.

So in some of these countries, the outcome, the outcomes of this misguided, indiscriminate, everyone-is-my-brother empathy ended up being pushing thousands of youngsters to prosecution and drug abuse, ended up bankrupting hundreds of thousands of families, especially in rural areas, ended up ruining agriculture and mining in many of these places, and so on and so forth.

This is one example of many that I have witnessed, which led me to believe that misguided empathy is as dangerous as a lack of empathy.

So yeah, what I'm hearing there is that you're doing consulting to different governments in the field of economics, and this actually ties in that you're saying that it has some of the empathy, there's kind of this misguided empathy, and that's actually right where we are on Paul Bloom's point.

He says, empathy has unfortunate features. It's parochial, meaning it's narrowly restricted in scope, outlook, provincial. It's narrow-minded, lacking tolerance, breath, view, sympathy, that it's petty and enumerate without a basic knowledge of mathematics and arithmetic.

And that's a little bit what you're actually describing here is the scenario of that in terms of child labor, that there's these groups, they feel that they're having empathy for the children, and they want to kind of contribute to the well-being of the children.

It's narcissistic.

Oh, and it's actually narcissistic. You're saying that that...

These groups are narcissistic because their behavior implies omniscience. They know better. They know best. Their values should prevail. Their culture should prevail. Their preferences should prevail. They empathize with the children, even if the children would completely disagree with them. Their empathy is dictated. It's a top-down empathy. It's not a grassroots empathy. It's empathy as a narcissistic tool of cultural and social imperialism, or colonialism, if you wish.

Empathy is a very dangerous tool.

In this case, you're saying that empathy, that what they're doing is actually narcissistic because they have this notion of how things should be, and they're imposing it on others.

They're not saying to the children or to other people in the community, what are your feelings about this? How does this relate to you?

They have, oh, children shouldn't work, and then we're going to make this the law and use cultural force, the police laws, to impose this view. And then that has all these ripple effects.

You're saying that children are not at work. They can't make money. They go into prostitution. The families are deprived of money. The mining industry maybe gets affected. So it's having all these ripple effects, negative ripple effects because it's really kind of a form of narcissism that these organizations have.

I think empathy taken too far becomes narcissistic. And that's a joke. That's the irony. If you take empathy too far, you become a narcissist because it implies a God-like power, omniscience, omnipotence, and knowing the right way.

And this is the main complaint of third world countries against the United States, American exceptionalism, imposing cultural values such as democracy or child labor, prohibitions, or what have you, I mean any of the number of Western values, on countries where, you know, are not ready yet or are not interested at all in these value systems and so on.

So I am a conspiracy theorist in this sense. I think empathy is being abused for foreign policy purposes and for money-making purposes by NGOs, corporations, and governments, especially in the Western world. I think they have discovered the secret of leveraging empathy, or what they call empathy, to make money to impose values and even to impose themselves on resources, resource-rich countries and regimes and so on.

So when there is a human intervention, human rights intervention, like in Kosovo or in Iraq, you have to ask yourself, was it done because of empathy with the Iraqi people, who by the way lost a million people were killed in Iraq, out of empathy? Was it the question of empathy? Or was it the question of oil? Or was it the question of Kosovo's very prized strategic position in South Europe? Why was it done? Why did they intervene because of an impending genocide, looming genocide? Or was it a set of interests, cloaked and disguised as empathy? And I am very worried about it. I am very worried that good people like you, and I have no doubt that your motives are pure, good people like you might be compromised by the powers that be.

They always do that. They always do that. The Internet started as a beautiful, pure creation. Look at it now. Commercialized and worse, the latest scandal with the NSA. It's all Internet-based. It's all the snooping. It's Internet-based.

So they are taking the purest, most beautiful things, these powers that be, and they taint them, they contaminate them.

I am very afraid that empathy would become this kind of thing, this kind of woman.

So you have like an actual fear, a fear that empathy, which is kind of like a beautiful thing, kind of at its core, that it will actually be used for manipulation, and it will be used in an unempathic way.

It has the title of empathy on it, but it's really about, it's only a front for manipulation and control and self-interest.

Which always happens. That's what I'm trying to tell you. It always happens. I mean, I just gave you the example of the Internet. The Internet started as a really beautiful libertarian, wonderful idea of sharing, of communitarianism. The Internet was the purest idea ever. Look at it now. Look at the Internet now. Commercialized, compromised by the likes of the NSA, huge mega-corporations intruding on your privacy, spying on you, collecting data on you, forcing you into an ad-infested world. The Internet has become a very unpleasant place in mind. It's all the work of what I call the powers that be. Corporations, governments, and NGOs.

These are the three main players in the so-called civil society. NGOs themselves are a perfect example of the abuse of empathy. Because NGOs are self-enriching, and you well know the statistics that anywhere between 50 and 80% of donations end up being spent on the stuff of the NGO itself. I mean, anywhere, depending on the NGO, but a sizable part of the donations is being spent on laptops and four or five-star hotels and first class travel and what have you. We should be very, very careful when we try to globalize empathy or to render it a policy tool. And I think that's what Paul Bloom is going to say.

So you feel a real resonance with Paul Bloom about that.

This empathy can get kind of corrupted and used and manipulated. Maybe it starts in one way, then it becomes like a tool for manipulation, self-aggrandizement, getting your own computers, your own job, and then it becomes about self-interest, keeping your organization going and all that kind of stuff.

And you have a real concern about that because it's actually kind of corrupting the beauty of empathy. I mean, the true beauty of it.

From ideal to ideal. That's the transition.

So you have to be really careful to not turn empathy into kind of a form of narcissism in itself.

Well, in terms of the model you're talking about, because I think Paul Bloom actually mentioned that too about aid to foreign countries. I mean, it's exact parallel to what you're talking about. And for me, a culture of empathy would be not the NGO going in and saying that this is how it has to be, but it would be about creating an empathic dialogue between all parties involved. It's about having the children talking with the parents, the parents talking with the community, and creating an empathic dialogue for them to kind of work out the problems that they have.

And so for me, that's what a culture of empathy is about, is really that nurturing of hearing what it is that people want. Where are they? It's really about hearing them, as well as fostering the dialogue between all parties involved.

So I know what you're talking about with that.

And there's another part to that too is the sympathy part, that sometimes there's this people think that they're doing empathy, and all it is that they are either feeling sorry for the people in other countries, or they're saying, oh, I'm distressed because I'm perceiving you as being distressed. So it's more about their own distress, which is another form of sympathy. So that empathy and sympathy seems to get kind of mixed in there as well.

The problem raises an important issue.

I think we should make a distinction between individual empathy and institutional empathy.

Most of his arguments have, not all of them, but most of them have to do with individual empathy and how it is channeled, and how it is translated into policy, policy initiatives, decision making, and policies in general.

He says that individual empathy is a bad foundation, a wrong foundation, for deriving policy initiatives, policies, and so on. He says that individuals, when they exercise empathy, do it in an irrational way in effect. They don't have a synoptic view, so they don't weigh all the facts. They tend to identify only with specific victims, not with every victim. So there is the victim identification bias.

There are many cognitive deficits. There's a lot of bias and many prejudices, including stereotypical prejudices, in the application of empathy by individuals.

And he says you can't take empathy on the individual level, which is that biased, that prejudiced, that discriminatory. You can't just take it and extrapolate it and say, okay, we take this pool of empathy, we pull it together, and we leverage it, we lift it up, and we make it into a national policy, or something.

He said that would be wrong, because when you go up one level, or two levels, or three levels, and you have this synoptic view, you have all the facts, you see the future generations and future outcomes. You can weigh pros and cons of various honesty measures. When you do all that, you may get outcomes that do not appear to be empathic, but actually are constructive, productive, and in the long term, much more empathic than if you apply an individual view.

So I think he is making an issue, or at least he should make an issue, between individual empathy, which is really influenced by one's predilections, and biases, and prejudices, and education, and culture, and society, and experiencing life, and fears, and hopes, and needs, and wishes.

So many factors influence one's personal empathy and tendency to empathize, that we cannot generalize and say there is empathy.

There is Edmund's empathy, and there is Joseph's empathy, and there is Madman's empathy, but there is no kind of empathy, like an entity, on the individual level. But on the institutional level, we can create empathic policies, but these policies must take into account long term consequences, all the facts, they must be rational, and they must be rationed. They must take into account scarcity of resources, and they must allocate resources rationally.

So I agree with him that empathy is a bad policy guide on the individual level, but not on the institutional level. I think on the institutional level, empathy is a good policy guide. Only institutional empathy is not like individual empathy. They don't look the same at all.

So people say, well, institutional empathy is not empathy at all. That's wrong. It's simply a different type of empathy. More long term, more synoptic, more all-encompassing, more detailed, more sophisticated, more reasoned, more rational.

You understand what I'm saying?

Let me see if I hear it.

So you're making a distinction between an empathy that one person feels towards others, and that's like one quality of empathy.

But when people start bringing their empathy together and try to make policy out of that empathy that actually – well, you're saying that the self-empathy that one person feels has all these kind of biases kind of built into it, kind of the cultural bias.

Paul Bloom is saying that.

Oh, Paul Bloom is saying that. Oh, it's not what you're saying, but you're just saying what Paul Bloom is. It has all these kind of built-in biases.

But you're saying that when you kind of aggregate, you know, that people make policies, that that group policy empathy is actually more accurately empathic?

Yes, I think that institutional empathy, or what you call group empathy, might be much better. Institutional group empathy is the real empathy because it's reason, rational, rationally in the sense that it takes sense of scarcity of resources. The allocation is more fair, more just, takes into account future generations, not only current generations, takes into account the masses, mass numbers, and not individual victims who happen to be your race and your culture.

So on the level of institutions, we can apply empathy far more even-handedly. We can be much more Christian. We can take into account future consequences. We can do much more, much better on that level.

And Paul Bloom's argument that empathy in general is a bad guy is where I disagree with him.

Empathy on the individual level is a bad guy, but it's an excellent guy on the institutional program.


Let's see the difference between what I think Paul Bloom's thinking.

Uh-huh. So Paul Bloom says the individual, a little bit of empathy is good at the individual level, but it has a lot of problems, but it especially has even more problems when you put it into a group policy level.

So we need to kind of leave out of the policy level.

You're saying that at an individual level, there's all these problems with empathy, but if you bring people together in a group, that there's actually more potential for empathy in a group setting?

For the correct kind of empathy. I disagree. I disagree completely with Paul Bloom that empathy cannot be a guideline for policy formation. I completely disagree.

So you're disagreeing with Paul. You're saying that empathy can be actually really good for, because, and then you bring in rationality.

You bring in, there was some other longterm planning, longterm planning.

So you're envisioning everything that a group can do that individuals usually don't do. And you know, it's what we're calling in physics and epiphenomena. It's an emergent quality. Groups don't act as individuals do.

When you put a few people together, there are emergent qualities. There are things that emerge that are not manifest on the individual level.

And I think empathy, let's call it rational empathy, non biased empathy, non prejudice empathy is one of these emergent qualities, one of these emergent phenomenon.

I think when you put a group of good people together, of course, I'm not talking about SS guards, you know, things, you put a group, a group of reasonably good people together, they are bound to come up with rational, well-reasoned, effective, productive and constructive empathy.

I disagree with Paul, that empathy on all levels, wherever it emerges, is a bad policy guy.

So you're saying if you bring a group together who are very good or even are empathic and have empathic awareness, maybe if you bring them together, that what will emerge will be a very positive, supportive empathic.

But if you bring together some people who are very unempathic, like, you know, SS guards or whatever, that they're going to be manifesting these unempathic policies.

So you kind of want to bring together people who have like, who are good or have empathic qualities, but their empathy, but their empathy may not be immediately identifiable as empathy.

Their form of empathy, this is what we call institutional group, their empathy, may not be immediately identifiable as empathy, as individuals experience empathy.

Because Paul Bloom is right, individual empathy is flawed, it is biased, it is prejudiced, it is short-sighted, it's provincial, it's parochial, it's bad, I mean, not bad, it's limited, and it's skewed, individual. Group empathy ought to be more rational, more racist, etc.

So if you look at the two empathies, you may not recognize group empathy as empathy, but it's still empathy. It's just a different kind of empathy. It's a kind of empathy that, for instance, takes future generations into account. It's a kind of empathy that has all the facts, not only a subset of the facts. It's a kind of empathy that gives aid to Chinese and black kids as well as to the white baby in the well. It's a kind of empathy that does not discriminate according to race, level of education, socio-economic factors and so on, while individual giving, individual empathy, individual donations and charity does discriminate.

There are numerous studies, etc. So you need it on the first blush, first look. Institutional empathy does not look like empathy at all, but it is.

Providing these are good people. But you're right, if you put together a group of unempathic or disempathic people, the emergent phenomenon, what will emerge, the emergent quality, will be Auschwitz.

It goes both ways. If you put a group of bad people together, you will have this empathy. Put a group of good people together, you will have empathy.

Empathy will emerge.

They don't even have to work with it. It will simply emerge because it's part of who they are. That's part of the definition of being a good person.

So being part of a good person is to have empathy and that when you get together with other people like that, that this empathic quality will kind of emerge.

So it's a little bit, if we use your story about the NGOs going into some countries and with child labor.

So what they're doing is, it's in a sense, they're almost like an individual just going and imposing their ideas out. So if you go into what would be building a culture of empathy is to go to those communities and say, let's get together and actually dialogue about this process and see what emerges out of this, out of the relationship of all the stakeholders.

So you're wanting to foster empathic dialogue so everyone in the community is heard and that all their feelings and needs and desires and aspirations and values are kind of shared.

And then through that communication that happens with all the stakeholders, that policies will kind of emerge out of that, out of those relationships and everyone is kind of part of the decision making and that that would be like a real positive aspect of a social, cultural empathy kind of.

No dialogue is possible without an underlying assumption of equality. No empathy is possible without an underlying assumption of similarity.

If you are dissimilar to me from an alien, an alien from Mars would be hard pressed to have empathy with you. Never mind how empathic this alien is in Mars.

So the empathy assumes some basic similarity, assumes some equality, maybe not equality in the level of education, but equality as human beings. And these are the pillars and foundations of a true dialogue.

And the error of NGOs and governments and so on is that they do not assume equality and they do not assume similarity. They want to make people similar to them because they assume that they are not similar to them. They want to raise people to their level because they assume automatically that they are superior.

It's like Rudyard Kipling's white man's burden. So by definition they are not empathic. You cannot have empathy when you assume that your fellow being is not similar to you and not equal to you. That's why I call these NGOs, that's why I call them narcissistic.

Because this is the essence of narcissism. Narcissist believes that he's superior to you and that you are not similar to you. You are a subspecies, an inferior subspecies and he is the Superman, the Nietzschean Superman. So this is narcissism.

And unfortunately empathy is often confused with narcissism.

Yeah. So the NGOs in this situation are kind of like maybe self-righteous. It's like we are right in the way and what we are thinking is the right way of doing it. So we will impose our righteousness on you. So maybe it's really about righteousness and self-righteousness that it's like I don't need to hear where you are because I already know better than you do what's important for you. And I am so right in my righteousness that I'm going to kind of impose it on you instead of even bothering to see the similarities and hear your voice and really empathize with who you are.

So the self-righteousness is a huge block as far as I can see for empathy.

But that's precisely what underlies religion and ideologies. Religion and other types of ideologies have this inbuilt assumption of exclusive and exclusivity of the truth.

And therefore I agree with Dawkins that religion by definition cannot be empathic. There can be no empathic religion unless that religion claims that it is not in possession of the truth.

I've been thinking of the idea of starting a church of empathy, that there's no theology. It's only about fostering empathic connection and using human-centered design to hear what people's needs and aspirations are to create in an ongoing way the church to address people's needs.

So it's something I've been playing with.

It's a great tax scam.

A good tax scam.

Hey, this is a good way to tax scam. It's get all tax-free money here through this.

Well, I'm good with keeping the dialogue going. I have time. I don't know how you are. I saw you kind of checking maybe your time.

I have no obligation.

So what you were talking about, that scenario of the empathy, Paul Bloom tells a lot of stories about empathy similar to what you were telling about with the NGO. So the idea is that some of this girl falls into the well in 1949, Kathy Fiscus, and then the whole country is kind of like riveted, and he says that they're empathizing with her and they're not empathizing with other people.

So it's a little bit like the empathy is kind of like directed in one direction and not the other, and therefore empathy is bad. That's kind of like the basic notion there as I'm saying it.

And he kind of says that in a lot of different ways. Here I am as an individual. I'm having empathy here, but not empathy over there.

He implies what I would call an empathy fatigue.

That means you have sort of a limited amount of empathy, and if you're using it in one place, then you're running short. You don't have enough for others.

It's a bit of a bizarre notion if you ask me, because I think empathy is a replenishable commodity. Either you have it or you don't have it, and if you have it, you have it in unlimited quantities by definition. It's not like if you've expended all your empathy on this girl, you would become a monster with everyone else. It's either in you or it's a defining parameter of who you are. It's not a commodity.

But it seems to imply that it is a commodity, and indeed we have this fatigue, element of fatigue. After too much giving and so on, people tend to drop off and they don't give so much anymore.

But I think there's also this mistake of identifying giving with empathy. If you don't give, then you're not empathic, or if you don't give enough. And there's sort of money like the measurement of empathy, like the meter of empathy in the Louvre in Paris. We have a meter of empathy, and it's how much you've given. Your charity donations.

And I think it's highly mistaken. I think empathy is actually, recent studies in various universities, PBS had a wonderful program about it with Paul Solomon. Recent studies have shown that very poor people have the highest coefficient of empathy.

Empathy declines with power and money. The more money you have, the more powerful you are, the less empathic you are. So those giants of commerce and industry who give billions of dollars by these studies at least are the least of nothing.

It is the very poor who are the most empathic, and they don't have anything to give. They're in need of receiving, not of give-receiving.

So I think this misidentification of empathy with giving has corrupted the debate, corrupted the discussion of empathy, because now we measure everything with dollars and cents.

It's a serious mistake.

So that there's a quality of empathy, and there's this notion that if I give you something that somehow this is empathy, and that could be the motivations could be guilt, it could be manipulation, it could be trying to get a good image, or there could be all kinds of underlying motivations for the giving, and you don't know what those motivations necessarily are.

So the giving is not necessarily a correlation with empathy. Not necessarily they could be, but maybe not also.

A good word, a good word, a shoulder to cry on, a smile. These are acts of empathy, and sometimes they far outweigh any amount of money you can give to someone. And most charitable donations, sorry, at least in the United States, are tax motivated. I doubt very much there's a lot of empathy going on there, you know.

And so, I don't know, giving has been institutionalized. It's in the tax code. There's a lot of ulterior, there are many ulterior motives behind giving. To use it as a yardstick and benchmark for empathy is a serious mistake in my opinion. Contaminates the debate, corrupts it.


So it's really, you want to get into what is the real nature of empathy, you know, and there's all these things that get confused with empathy, you know, maybe the sympathy, or it's hidden self-interest, or whatever.

So it's really kind of having to tease all that apart, and kind of confuses the situation.

So the other part that you were talking about, which is Paul's notion, that you have empathy in one direction, and then you don't have empathy for others, therefore empathy is bad, in a sense, because, and I have that same sense, too, that then the idea is we need to expand that empathic way of being.

So that, and he mentions, for example, the court case, which I think is a good example. So the idea is that there's a court case. Someone has done something bad to someone else, and then people identify with the victim, and they have empathy for the victim, and then they create all these really bad policies, you know, out of that empathy that they have for the victim.

But the thing that's not considered there, for me, is that it's really about empathy is not just that one direction.

A culture of empathy, for me, is that you as a juror or the judge have empathy for everyone involved, and everyone involved has empathy with each other. So you really want to expand that empathy.

Just because people have a narrow empathy doesn't mean that empathy itself is bad or negative. It's the lack of empathy in other directions that is the problem.

It's the limitation of the empathy. So it's the deficit of empathy that is the problem.

So empathy needs to fill that deficit between all parties who are there.

You're raising two, in my view, crucial critical points. Can we say that exclusionary or what you call narrow empathy is really empathy?

If we exclude certain people, even if they are perpetrators, or Jews in Nazi Germany, or Palestinians in Israel, or blacks in America, or whatever, if our empathy is directed only at those who resemble us, or whatever, if it's narrow, can we then say that it exists?

And I tend to agree with you, if I understood you correctly, that an empathy that is not indiscriminate tends to yield disempathic outcomes.

I think the only true empathy is indiscriminate, the only form of true empathy.

Because as we said, in Nazi Germany there was empathy, only it was limited to a certain group of people, the Aryans. And in Israel there is a lot of empathy between the Israelis, but there is very, very little empathy towards the Palestinians.

First thing, it's testimony.

So empathy, if it is exclusionary, if it is narrow, if it is limited to one group of people who happen to resemble you, or you are affiliated with, in my view, leads almost invariably to disempathic outcomes. It undermines the very notion and concept of empathy.

The second thing you said is, you gave the example of the court, the court case. The court case is another example, where there are additional motives.

You remember that we discussed earlier the issue of money, giving as a proxy for empathy. And we said that giving cannot be a good proxy to empathy, because there are other motives, guilt, tax evasion, you name it. Same with the court case. In the court case, punishing the perpetrator severely, vindictively, may have to do with retribution, not with empathy, may have to do with sadism, prurient sadism, may have to do with voyeurism, seeing someone may have to do with vengeance, may have to do with religious convictions, not necessarily with empathy.

Now how do we take such a case and isolate empathy in a lab and measure it?

We can't do that. There's no way to do that.

So all these proxies for empathy, money, judicial policy, all these proxies are wrong proxies, because they are motivated by other, unterial motives which have nothing to do with empathy. They may be motivated by it.

And so when we can't isolate the element of empathy and say, 34% of it is empathy and 12% is retribution and 17% is religious and so on, we can't do that.

Same as we can't do with giving. We can't say giving is 27% empathy and 15% tax consideration. We can't do that.

So I suggest, I think, that we should let go of our tendency to measure. We have this tendency, we're a very quantifiable society. We want to quantize and quantify everything. We want to measure.

It's a scientific state of mind. If we can't measure it, it doesn't exist. We need to measure.

So court cases statistics, charity statistics, everything is statistics suddenly. But empathy is not about that at all.

Empathy is the fabric of interactions between people, most of which are not measurable and not quantifiable. It is the sum total of emergent happiness.

Happiness that is the outcome of these interactions.

How can you measure happiness? These are, you just feel it.

Empathy is a feeling base. It's really the German. It's not a quantity, you know. It's a great mistake to try to scientific.

Yeah, so in the culture, this measurement, I hear it all the time as well. We have to measure empathy. If we want to bring it into the schools, we have to have measurements of empathy. Everybody is trying to figure out how to measure it.

You're kind of feeling that this whole notion of just measuring it, it's not about measuring, it's about feeling. It's a felt experience.

And so you can't kind of just be focused on the measuring, you've got to be focused on the feeling and the experience of it.

When it's there, you're not. It's exactly like love. When it's there, you know it's there. You don't measure the level of, are you with me?

Yeah, that it's like love, that you don't like sit there and measure love, you kind of experience and you know it by the felt experience of love.


Either it's there or it's not there. You know it, you're in love. You don't need to measure the level of biochemicals in your brain or in your blood. You don't go wrong with the tricks. You just know that you're in love.

And similarly, when you encounter an empathic person, when you feel empathic, when you are in an empathic interaction, you know it's there.

There are many things which are not quantifiable or measurable by any, by any, in the attempt to equate these things with biochemicals or brain activity or is ridiculous. It's philosophically not sustainable because we can at most talk about correlation. We can't talk about causation and we don't know what causes what.

Does love cause the activity in the brain or does the activity in the brain cause love? The chicken and egg. It's a doomed enterprise.

To take empathy, to take empathy, to disassemble it, to find its, to define its components and to measure it is a doomed enterprise and degrades empathy.

So it's like the, there's actually, to kind of scientifically take empathy and try to make it an object of observation and study and taking it apart is kind of a degrading of the empathic experience because it's, maybe it's translating it into, into an analytical or it's translated into a more of a, I don't know, maybe controlled or something feeling instead of having just the experience of that empathic experience and that when you experience it, you will know it because you can just feel it as an ex, felt experience, as I'm understanding it.

The other thing was within the court case that, you know, you're talking about, you know, what is going on in the court case? Like how much empathy is in that court case? You know, maybe even how much can you feel?

And you know, Paul is saying, well, it's this empathy towards one person that's leading to these bad outcomes and you're saying that, well, maybe there's retribution involved and there's all kinds of other, you know, values that are, you know, mixed in there that might not have anything to do with empathy. And that's kind of my sense too, in terms of justice system in and of itself is a very low empathic environment. It's not about let's have connection between all the parties that it's really about. It's set up as people are individualistic self-interested beings. We have to use competition to battle it out, kind of like gladiators to kind of come to the truth. And then we use retribution and all these other approaches to, you know, punish and beat people in the, into submission. So the very structure of the justice system is very, has a low empathy component in my view. That would, what we really need is to replace it with, you know, some attempts to replace it with restorative justice. And I would say that at the end of restorative justice is restorative empathy would be actually a more accurate term. They were needing to foster empathic connection between all the parties involved, between someone who feels that they've been harmed, between people who have perhaps been seen as having harmed and the community and others affected by it for them to really get together and to have that dialogue and those practices that nurture that connection between each other.

One of the very perfect examples illustrating what you're saying is the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa, where they, they, they could have chosen the adversarial, adversarial system where, you know, two adversaries, the, the defense and the prosecution, and then the perpetrator is punished, never rehabilitated, only punished.

And so this is the Western way of justice. It's adversarial, it's vindictive, it's centered on retribution, not on restoration, not on rehabilitation, but it's not universal. It's not a universal justice system.

There are many places on Earth where the justice system is not like that.

So one example is the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa.

But we have an example closer to home. In Ireland, in Northern Ireland, after the courts in 1998 and so on and so forth, they brought together IRA members, you know, terrorists, and their victims. And they had these heart-wrenching, heart-rending meetings between the terrorist and his victims. And it was a reconciliation process. And they did it in, with a few thousand terrorists and their victims in Ireland, which is not Africa. And mentioning Africa finally, in Africa, to this very day, in many, many countries, they still have the village justice system. It's a communal system. It's a consensual system, where everyone participates in the process of justice, where victims and perpetrators try to understand each other's motives and motivations, even in the most heinous crimes, you know, and where they are trying to restore this situation to what it had been.

There is punishment involved, of course, but the punishment is integral, integrative, and integrated into a process of healing, healing of the community, of the victim and of the perpetrator. And that exists in primitive, so-called primitive, village societies, village-based societies, in sub-Saharan Africa, Cameroon, Chad, you know, all these places. We can learn from them, actually.

So there are attempts at non-adversarial, non-Western justice systems, because the Western justice system has deteriorated to the point that we imprison millions, and it's not working. It's not, forget now the moral consideration. It's simply not working. It's not, there's no deterring value, and there's no restorative value, there's no rehabilitative value.

Residivism is like 70 percent. It's not working.

That's a proper empathy.

Yeah, you broke up there, that last couple of words, but yeah, so that's, that there's these societies, and yeah, those are societies, I mean, for, you know, tens or hundreds of thousand years, you know, societies have been working empathically to do problem-solving into and have maybe developed these empathic community processes where everyone has heard, they try to restore connection if a connection has been broken, and so that's a real model.

I see that, too, is that we really need to transform the whole justice system, because it's just not built on an empathic, you know, it's not structurally trying to foster empathic connection between people, and so that kind of brings it to, I think we've kind of, the notion that I get from Paul Bloom, it's over and over again the same kind of notion that you have empathy directed, you know, for one person, at least, or one group, or whatever, it leads to bad consequences, and then it's that same notion of the justice system we're just talking about, it's all kinds of variations of that same basic dynamic, and for me it's a little bit almost like I've been thinking of trying to have an analogy or a metaphor, and for me it was kind of like, you know, there's someone walking in the desert, you know, they're thirsty, their lips are chapped, their tongue is swollen, you know, it's the Sahara, you know, sun is beating down, you're like craving water, craving water, I need water, you know, and you're like near death, and then you find a canteen, and in the canteen it's just a little bit of water, and you drink that, a little bit of water, and it's like I'm still thirsty, I drank water, what I've been craving, but I'm still thirsty, and so water must be bad, you know, the water must be bad, so for me it's kind of like empathy, Paul Bloom is out there, he's out in the desert, you know, it's like we have a little bit of empathy, we have a little bit of water, you taste it, that little bit of water, and then you blame the water for your thirst, so it's almost like I'm seeing it as empathy, deficit delirium, in the sense that you blame the thing that you kind of need to expand instead of, and then he's talking about we need to have measurements and all this kind of stuff, which is a little bit tying into what you're talking about, and it's kind of like saying, well, my thirst will be quenched by a cup of calculators, you know, slide rulers, and measuring devices, that will quench my thirst, so that's a little bit, that's just my little analogy that I've been kind of playing with, I'm just wondering how that kind of resonates.

I've been having fun with it, it's very visual, so okay, let's see, I'm kind of looking through his stories, you know, he tells a lot of different stories, you know, about gun control, and but they're all kind of that same, you know, about vaccines, that there's limited empathy, this limited empathy leads to bad consequences, and I think it's kind of like we've kind of addressed it, and it's kind of like the same story over and over again.

I think we can safely move to narcissists and psychopaths, we're dedicated an hour and a half to Mr.


Well, I think that kind of, you know, what I'm thinking is maybe we could wrap it up and set another time, because I'm concerned about the video in terms of, I don't know how these recordings work, because this is like really enjoying this, I love chatting with you, having a lot of fun, I think it's very insightful too, I think there's a lot of great insight here about the nature of empathy.

So I would recommend we end this as one clip, and then maybe schedule just a dialogue about narcissism and that, so does that work?

Narcissism, psychology, and empathy.

Yeah, absolutely, no problem whatsoever.

Okay, great.

And I will try to figure out how to stop recording.

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“Twin Flames” and Their “Empaths”: Danse Macabre

Professor Sam Vaknin discusses the dangerous dynamics of the "twin flame" relationship, warning that those who believe they have found their twin flame are likely being manipulated by a narcissist or psychopath. He explains how the twin flame idealizes and controls the individual, leading to a state of merger and fusion that compromises personal autonomy. Vaknin also criticizes the self-aggrandizing label of "empath," cautioning against falling into a pattern of grandiosity and dependency. He emphasizes the detrimental effects of allowing the twin flame to control one's emotions and thoughts, leading to isolation and paranoia.

Don't Be Ambitious, Be MOTIVATED!

Professor Sam Vaknin discusses the concept of ambition, distinguishing it from motivation. He argues that ambition is a form of externalized social control, conditioning individuals to conform to societal norms and expectations. Ambition is characterized by counterfactual thinking, compulsivity, and a focus on external validation and recognition. In contrast, motivation is an internal drive that leads to personal growth and fulfillment. Vaknin emphasizes the negative impact of ambition on individual autonomy and mental health, cautioning against its detrimental effects. He advocates for motivation over ambition as a healthier approach to achieving personal goals and fulfillment.

Why do We Hate (Talk TV with Trisha Goddard)

Renowned clinical psychologist Sam Vaknin discusses the psychology of hate, explaining that people tend to hate those who resemble them most and those who attempt to become like them. He delves into defense mechanisms such as reaction formation, splitting, and projection that contribute to rejection of others. Vaknin also highlights the role of politicians in using hate to separate people and the transition to an age of entitled competitive victimhood. He suggests that empathy skills and reducing anxiety about competition for scarce resources can help in fostering love and understanding.

Desert Wisdom for Couple Therapy, Business

Professor Sam Vaknin suggests an old Bedouin trick to resolve differences in couples or among conflicting parties. The trick involves both members of the couple compiling a list of assets, priorities, wishes, dreams, expectations, and preferences. One member of the couple divides the list into two equal groups, and the other member of the couple selects which of the two parcels would belong to him or her. This procedure guarantees fairness in the division of property and empathy, forcing both parties to consider each other.

No Narcissist Without YOU as Ego and Self

Professor Sam Vaknin discusses the role of internal objects in the narcissist's fantasy life, the connection between the narcissist's latent homosexuality and autoeroticism, and the significance of imagination and creativity in the narcissistic experience. He delves into the psychological aspects of fantasy, its impact on personal development, and its connection to sexuality and frustration.

Four Pillars of Self-love

Self-love is about having a realistic view of oneself and pursuing happiness and favorable outcomes. It is essential for living a proper life and being capable of loving and being loved. The four conditions for healthy self-love are self-awareness, self-acceptance, self-trust, and self-efficacy. These conditions are necessary for survival and guide individuals to make rational, realistic, and beneficial decisions. Experience alone is not enough without self-love, as self-love serves as a reliable compass in life.

Been Played? Trust Again: Vulnerability, Growth, Healing

In today's age of pervasive distrust, personal growth and healing depend on our ability to trust and display vulnerabilities. The lack of trust in relationships has led to a rise in infidelity and a decline in marriage rates and birth rates. To restore trust, we must learn to discern true friends from fake ones and develop our vulnerabilities as assets. Trust is essential for love and personal growth, and while it should not be given indiscriminately, taking calculated risks in trusting others can lead to a more fulfilling life.

Transcripts Copyright © Sam Vaknin 2010-2024, under license to William DeGraaf
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