A friend working on his PhD in the humanities recently asked me about what I meant by "empathy." Empathy is defined, in various places, as "the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. He shared that in his field, the term was used specifically to reference an understanding one has of someone else's state because they have also experienced that state. Thus, empathy would be something a doctor who lost a child could show for a parent who was also losing a child, whereas I, as a childless clinician, could only show respectful support. I would not have the sort of emotionally reflective capability that doctor has, and that may be a prerequisite for accurate use of the term. In addition, I believe that if doctors were truly empathetic all the time, the burn out rate would be even higher than it is. What do you all think?
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