Center for Building a Culture of Empathy

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Culture of Empathy Builder:  Lou Agosta


 Lou Agosta and Edwin Rutsch: Dialogs on How to Build a Culture of Empathy

Lou Agosta is on the faculty of the Illinois School of Professional Psychology. He practices psychotherapy in the Chicago. His area of concentration includes the dynamic containing and transforming of domestic violence and intimate partner abuse. Lou is author of Empathy in the Context of Philosophy which is an exploration of the deep structure of empathy as a fundamentally human capability for creating possibilities of community and human relations. He also writes extensively about the nature of empathy on his website

"The short definition of empathy is that it is the capacity to know what an other individual is experiencing because (speaking in the first person for emphasis) I experience it too, not as a merger but as a trace affect or experience that samples the other’s experience. Thus, if one is overwhelmed by the other’s trauma and re-traumatized, one is not using one’s empathy properly. Simply stated, you are doing it wrong. "





Lou Agosta & Edwin Rutsch: How to Build a Culture of Empathy


(Video Transcriptions: If you would like to take empathic action and create a transcription of this video, check the volunteers page.  The transcriptions will make it easier for other viewers to quickly see the content of this video.)



More Empathy is the Solution to Compassion Fatigue

(View On YouTube or On Facebook)

Lou Agosta & Edwin Rutsch discuss Lou's recent article. 'Compassion Fatigue: A radical proposal for overcoming it.' We  talk about the confusion, inaccuracies, myths and misunderstandings about the concepts and experiences of:

* Empathy,
* Compassion,
* Compassion Fatigue,
* Empathic Distress,
* Empathy Fatigue,
* Culture of Empathy.

The good news is that empathy serves as an antidote to burnout or "compassion fatigue." Note the language here. Unregulated empathy results in "compassion fatigue." However, empathy lessons repeatedly distinguish empathy from compassion.

Most providers of empathy find that with a modest amount of training, they can adjust their empathic receptivity up or down to maintain their own emotional equilibrium. In the face of a series of sequential samples of suffering, the empathic person is able to maintain his emotional equilibrium thanks to a properly adjusted empathic receptivity. No one is saying that the other's suffering or pain should be minimized in any way or invalidated. One is saying that, with practice, regulating empathy becomes a best practice.

Empathy Discussion Part 2: Lou Agosta & Edwin Rutsch







A Rumor of Empathy: Rewriting Empathy in the Context of Philosophy

Introduction: Rewriting the Definition of Empathy
1. A Rumor of Empathy in Hume's Many Uses of Sympathy
2. A Rumor of Empathy in Kant
3. From a Rumor of Empathy to a Scandal of Empathy in Lipps
4. Rewriting Empathy in Freud
5. Rewriting Empathy in Max Scheler
6. Husserl's Rewriting of Empathy in Husserl

"The deep, underground history of empathy is surfaced and reconstructed in Hume, Kant, Lipps, Freud, Scheler, Stein, and Husserl. A Rumor of Empathy is engaged in vicarious feeling, receptivity, empathic understanding, empathic interpretation, and empathic intersubjectivity.


 A rumor of empathy becomes a scandal of empathy in Lipps' projections and Strachey's mistranslations. Empathy is reconstructed in Hume's many meanings of "sympathy"; in Kant on "the communicability of feelings" and "enlarged thinking" of the other; in Freud's introspection and free association; in Scheler's "vicarious experience" and perception of The Other; in Stein's sensual empathy; and in Husserl's late writing on empathic windows of consciousness accessing other persons as Husserl's empathy moves from the periphery to the foundation of community.


Yet when all the philosophical arguments and categories are complete, the phenomenological methods reduced, and hermeneutic circles spun out, in empathy, we are quite simply in the presence of another human being."



Empathy, Capitalist Tool: Lou Agosta interviewed by Brandon Hamilton about business and empathy



Video: The Secret Underground History of Empathy: UChicago Graham School Bastille Day Talk by Lou Agosta

"This is the complete talk: Explore the secret underground history of empathy in such thinkers as David Hume, Immanuel Kant, Theodor Lipps, Sigmund Freud, Edmund Husserl, Martin Heidegger in this lecture. Surveys show that most people think that empathy is compassion. The world certainly needs more compassion, but it is not synonymous with empathy. Empathy tells you what the other person is experiencing as a vicarious experience, and not an identification; compassion (and ethics) tells you what to do about it. Empathy is oxygen for the soul. If one is feeling short of breath at the end of the school year or business cycle, it is possible that they are in need of expanded empathy."



Empathy Stress Brain Science: Dec 03 2016:


"A famous person once said: "Empathy is oxygen for the soul." So if one is feeling shortness of breath, maybe one needs expanded empathy! This course will connect the dots between empathy and neuroscience ("brain science"). For example, empathic responsiveness releases the compassion hormone oxytocin, which blocks the stress hormone cortisol. Reduced stress correlates to reduced risk of such life style disorders as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, weak immune system, depression, and the common cold."


Video: Empathy and Literature: Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine August 17, 2016


Empathy And Literature At Rush Oct13 2016
"Most people think that empathy is compassion. And while the world needs more compassion, empathy is distinct from compassion. Empathy tells me what the other individual is experiencing; compassion tells me what to do about it. Engages with examples from world literature, including Thomas Mann's Buddenbrooks and Tennessee Williams, The Glass Menagerie. The scenes include empathic receptivity in Hanno's trip to the dentist and empathic understanding in Thomas' encounter with Hanno during the long silence as Gerda makes music with The Lieutenant. Empathic responsiveness is powerfully illustrated in William's work with Blue Roses. "




Video: Empathy: Your Unfair Competitive Advantage in Career Transition: Complete Session
Lou Agosta discusses the four phases of empathy and how break downs and break throughs in each phase contribute to success in career transition and job search. This is the complete session and includes engagement with the multi-dimensional definition of empathy, an exercise to expand one's empathy (and listening), and significant question-and-answer with the audience. Highly interactive.

Video: Empathy: Your Unfair Competitive Advantage in Career Transition, Part 2



Empathy What it is and how it works Northwestern Feinberg School

How is empathy different than compassion or altruism?
How does empathy contribute to or act as a filter against burn out or compassion fatigue?
What does it mean to train or develop one’s empathy – and how does one do so?

In this talk, the attendee learn (engage with):
(1) What is empathy – how is it defined – and how does it function
(2) A short – very short – narrative of the secret story of empathy in the history of philosophy
(3) How do break downs in empathy give us access to break through results in human relations?
(4) How does empathy relate to introspection?



Video: Empathy on Bastille Day: University of Chicago Graham School on Bastille Day 2016 [excerpts].
"Explore the secret underground history of empathy in such thinkers as David Hume, Immanuel Kant, Theodor Lipps, Sigmund Freud, Edmund Husserl, Martin Heidegger in this lecture."

Online Talk Radio - Lou Agosta, Ph.D., -Empathy in Context and A Short History of Empathy

"Lou Agosta, Ph.D., specializes in a gracious and generous listening based on empathy. As an educator, he teaches empathy in the history and systems of psychology program at the Illinois School of Professional Psychology at Argosy University and he is a psychotherapist in private practice in Chicago."



A Rumor of Empathy…in Psychology (the movie)

"This educational video explores empathy in the listening and speaking of the community of psychologists, psychotherapists, and those committed to emotional and human well-being. That about covers it. Where is empathy present and where is it missing? Should one expect the therapist to cry with you if the trauma is really, really sad? What if she or he does cry anyway? How does this relate to music therapy? Neurology? Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)? How does empathy relate to the “circle of caring”? All these questions and more are engaged. Not to be missed!"




Review - Empathy in the Context of Philosophy
"With Empathy in the Context of Philosophy, Lou Agosta seeks to make a philosophical contribution to the debate on what empathy is, a debate that has often taken place mainly in the psychological arena.  While this topic enjoyed its academic hay-day nearly 100 years ago, he tells us discussions about the nature and experience of empathy are making a comeback.  Agosta sees humankind entering a new empathetic age, brought on by such things as discoveries in neurology and discussions in the media about the fitness about Supreme Court judges (the vetting process includes investigating if the individual has too little or too much empathy), however the core problem from a century ago remains: empathy was never definitively settled, and thus we still don't know what it is.   Empathy will always be a relevant notion because it is, according to Agosta, what makes the human being 'human' and the lack of it means the loss of being human."

2013-07-11- Response to Paul Bloom & New Yorker's Anti-Empathy Article: Lou Agosta & Edwin Rutsch
Lou Agosta is author of Empathy in the Context of Philosophy
The Baby in the Well, The Case Against Empathy by Paul Bloom 


Lou Agusta: A Rumor of Empathy Interview with David Howe
Empathy: What it is and why it matters - an Interview with David Howe4/15/2015: Join Lou Agosta for a conversation with special guest, David How, about David's book Empathy: What It Is and Why It Matters.




A Rumor of Empathy at Affectiva Software 4/8/2015:
Join Lou Agosta for a conversation with Dan McDuff  
 Principal Scientist at Affectiva