Atlas Child Articles

Empaths and Empathy

Tuesday, August 24th, 2010

Empathy is the ability to understand what it’s like to get inside someone else’s skin and feel what they are feeling.  Most people have empathy, but there is a small percentage who wear their empathy on their sleeve.  These are called Empaths, people who not just display empathy, but who literally take on another persons emotional pain so that person can be relieved of what they are feeling.

A couple of years ago, my Dad, my son Chris, aged thirteen, and I went to the zoo.  We walked around and admired the animals.  When I was a child I loved the zoo, but this time all I could feel was the collective encompassing misery of hundreds of sentient beings locked up in small, dark, dank enclosures.  It made me very sad and internally I had a fierce debate over the pros and cons of animal conservation versus animal extinction.  Eventually we bought lunch and sat on a platform overlooking the elephant enclosure, which, from the point of view of the zoo, is a magnificent structure.  From the point of view of an elephant, it’s a miserable hell-hole.


When a Child is Different

Saturday, April 17th, 2010

I know my teenage son is different because he orders extra broccoli on his vegetarian pizza.  He is so conscious of animal rights that he requests no cheese in case it contains animal enzymes and he grates his own rennet-free cheese over the top.  He’s been a vegetarian since he was ten.  He’s now nearly fifteen.  I thought his no-meat phase would last a couple of weeks at most.

He adores horses, has a part-time job cleaning out stables and he loves books.  He doesn’t know how many cylinders a V8 Commodore has – nor does he care.  He is so environmentally aware that his first car will be a hybrid vehicle that runs on vegetable oil.  His favourite movie is “An Inconvenient Truth”.


The Masochistic Therapist

Wednesday, March 31st, 2010

Nancy McWilliams admits in her book Psychoanalytic Diagnosis: Understanding Personality Structure in the Clinical Process that she can sometimes be a masochist with a depressive personality, which can gear itself up towards rescuing her clients from themselves.

In her section “Therapeutic Implications of the Diagnosis of Obsessive or Compulsive Personality,” she says “… by accepting compulsively self-harming people into analytic treatment unconditionally, the therapist may unwittingly contribute to their fantasies that therapy will operate magically, without their having at some point to exert self-control …”

This is known universally in Therapy World as “rescue fantasies.” Sometimes there is a repeat pattern of trauma in therapy where the obsessive, compulsive self-harming client with abandonment issues regresses and imploringly begs the therapist for extracurricular activities, and the therapist panics and enables the client to regress further by trying to pull them out of their regression with a magical cure, trying to rescue the client by crawling into their fantasies and merging with them. This can cause the client to withdraw and disintegrate or verbally attack the therapist in a sadistic manner due to feelings of overwhelming engulfment. This is where the cure can be worse than the disease. 


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