Meaning of Empathy – APA

empathy n. understanding a person from his or her frame of reference rather than one’s own, or vicariously experiencing that person’s feelings, perceptions, and thoughts. Empathy does not, of itself, entail motivation to be of assistance, although it may turn into sympathy or personal distress, which may result in action. In psychotherapy, therapist empathy for the client can be a path to comprehension of the client’s cognitions, affects, motivations, or behaviors. See also perspective taking. —empathic or —empatheticadj.—empathizevb.

Definition of psychopathology – APA

psychopathology n.

1. the scientific study of mental disorders, including their theoretical underpinnings, etiology, progression, symptomatology, diagnosis, and treatment. This broad discipline draws on research from numerous areas, such as psychology, biochemistry, pharmacology, psychiatry, neurology, and endocrinology. The term in this sense is sometimes used synonymously with abnormal psychology.

2. the behavioral or cognitive manifestations of such disorders. The term in this sense is sometimes considered synonymous with mental disorder itself. —psychopathological adj. —psychopathologist n.

I was about to write about children who are triangulated into the divorce or separation of their parents this morning, when I opened the comment section and found a comment under the article I wrote about the death of Steve Miller M.D. The comment was anonymous and said “good riddance.”

Whilst I am used to this kind of commentary on the matter of the abuse of children in divorce and separation (I wonder why we ever called it anything else), the fact that someone came here and, presumably in a fit of indignantion, posted those words in order to relieve themselves of rage, made me stop and think. It made me wonder what happened to this person in their childhood perhaps, to cause such a lack of empathy and compassion and how much this absence of humanity infects the child protection world we work in.

Pyschopathology underpins what we call alienation of children, from the shared psychotic delusion which was written about in the UK in 2006 and which I first wrote about in 2013 (and which was being used in Court in the eighties and nineties by Dr Hamish Cameron, my mentor in this work), to pathological enmeshment, which Steve Miller spoke and wrote about extensively. The most extreme on this spectrum is the conscious and deliberate triangulation of children into parental rage, so much so that the child is murdered in an act of revenge, which is defined by psychiatric conditions such as the Medea Complex.

Medea complex a mother’s wish to kill her children as a means of revenge against the father. The term is derived from Greek mythology, in which Medea killed her children fathered by Jason after he deserted her for a younger woman. See also filicide.

Source – APA

The recent death of Daniel Hodgson, at the hands of his mother Carol, explains exactly why children of divorce and separation urgently need protection from parents, whose psychopathology, plus complete control, puts them in serious danger. The lack of empathy and compassion for a child and in a child, which is the defining feature in alienation cases and which is seen in the child who hyper aligns and rejects a parent with contempt, is what underpins the parental behaviours which cause alienation. It seems it also underpins the behaviours of some of those who oppose the work being done to bring the problem to light.

What is known popularly as ‘parental alienation’, was and still is in the UK, recognised via psychiatric and psychological diagnosis of parental behaviour, which is performed I hasten to add, by psychiatrists and psychologists not psychotherapists (as twitter would lead one to believe). Steve Miller M.D. worked with the concept of pathological enmeshment as an underlying behaviour seen in parents whose children reject a parent outright and having been mentored by a child/adolescent psychiatrist, my own work in treatment of children affected by alienation, is focused upon protecting children from parental psychopathologies. The very reason we must protect children from those behaviours, is that harm done to children by psychopathology is on a spectrum from mild, in which the child becomes unsettled due to anxiety in the family system, to severe, in which a child loses their life in the care of a parent with control over them.

The risks to children, of being in the care of unwell parents in divorce and separation are extraordinarily high and when the rejected parent is placed at the margins of the child’s life, they are helpless to protect the child. This is why raising awareness of the underlying psychopathologies in alienation of children is so utterly essential, there is risk to life, health and wellbeing in not doing so. Currently, with the label parental alienation, being surrounded by campaigns to portray it as something which doesn’t exist, shining a light on the underlying psychopathologies involved is vital.

So thank you to the anonymous commentor for stopping by and showing us what contempt plus lack of empathy and compassion looks like, on an article about a man* who worked tirelessly to protect children from contempt and lack of empathy. The irony is not lost on those of us who do this work and provides yet more evidence of why this work is so important and why we must continue to raise awareness of the plight of children who are abused in divorce and separation.

I am very sure that Steve, if he were here, would have been the first to point that out.

*Steve Miller M.D, was board certified in both Internal and Emergency Medicine and was also on the teaching faculty at Harvard Medical School where he helped physicians make better clinical decisions in, for example, heart surgery. He had many years experience in Behavioural Medicine – a speciality that focuses upon the interface between medicine and psychology.