Excerpt About Empathy

The Student's Need for Empathic Support Around Narcissistic Hurt

The unique quality of narcissistic hurt is that when it is allowed—that is, not resisted—the rip in the shell will spread, and the hurt becomes deeper and more extensive, until the whole shell dissolves, which brings about the loss of the sense of identity. The student doesn’t just feel pain; she feels that if she experiences this hurt more deeply, she will disappear. This threat of destruction is what makes it so hard to tolerate, especially when it is first encountered. Because this narcissistic hurt is a very difficult and sensitive place for most people, at this juncture the student needs great empathy from the teacher. This is when the student most needs the “emerald mountain,” the aspect of Loving Kindness in the dimension of the Diamond Will. She needs then the greatest empathic support, the greatest empathy, the greatest attunement, and the greatest sensitivity from the teacher. The slightest thing could close down the student’s experience of this wound, or could bring in a reaction that closes it. The slightest lack of understanding, lack of attunement, or lack of consideration, and she will close down with some kind of reaction. This is the main reason for the necessity of empathy, and not the reestablishment of the mirror transference, as Kohut believes. Empathic mirroring touches the student with the Loving Kindness of the teacher, which will help her to tolerate her own hurt and not close it down.

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