Dialogue is a means of making contact, and it is a form of action that goes beyond verbal communication. That which lies intrinsic in an I-Thou contact? Is it a phenomenon we understand as empathy? This phenomenon is in itself a concept that leaves much to be discussed. In the context of this paper I’ll refer to Schmid (2001). This paper entitled Comprehension: the art of not knowing, gives a perspective of Buber’s philosophy in the context of psychotherapy, which is useful for this section of this paper (there are also parts of this paper which I have reservations about, which I will also discuss). Schmid states in the beginning that empathy is an “innate (inter-) personal quality” that reaches “beyond identification and interpretation”. It is the act of allowing oneself to be impressed by the other, while expressing oneself in an authentic way in the presence of the other.
This way of explaining the empathic in a contact with the other is, whether through verbalized or symbolic communication (i.e. body language, a look in the eye or simply “being there”), empathic contact means to put aside the need to use the other person for any personal gratification at all. This means to be there with the other person without feeling as if one has to interpret the identity of the other or the need to establish one’s own identity in the presence of the other. There is no goal in such a contact but a process of “being there”, being authentically present, as an individual, and inviting the other to be there as well as an authentic person. This contact is at a transpersonal level.
Read also: Empathy and Buber’s I-thou
Buber, M. (1936). Ich und Du. Berlin: Schocken.
Buber, M. (1970). I and Thou (Kindle ed.). (W. Kaufman, Trans.) Charles Scribner’s Sons.
Gadamer, H. G. (1975/1960). Truth and method . (G. Barden, & J. Cumming, Trans.) NY: Seabury.
Schmid, P. F. (2001). Comprehension: the art of not-knowing. Dialogical and ethical perspectives on empathy as dialogue in personal and person-centred relationships. Empathy, 53-71.
Staemmler, F.-M. (2009). The willingness to be uncertain: Preliminary thoughts about intepretation and understanding in Gestalt Therapy. In L. J. Hycner (Ed.), Relational approaches in Gestalt Therapy (pp. 65-110). NY: Gestalt Press.