Every generation, a phrase enters our consciousness. In the sixties it was civil rights; in the eighties, it was self-esteem; now our word is empathy.
But what actually is empathy? Is it just one thing? Is it inherited? Can it be taught? Is ‘corporate empathy’ an oxymoron? And is empathy always a desirable human value?
Cris Beam tackles these questions and more as she journeys from neuroscience labs, to classrooms; from a reconciliation program in the US, to South Africa, where the first children born since Apartheid are coming of age. She talks to scientists studying mirror neurons and to teachers helping children identify emotions, to victims of childhood abuse, and to those attempting the most difficult empathy of all: empathy for the genocidal state. Along the way, she examines her own past and family relationships, and discovers what it means to ‘feel you’ — and how we can all apply empathy to our complex lives.