Out of the group of readings this week, what stook with me the most was walking through the Connection Established simulator. What came up for me is viscerally remembering my own anxiety of that specific time, early pandemic, and the decision trees I myself had to navigate. As a therapist during that time, I also supported 20+ folx a week navigating their own early pandemic decision trees, and with that I absorbed part of the anxiety transferred from my clients onto myself. I thought the simulator was a brilliant way to highlight precarity and care in academia from multiple perspectives / levels of power. Having the reader / user walk through and make their own decisions forces investment in the outcome as opposed to passively observing scenarios. I would say this cultivates a sense of empathy, which as per the Empathy as Ideology Zine, is actually code for a slew of an unlimited set of emotions, experieces, etc (fear, excitement, anxiety).
I am grappling internally with the idea that empathy is a negative thing or tool for further oppresion. I am a therapist, and I do recognize that empathy alone is not enough. But perhaps my definition of empathy is different than the general public. In the therapuetic space, I create a small world, a bubble free of judgement for folx to show up and navigate their tensions. It isnt about empathy – or me prioritizing self over the emotional response of my clients. It is about reflection, being a blank slate for my clients to imprint on, but with that, I represent so much more. I am White and many assumptions can be made about me without my sharing. I take that into the space with me. Culturally, the role of the therapist is also different. For instance, with a Chinese client, my role is to support problem solving and solutions analysis – compared to my queer and trans clients, where the most therapeutic aspect of my work is to sit with them and just see them as the humans they are. I appreciated the Empathy Zine’s evocative nature and how it has left me reflecting on my own relationship with Empathy.