Psychiatric Views on the Daily News - Episode 59

Start the New Year with Empathic Action, Like the New Mayor of New York

The new Mayor of New York is looking for a very specific skill in his appointees: empathy.

PSYCHIATRIC VIEWS ON THE DAILY NEWS

In case you have not heard, Eric Adams recently became mayor after the Ball Drop in Times Square for New Year’s Eve. Well, so what? What makes him unique? The New York Times posited something psychological in the December 18, 2021 article “The No.1 Skill Eric Adams is Looking For (It’s Not in a Resume).”1 What is it?

Empathy.

Adams has emphasized that he is looking for emotional intelligence in his appointees. Empathy is the big component, and sometimes described as being able to put oneself in another’s shoes. When did you ever hear that before from politicians? Perhaps with President Clinton often saying, “I feel your pain”?

Unless we see patients like in an assembly line for a med check every 10 minutes, we in psychiatry should have a lot of empathy in order to work well with patients. It can be measured. Compassion is another component. Both characteristics make others feel understood and cared for. Not only is emotional intelligence important in everyday life, but it may be the best predictor of success in life.

However, I would add that though empathy is a necessary factor for success in many areas of life, it may not be sufficient by itself. It is what you do with the empathy—the action. That is, you could use your empathy to understand others, but not convey it. Or, you could use it to understand people well enough to manipulate them to your advantage, even to a sociopathic degree. Or, much better yet, we can resolve to use it for more healing action this year.

Take the January 6th one year anniversary of the attempted Capital insurrection to prevent counting of the electoral votes for President. Yes, we all can try to empathize with the rioters; that may be necessary, but not sufficient. One action is completing mourning of what seemed lost, including 4 law enforcement officers who died by suicide in the ensuring months. There is the need to prevent another, as well as treat present or delayed posttraumatic stress disorder. Then there is justice.

To use an overused phrase, “at the end of the day,” Eric Adams will be judged by his actions, including violence prevention. So will we all.

Dr Moffic is an award-winning psychiatrist who has specialized in the cultural and ethical aspects of psychiatry. A prolific writer and speaker, he received the one-time designation of Hero of Public Psychiatry from the Assembly of the American Psychiatric Association in 2002. He is an advocate for mental health issues relate to climate instability, burnout, Islamophobia, and anti-Semitism for a better world. He serves on the Editorial Board of Psychiatric TimesTM.

Reference

1. Rubinstein D. The no. 1 skill Eric Adams is looking for (it’s not on a résumé). The New York Times. December 18, 2021. Accessed January 3, 2021. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/12/18/nyregion/eric-adams-emotional-intelligence.html