The Empathy Exam by Lesli Jamison: Critical Summary

August 09 2021  ·  3 min read

The Empathy Exam by Lesli Jamison circles around the meaning of empathy that what we mean when we say we feel somebody’s pain. Choosing to care for someone and feel their pain simply means creating a comfortable environment for the sufferer and committing to a set of behaviors without attacking their personal space. The text bounces between topics of her intimate loss to the ghost disease as an attempt to demarcate empathy in dicey situations that how it is diverse from pity and apathy. Furthermore, Jamison uses the dichotomy of her surgeries and the medical memoir to show that feeling someone else’s pain calls for a realization of humility and imagination. She brings up her condition before the abortion and how easily Dave, her boyfriend, said that she was making her emotions all up, to make it clear how people are not able to handle emotional discordance. She wanted Dave to feel her pain equally and to share her suffering, she briefs that really few people are privileged to have the skill of hearing others' suffering and feeling their pain.

Jamison is playing the specialty case of Stephanie Phillips, a woman troubled with seizures illustrating the grief of her brother’s death that she is not able to get over. She has used her specialty case and all other cases to twist the process of her personal growth through playing the med sick for students with her real suffering: it gives her a better reflection of her emotions and what she wanted. It was her duty to judge the future doctors on the grounds of empathy she would receive for her condition. A broader lens of empathy is explained in the text using the amalgam of fiction cases and reality surgeries of the author. She adds that empathy is making a win-win situation with the sufferer when asked for and creating such a situation that the troubled person spills all the poison amassing within him/her. Because people need to be understood as much as they need food. Once they feel that they are understood, they will tell you more than you may want to hear.

Jamison has displayed the contrast between her encounters with her doctors for abortion and heart surgery. She came across Dr.M during the times of her abortion and those encounters are scrutinized as dry and completely deprived out of empathy. She describes Dr.M as a mechanical person with no signs of humanity towards her patients. As Jamison does not receive the attention that she needed so badly from Dr.M. Meanwhile, her other doctor Dr.G is portrayed totally opposite: explaining the procedures of the heart surgery to Jamison and having more than a mechanical relationship with the patient. In addition, her tragedies made it easy for her to dissolve into her characters more easily. Because they made her able to imagine and feel the pain of sickness that she plays. In the beginning, the author is more desperate towards what empathy is and stresses over its explanation in diverse situations. She uses the phrase ‘Empathy isn’t…’ over again to define empathy in multiple situations. Finally, it was only after reading Jamison’s text that I was able to know what empathy is from a broader perspective. Her text took me beyond my horizons of understanding and showed what I hadn’t thought of empathy before. 


References

Lesli Jamison, The Empathy Exams. https://believermag.com/the-empathy-exams/


Aleena Abbas

Aleena Abbas

Hii there! I love to sketch and paint, and I am clueless about how I ended up with pen and paper on my Gap Year. It was just dumb luck that I figured out I can arrange words into sentences. I am warning you I can be boring because I don't use references from big-name seasons on the go. As well as sarcasm is not my thing. However, I can wake up when it's 2 in the morning, make coffee, and write dairy. Welcome to my territory, it's me :')

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