Empathy, caring and compassion: toward a Freudian critique of nursing work

Traynor, Michael ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-2065-8374 (2022) Empathy, caring and compassion: toward a Freudian critique of nursing work. Nursing Philosophy , e12399. ISSN 1466-7681 [Article] (Published online first) (doi:10.1111/nup.12399)

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The aim of this paper is to summarise key psychoanalytic concepts first developed by Sigmund Freud and apply them to a critical exploration of three terms that are central to nursing’s self-image—empathy, caring and compassion. Looking to Menzies-Lyth’s work I suggest that the nurse’s strong identification as carer can be understood as a fantasy of being the one who is cared for; critiques by Freud and others of empathy point to the possibility of it being, in reality, a form of projective identification; reading Lacan and Žižek I propose that repeated research into caring and repeated complaint about barriers to caring can be understood as manifestations of the death drive first posited by Freud. I conclude that psychoanalytic insights suggest that caring roles can raise profoundly ambivalent issues for those who care but they can also point the way to freedom from painful and self-destructive symptoms inherent in such work.

Item Type: Article
Sustainable Development Goals:
Keywords (uncontrolled): care, hermeneutics, nursing, psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud
Research Areas: A. > School of Health and Education > Adult, Child and Midwifery
Item ID: 35239
Notes on copyright: © 2022 The Authors. Nursing Philosophy published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd
This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
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Depositing User: Michael Traynor
Date Deposited: 10 Jun 2022 10:45
Last Modified: 20 Jun 2022 11:12
URI: https://eprints.mdx.ac.uk/id/eprint/35239

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