Title: Empathy Deficit Disorder: Healing from Our Mix-Ups about Work, Home, and Sex
Authors: Jacqueline Acho and Eva Basilion
Empathy Deficit Disorder is the result of research that examines long-held assumptions about work, home, and gender roles in American culture. Through their analysis of those assumptions, the authors have come to believe in the power of empathy, the ability to understand the emotions of others. They believe that our society’s general beliefs and daily practices demonstrate a lack of empathy that, if not addressed, will cause our country to remain divisive and divided.
The authors Jacqueline Acho, PhD from MIT, and Eva Basilion, MS from Harvard, are seasoned researchers who have formed their theory about empathy deficit based upon three “mix-ups.” Focusing on leadership in the workplace, what children need in the home, and what it means to be a man or a woman, they offer a wealth of provoking thought about the impact of Empathy Deficit Disorder and provide compelling suggestions for what to do about it.
Thus, they have taken on a huge task: remedying the ills of our society. As it turns out, they are quite up to the task. They may not solve all of our problems, but they give us the impetus to begin making strides in the right direction. Although they have fallen into the fad of labeling the problem a “deficit disorder” when it seems to be more of a dilemma, title aside, the information provided is provocative and inspiring, offering the possibility of hope for a brighter future, starting with the individual and moving out into society.
However, although the book appears to be designed for mainstream reading written for anyone interested in improving their life in any of the three “mix-up” areas, it sometimes becomes tediously academic and burdened by statistics. On the other hand, the statistics offer rich validation for their theory. And, at times, the narrative is easily accessible and even charming. So, it’s worth it for both mainstream and academic readers to dig in to reap the reward of understanding this problem and coming out with concrete solutions.
The three “mix-ups” revolve around outdated models of behavior that, even though research shows are detrimental, are still commonly believed to be the best way to operate. There is the “pointy pyramid” of leadership, which is the least motivating way for people to work. Another mix-up is the belief that quality time makes up for a lack of quantity of time spent with children. The third mix-up is what the authors call “sex,” although they are actually talking about gender expectations in general.
Empathy Deficit Disorder provides us not only with increased awareness, but with confidence in our ability to make a difference in our own lives and in the lives of others. Acho and Basilion demonstrate that by harnessing the power of empathy, we can move toward a more functional society, healing the canyons that divide us. Best of all, we can move toward healing the schisms in our own thinking, allowing for more authentic living and genuine connections to those we love. That’s a powerful punch packed into one book, one well worth reading.
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