September 15th, 2014


In my current quest for inner peace, I’ve been thinking about the concept of empathy, or the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.  To be able to walk in someone else’s shoes without judgement.  It’s one of the characteristics of emotional intelligence and a quality that I have worked to develop in myself and admire in others.


In graduate school in the early 1970’s, I participated in a research project which studied the characteristics of effective therapists.  The conclusion of this investigation was that empathy rules.  Without it, regardless of modality, technique or school of thought, outcomes suffer.


I remember sitting, as a student, behind a two-way mirror in a session with another student, as the researchers evaluated my therapeutic skills, nonverbal communication, and all that went into my ability to help another human.  It was daunting, but helpful and intriguing.


Another memory rises to the surface, as I recall reading the book The Incredible Charlie Carew during my psychiatric rotation in nursing school.  A google search reveals that this book, which was overwhelmingly influential to me in the 60’s, can now only be found in libraries.  It was the story of a seemingly charming man without a conscience (the lack of empathy) who damaged  everyone who floated within his orbit.  I believe that the lack of empathy is at the root of many of the problems that exist in the world today.


I have never forgotten these experiences; they affected my career, my relationships and my parenting.  Many times I have fallen short of the ideal during the decades of my life, making mistakes along my path, but empathy remains important to me today.


Photos By Daniel

I carry this concept wherever I go.  I’ve come to believe that empathy for myself and others is one of the keys to inner peace.

Vintage yellow jacket and multicolored scarf as headwrap – The Vintage Studio, Minneapolis; black tee and black with gold trim St. John booties – yard sale; “South of France” bag – estate sale; black ruched jeans – hand made by Gabriella; jewelry – estate sales, flea market and gifted.

The SC is linking up with the gorgeous Sacramento’s Mis Papelicos for Share In Style HERE.  The theme today is pants and skirts.

33 Responses to “Empathy”

  1. Ronna Russell

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I manage a psychiatric group which provides me daily empathy practice. The better I get at it, the faster my life unfolds with a brightness I can scarcely describe. Also, you look amazing in yellow!

  2. Val S

    What a good post to start my Monday morning. I think the biggest block to empathy is ego – you need to get past thinking about how someone else is going to affect you and your life, and just focus of the validity of their emotions. Alas, I still have a ways to go in learning how to do that. Thank you for the reminder to keep working on it.

    Your yellow jacket is bee-utiful!

  3. Ionah

    Beautifully said Judith! I believe it’s true. We never did have that glass wine did we?

  4. Liz Rice-Sosne

    What you learned many years ago always shines through your eyes within this blog. You are a beautiful women with wonderful style. But I think that it is your empathy for others that makes you truly beautiful in your blog.

  5. kim rosario

    I adore the outfit, and love, love, love the headwrap!!!
    It´s great how you wear it!!!
    I suppose because I don´t seem to be able to completely pull it off,
    when it comes to headdresses, oh well.

  6. Claire

    Plenty of food for thought in your post today, you may have hit the nail on the head regarding empathy. Putting oneself in another’s position is not something that comes easily to society these days, or so it seems.
    I love your outfit today. Those jeans are beautiful, the jacket so sunny and those boots! I love Louis heels!

  7. Patti

    I learned the same in counseling school – that the number one healing factor in any therapy is empathy. My dear Professor Dye used to say, “Just intently listening to someone, and caring what they say, is the transformation.” You look wonderful in vivid yellow today, and the head scarf is dazzling! xox

  8. Pam@over50feeling40

    First …love the outfit…you look great in yellow and the head piece is as always beautiful. I teach empathy in my journalism class. I think reporters can write much better, truthful stories showing empathy to those they interview. If they can climb into the shoes of the people they are talking to, their stories will reach new depth and touch readers. Thank you for your post.

  9. Carolyn

    You look like sunshine today…and it is easy to talk to you, because you listen intently and you are always a celebration to observe!

  10. Lily

    LOVE your post and thank you. What a great reminder. And yes, you look like sunshine today!

  11. Bella Q

    How stunning you are- the bright yellow and black is invigorating. I love reading your posts- empathy is such a skill and an art and you’re right, without it we are doomed. We each seek to connect with eachother and the best way seems to be to be willing to open ourselves up to feel that other’s pov and perspective, without a filter of judgment. It’s a skill that we need more and more as our society embraces it less and less.

  12. Marea Dotz

    Judith, I suppose I should comment on your beautiful outfit (but then again, every single one of your outfits is beautiful), but your thoughts have given me pause. I am not a therapist, but I try very hard not to judge because I don’t want people to judge me. It is my grandmother who first taught me this. I just want to live a full and creative life on my own terms. I have found because of this, family members and close friends often come to me for help. They always begin, “Because you don’t judge people . . .” Not exactly empathy, I know, but I’m working on it!

  13. déjà pseu

    Empathy is so important, and feels at times as though it’s in such short supply in the world. 🙁 We need to work to keep our hearts open. You are beautiful in yellow! And I love the detail on the pant legs.

  14. Melanie

    I just finished a book and one of the key female figures was known for her yellow coat, and there you are! Such a beautiful coat. The colour can’t help but make me happy. The headscarf is beautiful with this, and the gold hoop earrings.

    I’ve been thinking a lot about empathy lately and how it is different from pity. I think pity is nasty but it seems to abound. And I try to have more empathy for myself as well, as you wrote. It’s not always easy.

  15. Curtise

    Some people seem so naturally empathic, and while developing the practice of empathy was part of your training and something for which you consciously strive, my guess is that you are one of those naturals, Judith. It’s not as easy as it sounds, that’s my experience. The urge to relate other people’s stories to oneself – how would I feel? What would I do? – or to rush in to address problems with plans and solutions can really get in the way. Truly tuning in to someone else’s feelings (often painful ones) without an intellectual/judgmental voice in one’s head is a real challenge. But like all skills, it improves with practice!
    And you are so right about therapeutic relationships, characterised by empathy, being the defining element of successful therapy.
    You look beautiful in yellow, it’s a great colour on you, and the head wrap is inspired. The close-up shot of you is really gorgeous. Yours is a face that invites trust and truth! xxxx

  16. Linda

    Judith, your thoughts remain an inspiration to me, as they have been since I stumbled upon your blog years ago. And your yellow and black brightens my Midwestern weather, which has too-soon(!) turned cold and grey. Much love to you, Linda

  17. No Fear of Fashion

    I so agree with you Judith. Totally. Couldn’t have put it better. More empathy would make less wars. Perhaps that is why we are here on earth. To learn that by living each sort of life until we have lived them all and can fully understand it. Oops… I am going on here.
    Your yellow coat look marvellous. It also happens to be THE colour of this autumn/winter. Which you probably don’t care about haha.
    And of course your head wrap fits perfectly with it. Also like your shoes a lot.

  18. Suz

    What color can’t you wear. You wear yellow beautifully. I cannot wear yellow. Perhaps the only color I can’t wear. I see I missed your previous post with you dressed in my favorite color, orange. Gorgeous.

  19. Suzanne

    Something to think about. It sounds easy, but it’s not.

    I do consciously try to think whenever I speak to someone that I don’t know what kind of day they are having or what kind of life they lead. It’s a work in progress though.

    Love your philosophical posts.


  20. Lyn Preston

    I so enjoy your blog. Having been in the fashion industry for over 20 years and now pursuing my passion, Gestalt Therapy, I can identify with your love of fashion and psychology. Thank you for taking time out to make a beautiful blog worthy of reading and admiring.

  21. Jazzy Jack

    Interesting topic.
    As a person on the autism spectrum, it is often said of us that we lack empathy. But almost invariably if you ask, auties and Aspies feel they have almost too much empathy. It’s the expressing of it we have trouble with.
    I have much experience in this with my kids…feeling like I feel their pain in my body and can’t separate their experience from mine. So I want to run away, which is not the accepted practice for Mums 🙂
    It has been and is a learning curve!
    Lovely bright yellow coat to brighten my day. Xo JJ

  22. Vix

    I agree with Curtise, although I’m sure empathy can be learned I have a feeling that you’re a naturally empathic person. In the few years I’ve read your blog your writing is careful, beautiful and considered and I have a feeling that you’d be a wonderful person to have around in a crisis.
    Your yellow coat is gorgeous on you, if I didn’t already know you I’d come over and compliment you on how beautiful you looked if we passed on the street. xxx

  23. Jennifer

    Beautiful Judith!! Empathy is so very important. It goes hand in hand with kindness and gratitude. It does seem in very short supply these days which is sad.
    You look stunning in yellow!!


    I try never to lose my peace of mind if I can. It has taken me a life time to get here, but empathy i must work at I must say.
    You are so wise and beautiful. I am sure we could talk for hours about the little things of life, the important ones after all.

  25. Jayne

    Lovely outfit and beautiful photographs. Just finished the book the science of evil in which the lack of empathy is the basis for actions that are damaging to others and to the actor as well.

    Thanks for the thoughts and the photos.

  26. Monika Faulkner

    Empathy is one thing, dear Judith – and, yes, incredibly important! – but I think doing what you did for a career takes it to a whole other level!! It must have been extremely challenging at times…and I have nothing but admiration for you!! This yellow and black head-wrap (did you tie it yourself?) paired with the snappy yellow coat is so bright and cheery…right in line with your recent theme of “happiness!!”


  27. Judith Boyd

    Thank you Monika. Yes, I did tie the headwrap myself. It comes out different every time, which is part of the fun!

  28. Sue @ A Colourful Canvas

    I appreciate how you’ve balanced a very thoughtful and serious post with sunny, and cheerful yellow. I love your coat and what looks to be a very spontaneous and joy filled smile in photo #3! I’m complete agreement with you…I believe a lack of empathy is indeed the root of many problems in the world today. Consciously understanding the feelings of another can only have a positive effect. On the flip side…maybe not exactly the flip side, but….I often struggle with acutely feelings the emotions of others to the point of discomfort. And, I’m not always sure of how to cope with that feeling.

  29. Joan Wells

    Gorgeous! Love your baby blues!

  30. Shelley

    I would have to agree that a lack of empathy is responsible for so many of the world’s difficulties. So many people seem to have no awareness of anyone else’s suffering, or the part that they may have played in causing it. I had to do training in empathy for my volunteer work on the Suicide Hotline, and I think most people could use a refresher in it at some point.

    The close up of you looking over your shoulder is marvelous – your eyes are such a striking blue, and I love that scarf as a headwrap.

  31. wardrobe experience

    black and yellow looks so wonderful on you! your blog is sominspiring!

  32. cherie james

    Hi Judith, Love the yellow – it’s so fresh and unexpected. Glad I stumbled upon your blog. Cherie at stylenudge.com

  33. Kezzie

    Oh empathy is SO important. I wish I could impart that to our kids at school.We try and teach it and get it across but there are some children that find it SO hard to try and think of how the other person must feel.
    I’d like to read that book you mention. Hmmm, wonder if I can get it at the library?x
    Beautiful headscarf Judith!x

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