Touching is not tender…

Abstract: Continuation of the article on placebos, healers and patasciences. Empathy is given to us. Impossible to pump but easy to fake, with no more guilt than administering a placebo. The end is the benefit for the other, and not the satisfaction of a false ideal of righteousness in oneself. To simulate well is to cheat with one’s own emotions as one does for the other. The inner Observer itself will soon be replaced advantageously by an AI. Simulating emotions is also preventing their extinction, a real mental amputation that threatens on a large scale. Let’s start again, despite the viruses, to touch each other. They too have been part of our humanity for a very long time.

Take care out of the cohort

The care proves to be the vector of the placebo effect, a dialogue without words addressed directly to the emotional centers of the patient. Without the care, the doctor loses an important part of her efficiency. It is reduced to technical and biological action. The skipped part may not be the most vital, but the most personalized one certainly. The placebo effect of care, by giving the patient the possibility of self-improvement, strictly uses her personal physiological mechanisms, and not a model of her physiology drawn from a cohort.

Impossible to have a care effect by simply holding a prescription over the desk. How do you touch an emotional center in this way? But whatever natural measure of empathy the doctor has, it is exhausted in the profession, dried up by the perpetual queue of complaints. Empathy cannot be learned or bought, either. Better understanding the other is the training of one’s Observer. It doesn’t bring our emotions in tune with others. Empathy is given to us to feel, not by our decision. Should we then simulate it?

Let’s examine the deception

Simulating empathy seems heresy, a deception for the other. Like prescribing a placebo… and we have seen that is misplaced guilt. Faking empathy is a deception only assuming that lack of it is a fault. But if given to us, where is the owner of the fault? Our responsibility does not extend to our genes. We have enough other parental legacies to assume. Pragmatism asks a simple question: Does simulated empathy do anything for the other?

Yes. Everything indicates yes. Even when the patient’s Observer is fully aware that the doctor is faking, at least partially, her empathy. Who, to tell the truth, can reasonably believe that the doctor gives herself entirely, body and soul, to her care? No Reason. But Emotion can. Emotion is not very smart. Very easy to abuse in fact. The unconscious is not a second self making independent decisions, as Freudian psychoanalysis might suggest. It is content to build the floor of our mental scene, from the least complex materials. It takes care of analyzing body language not because it is difficult for the consciousness but on the contrary because it is so summary that it is better to let the consciousness take care of more complicated speeches.

Thief !!

It is easy to cheat with the unconscious and its emotions. This is why charlatans are so successful in deceiving others. They are experts in body language and easy promises. Already digested food for the emotions. Does the client Observer attempt a warning? It is drowned in acquiescence where awakened emotions dominate. It doesn’t even matter that the client is aware of her own biases. Biases only exist for the Observer.

Conversely, the doctor driven by the purest solidarity ideal, but devoid of the appropriate body language, exercises mediocre care. Despite her conscious effort in this direction, she will be considered too intellectual. She can only count on the biological effectiveness of her treatments. Even so, the improvement will gladly be attributed to someone other than her, better connected to the patient’s emotions, for example a healer who would have added her potion to the medical prescription. There was biological action, but the success is attributed to the placebo. The doctor sees this as a major social problem, in which she does not feel personally involved. She’s wrong: she had her placebo effect stolen by someone else…


Empathic feeling cannot be learned. The great paternalists and the universal mothers have always made the best family doctors, the apostles of care. But the simulation and in particular its bodily expression, can be learned. Even the coldest professor ends up having, at the end of her career, some rudiments of it. I’ve seen big, paranoid hospital bosses, with their souls forgotten at birth, end up laying a hand on a patient’s shoulder. Their own pains that come with age have succeeded in opening a tiny cat flap to empathy.

The easiest language of empathy is the one given to us. A chance ? Not sure. Think of the doctors genuinely devastated by all the suffering they encounter. Their unconscious does not take long to char. Simulating benefits the other by avoiding char-out at home! How to proceed ? By cheating with our own emotional centers.

The parent is not replaced by the AI

Look at this child. Doesn’t she remind you of yours, with her restlessness, her fearful look at your instruments, or her curiosity? Suggest to our unconscious that each of these children is the one we could have had. As for adults? Don’t they often have their youthful features peeking out behind their complaints? Aren’t rebellions and frustrations the scars of adolescence? Aren’t old people just reverted to childhood?

Some adults don’t need simulation. It is on the way to becoming, at the time of emancipation and personal independence, the most common. The Doctor’s Observer discusses with the Patient’s Observer. Technical contract. The Medical Observer will soon be an AI, more exhaustive and available. Care will be lost.

A bit of collective vice for individual vicissitudes

But it will always be missed, as long as we treat humans. The inner Observer can strive to ignore emotions, they have enough independence not to disappear. It’s because the doctor is in a hurry that she doesn’t take the time to open the door for them, and the modern human has trained herself to police them. The decrepitude into which the clinical examination has fallen makes things worse. Similarly, the patient no longer expects to be examined. Along with teachers no longer helping students get dressed, doctors only look at what is easy to inspect. No one touches each other. Modern viruses have anathema on touch, yet the royal road to emotions.

Deception is already a market value. Let’s inject positive capital —the deception that enriches the emotions of the other— rather than negative capital —the deception that harms our ideal of practitioner purity. We have a collective as well as individual effort to undertake for care. And it’s not just a question of numbers…


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