Leslie Jamieson, from The Empathy Exams: A medical actor writers her own script.
“Empathy means realizing no trauma has discrete edges. Trauma bleeds. Out of wounds and across boundaries. Sadness becomes a seizure. Empathy demands another kind of porousness in response. My Stephanie script is twelve pages long. I think mainly about what it doesn’t say.
Empathy comes from the Greek empatheia—em (“into”) andpathos (“feeling”)—a penetration, a kind of travel. It suggests you enter another person’s pain as you’d enter another country, through immigration and customs, border-crossing by way of query: What grows where you are? What are the laws? What animals graze there?
I’ve thought about Stephanie Phillips’s seizures in terms of possession and privacy—that converting her sadness away from direct articulation is a way to keep it hers. Her refusal to make eye contact, her unwillingness to explicate her inner life, the very fact that she becomes unconscious during her own expressions of grief, and doesn’t remember them afterward—all of these might be ways of keeping her loss protected and pristine, unviolated by the sympathy of others.
“What do you call out during seizures?” one student asks.
“I don’t know,” I say, and want to add, but I mean all of it.
I know that saying this would be against the rules. I’m playing a girl who keeps her sadness so subterranean she can’t even see it herself. I can’t give it away so easily.”