Empathy and Imagination

13 Feb 2023

Could Depression be a blessing?

Inspired by the Principal of Sarum College who shared an “Any Questions Swanage” session on, “Ageing – blessing or burden?” I’d like to share one of his signature quotes.

Author Ian McEwan says,

“Imagining what it is like to be someone other than yourself is a core of our humanity. It is the essence of compassion and the beginning of morality.”


“Imagination is the basis of all sympathy, empathy, and compassion. Other people are as alive as you are. Cruelty is a failure of our imagination.”

You and I don’t need to do much imagining what it’s like to go through the slough of despond – the bog of despair where we are literally swamped by the weight of our world. We’ve been there. We may be still in that valley. How could this be a blessing? How could it be anything other than a burden?

One answer for us is the trinity that Ian mentions: sympathy, empathy, and compassion.

Penny and I were laughing this week about a reframe of Gandalf’s “You shall not pass!” from “Lord of the Rings.”  We were imagining (yes, that imagination again!) standing our ground with the bold assertion out loud, “This, too, shall pass!”

Thinking of Turkey and Syria, you have to wonder where we can begin to heal, restore, and rebuild. However, our empathy and our imagination – as well as our financial commitment – collectively – can channel their energies into good – good for all, and goodwill to all. The cruelty would come from imagining we can’t make a difference. We can, and Moodscope is proof.

I know this blog is jumping all over the place, but there is a thread to it if you can follow it! The climax of Professor James Woodward’s presentation was a call to action for those of us who are ageing (i.e., all of us!) It was to become Mentors – to use our imagination, empathy, and compassion to give someone else a hand on the journey… to ease their pain and facilitate their joy.

I think this is a noble call to action for us, too. To become Mental Wellbeing Mentors – as a direct response to all we have and are still suffering. To use our deep empathy and rich imagination to bring transformation into the lives of those who are need of a friend.


A Moodscope member

Thoughts on the above? Please feel free to post a comment below.

Moodscope members seek to support each other by sharing their experiences through this blog. Posts and comments on the blog are the personal views of Moodscope members, they are for informational purposes only and do not constitute medical advice.

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