Types of empathy

 

Empathy seems to have different facets.

A basic differentiation is how the empathy is experienced and the source of the empathy.

It can be experienced in a more cognitive or reasoned way. I imagine you must feel this way based on the situation you are in. Or in a more felt way. I imagine myself in your situation, and feel this emotion or state based on it. Often, there is a combination of both of these.

And it can come from a very human resonance. I recognize in myself what I imagine you feel, or what I would feel in the situation I imagine you are in. Or it can come from a perceived oneness where there is less or no separation. My center of being is more in the awareness that everything happens within and as, and the imagined separations has less charge to them. There is no real or substantial separation between you and me. Here too, there is often a combination of both of these. Even if we are not aware of the oneness that’s already here, and even if it’s covered up by a charged sense of separation, it’s still already here so it will have an impact on our experience.

So empathy can be more or less thought out or felt, and it can happen from a very human recognition or also from an intuitive or obvious sense of oneness and no real separation.

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Muscle relaxants and painkillers, and what we feel

 

Their conclusion: Acetaminophen, the most common drug ingredient in the United States, can reduce a person’s capacity to empathise with another person’s pain, whether that pain is physical or emotional.

Popular painkiller ingredient can reduce empathy, study finds, The Independent, May 12 2016

Recent research shows that common painkillers reduce empathy. Having worked with clients who are on different types of medication aimed at reducing emotional or physical pain, I am not surprised. It seems that reducing our ability to feel physical sensations reduces our ability to feel emotions as well. And that’s what we would expect knowing that sensations are an essential component of emotions and any experience that we experience as having a charge.

As I have mentioned in other posts, sensations lend charge and a sense of reality and solidity to imaginations. They make the content of stories seem real, true, and charged, whether these stories are just a label (sadness, anger, happiness, pain), or a more elaborate story about the world, others, or oneself.

I assume something similar is happening with muscle relaxants. Body contractions are a part of anxiety, depression, trauma, and addictions, so when the body contractions soften, the intensity of these emotions and cravings are likely to soften as well.

No wonder people get addicted to painkillers and even muscle relaxants. They help us not feel feelings we would rather not feel.

Painkillers and muscle relaxants numb us. There is nothing wrong in that. For some of us, it may be the best solution in the situation we are in. And it’s also not a lasting solution. It doesn’t solve the underlying issues which is that we take our experience as real and solid, we take our painful stories as true, and we fight and struggle with our painful stories and how they make us feel. For that, we need to address these underlying issues more directly. For instance through inquiry.

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Empathy towards those low on empathy

 

There are many reasons why some of us are low on empathy. It may be partly genetic. Partly life experiences. Sometimes trauma. (Trauma can get us in survival mode, which puts empathy on the back burner.)

These days, there is a lot of very understandable anger towards a US dentist who killed (“hunted”) a lion. Yes, I also don’t support it. I also see hunting as pretty lame. I also support animal rights. (And the formalized rights of ecosystems, species, and future generations of humans and all species.)

And yet, I can have empathy for this man, even if he is low on empathy. If he is low on empathy, which seems likely, that in itself is a good reason to have empathy for him. I can find it in myself. I sometimes am low on empathy too, especially when I am caught in fear.

Empathy can very well coexist with disagreeing with someone’s actions, and even actively work to prevent certain harmful actions to take place. It even supports it. It helps me come from a more clear and heartfelt place.

Release of others

 

Release of others through self-familiarity.

As I get more familiar with myself, there is a natural release of others from my expectations and shoulds.

There are several ways this happens:

I respond to my own images and beliefs, not to what others do or what life comes up with. I even trigger my beliefs through my stories of what is happening. And that’s how it is for others as well. I trigger my own beliefs. They trigger theirs. I take responsibility for my own choices and actions, aim at acting with as much kindness and wisdom as possible, and can be there for others. But how they respond and relate to it is their responsibility. Again, it’s their process and learning.

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Picky eaters

 

Scientists at Duke University in North Carolina are compiling the first global registry of “picky eaters” in the hope of discovering why some people have trouble with food. They believe it may help find a genetic reason for some eaters’ intense dislike of certain foods, like broccoli, or beans with a “fuzzy” texture. They note some eaters’ pickiness is so deep-seated it interferes with their jobs, their relationships and their social lives. – Hate fish? Can’t eat veg? Doctors study picky eaters from BBC.

Empathy through evolutionary psychology: Picky eaters may survive better in some circumstances and omnivores in other, which is why we as humans have both possibilities, and why we as individuals are genetically predisposed to one or the other, and our environment brings one or the other out more prominently. It’s all natural.