Sunday, December 13, 2009

Empathy - real emotional and physical pain.

Empathy is a very important human trait to nurture. I have read about how repeat or psychotic offenders lack the ability to empathize or have empathy for people. Thus they cannot fathom how their actions hurt people. Thus they cannot understand why their actions were wrong. Empathy, to cry when others cry and to laugh when others laugh is a very human, and loving, ability.

Picture thinkers/dyslexic's/learning "disability" people often have a deep empathy (or ironically enough very poor empathy). I remember in one of my dyslexia books a story about a young kid who would cry when seeing a ambulance racing through the streets as (s)he felt the pain of the people in the ambulance. This is not to surprising as picture thinkers have the ability to put themselves into the situation. (which is why dyslexics often make good actors).

Well it turns out that some people who observe and/either emotional or physical pain actually feel the emotional or physical hurt. Brain scans showed that the parts of the brain for emotional or physical pain lite up when observing emotional or physical pain. Thus showing once again that the mind is an amazing organ, that we can expereince others pain as ours.

Personally I experience a large amount of empathy emotionally. It is not the done thing in NZ culture for blokes to have empathy about feelings. So this was kind of beaten out of me through my experiences in life and am slowly bringing to value this gift and be comfortable with it. Part of my depression was that I was not being true to my emotions and pretending that I didn't have empathy. Long term this was not a good idea.

I don't think I experience physically empathy. I get nausea when talking and thinking about gory bloody things. Which annoys me no end, but it seems automatic. Interestingly enough if I am presented with blood (cuts is worst I have had to deal with) I don't have a problem. 

Reference: Osborn and Derbyshire. Pain sensation evoked by observing injury in others. Pain :doi:10.1016/j.pain.2009.11.007   

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