“I really do feel your pain”
Neuroscientific research shows that when we see someone in pain the same areas of our brains are activated as when we ourselves are in pain. This is automatic empathy. In itself, this doesn’t result in any change of behaviour. However it does suggest that we are not as cut off from our fellow humans as we sometimes imagine. While our prejudices and belief systems are leading us to think that other people are not like us, our physical brains are busily recognising our common experiences.
Our neurons may automatically light up when we see suffering but what we do about it is a choice.
To take this automatic empathy to the next level – a place of compassionate action – we need deliberative empathy. This type of empathy requires effort on our part. While our neurons do light up when we see suffering, what we do about it (if anything) is very much a choice.
And it is a real choice as we do have the basic circuitry necessary for compassion, empathy, co-operation and reciprocity. In short, we have all the characteristics we need to learn to live together in harmony.
Which means that whatever the obstacles blocking our attempts to build a better, happier and safer world, our ‘human nature’ isn’t one of them.
Good news 🙂
“…the evidence reveals that such conduct, far from expressing man’s true self, represents a distortion of the human spirit. Satisfaction on this point will enable all people to set in motion constructive social forces which, because they are consistent with human nature, will encourage harmony and co-operation instead of war and conflict.”(1) The Promise of World Peace