Empathy is an art, an exceptional ability genetically programmed in our brain with which we tune in to the feelings and intentions of others. However, and here the problems arise, not everyone is able to light that lantern that illuminates the process of building the most solid and fulfilling relationships.
We often hear phrases like “that person is not empathetic”, “that guy is selfish and he is totally devoid of empathy”. Well, a very important thing to clarify right away is that our brain has a very sophisticated architecture through which it fosters this connection. After all, empathy is one of the strategies with which we guarantee the survival of our species: it allows us to understand the individual in front of us and gives us the opportunity to establish a deep relationship with him.
The brain structure in which neuroscience places our empathy is found in the right supramarginal gyrus, a point located between the parietal, temporal and frontal lobes. Thanks to the activity of these neurons, at certain times we are able to set aside our emotional world and our cognitions to be more receptive to others.
Having clarified this point, the following question to ask is: if we all have this brain structure, why are there people who are more empathetic and others who are less empathetic, and why in some people empathy seems to be totally absent? We know, for example, that the main feature of anti-social personality disorder is the lack of emotional connection with others. However, leaving aside the clinical and psychopathological aspects, there are many people who simply cannot develop this ability.
The experiences of an early age, the educational models and the social context weaken this wonderful ability in favor of a very marked social egocentrism. Research carried out at the University of Michigan tells us that today’s university students are 40% less empathetic than students of the 1980s and 1990s.
Life today has so many stimuli and distractions for the young and old that we have all stopped being fully aware of the present moment and even the person in front of us. People are more attentive to their electronic devices than to the feelings of others, and this is an issue we need to think about.
To deepen the subject, we propose that you continue reading the article and discover with us what are the characteristics of people with authentic, useful and essential self-esteem and empathy, through which you can establish healthy relationships and adequate social development.
Useful empathy and projected empathy
It is good to say right away what we mean by useful empathy because, and perhaps it will surprise you, you must know that it is not enough to “be empathic” to build solid relationships or to show emotional effectiveness in your daily interactions.
To better understand this concept, we give you an example. Giulia arrived home tired, mentally exhausted and annoyed. He just had a fight with his parents. When Marco, her partner, sees her, he immediately reads in her expression and in her tone of voice that something is wrong. She interprets her emotional distress and, instead of generating an adequate response or behavior, she chooses to apply projected empathy, that is, amplifies her negativity with phrases such as “here you are again angry”, “every time they say something to you you take very badly ”,“ it’s always the same story ”,“ look at your pissed face ”, etc.
Surely there are many people skilled in emotional and cognitive empathy (they feel and understand what happens); but, instead of engaging in channeling and adequate management of the present malaise, they intensify it.
The empathically skilled person is able to put himself in the shoes of others, he always knows how to stay close to them without hurting them and without acting as a mirror that reflects and amplifies their suffering. Because sometimes it is not enough to understand: you also need to know how to act.
True empathy knows no judgments
Our judgments reduce the ability to get closer to others ; they put us in the corner, in a hidden point of the window from which we enjoy a limited visibility and perspective : ours. It must be said that it is not easy to listen to others without making internal judgments, without assigning a label, without defining them within us as skilled, awkward, strong, disoriented, mature or immature.
Everyone does it, some more and some less, but if we were able to get rid of this disguise, we would see people in a more authentic way, we would feel better empathy and we would more accurately capture the emotions of others.
We should practice this exercise every day. It is a skill that, according to some studies, we develop as we grow. Empathy, as well as the ability to listen without judging, is more common in people who accumulate experiences.
Empathic people enjoy good emotional knowledge
Empathy is an indispensable part of emotional intelligence. We know that this scientific current and that of personal growth are in vogue, but are we sure we have learned to be good managers of our emotional world?
- We’re actually not that good. Today there are still many people who take concepts such as self-regulation, resilience, proactivity, assertiveness lightly. These are people with no real emotional inventory who continue to get carried away with anger, anger or frustration like a 4-year-old would.
- Other people, on the other hand, believe that being empathic is synonymous with suffering, as if it were an emotional contagion through which one experiences the pain of others and enters a sort of mimicry of malaise.
This is not the right approach. It must be understood that healthy, useful and constructive empathy comes from someone who is able to manage their emotions, who enjoys strong self-esteem, who knows how to set limits and who is also able to accompany others in an emotional and cognitive.
Empathy and social commitment
Neuroscience and modern psychology define empathy as the social attachment that holds people together and generates a real and strong commitment between them.
As curious as it may be, in the animal kingdom the concept of empathy is present in a decisive way for a concrete reason, which we have already pointed out at the beginning: the survival of the species. Many animals of different species exhibit cooperative behaviors according to which the classic idea of ”survival of the fittest” is lacking. Examples are some whales capable of attacking orcas to defend seals.
However, among us people, in many cases, it is the inverse effect that predominates, that is the need to impose on each other, to seek enemies, to build barriers, to build walls, to cancel people, to attack the weakest. for the mere fact that it is more fragile and different (think of cases of bullying, for example).
On the other hand, those who are characterized by authentic empathy believe in social commitment. Because survival is not a business, it doesn’t have to have anything to do with politics, interests or selfishness. Surviving does not only mean allowing one’s heart to beat, but also to enrich oneself with dignity and respect, to feel appreciated, free and part of a whole in which everyone is important.
This, then, is true empathy: putting yourself in the shoes of others to reach a coexistence full of harmony. It is good to work hard every day to achieve this goal.