On many occasions, when people see the suffering of others, they are able to imagine themselves in that situation and feel compassion for the person in front of them. They put themselves in the other person’s shoes and empathize with their pain. At the other extreme, are people who remain indifferent to the pain of others … The key in all this is empathy. There are those who feel more empathy than others.
In tune with the emotions of others
In general, people are quite in tune with their own feelings and emotions. Empathy also allows us to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes, it allows us to understand the emotions that another person feels … even if we do not experience those emotions directly.
For some people, seeing another person in pain and responding with indifference or even hostility seems utterly incomprehensible. But the fact that some people respond in such a way clearly shows that empathy is not a universal response to the suffering of others. So why do we feel empathy? Why does that matter? And what impact does it have on our behavior ?
What does empathy entail?
Empathy involves the ability to emotionally understand what another person is experiencing. Essentially, it’s putting yourself in someone else’s position and feeling what they should feel. Empathy is not the same as sympathy. Sympathy involves more of a passive connection, while empathy generally involves a much more active attempt to understand another person.
With empathy, you react emotionally because you perceive the emotions that another person is experiencing. It is understood without judging the positive and negative experiences of the other. It is an affective response to the situation that another person is experiencing.
It is very important in society
Human beings are capable of selfish, even cruel behaviors . Watching the news for 5 minutes quickly demonstrates numerous cruel, selfish and heinous actions that people take on a daily basis. So the question is why aren’t we all this cruel? What makes us feel the pain of another person and respond with kindness ?
The most recent approaches focus on the cognitive and neurological processes behind empathy. An important role in empathy is played in different regions of the brain, including the anterior cingulate cortex and the anterior insula. Empathy leads to helping behavior, which benefits social relationships. We are naturally social creatures. Things that help in our relationships with other people also benefit us.
When people experience empathy, they are more likely to engage in prosocial behaviors that benefit other people. Things like altruism and heroism are also connected to feeling empathy for others.
Why sometimes we lack empathy
How we perceive the other person, how we attribute their behaviors, what we blame for the other person’s problem, and our own past experiences and expectations come into play when it comes to having less empathy for others.
There may be two main factors that contribute to our ability to experience empathy: genetics and socialization. Essentially, it comes down to the ancient relative contributions of nature and nurture. Our parents pass on genes that contribute to our overall personality, including our propensity for sympathy, empathy, and compassion. On the other hand, we are also socialized by our parents, peers, communities and by society . The way we treat others and how we feel about others is often a reflection of beliefs and values that were instilled at a very young age.
If in our society emotional intelligence, social education and empathy were worked with more emphasis at an early age and at the family level … society could be a much better world!