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Snack #7: Escaping death and Neural Resonance

Someone's daughter tried to commit suicide. It happened right above where we were staying, but I don't feel like going there and helping out by offering support and empathy - my excuse is that I too had a meeting with death when my dad died, and I know there's very little comfort in words, sometimes not even in a hug, at least not for me.

People process things differently. I learned that even with practicing empathy many times a week, I don't always feel like showing it to others - more on this on the second part ahead. I know I have the capacity, I think we all do, but just because you can do something doesn't mean you want to - it is what it is, and that's OK. It's OK to not want to feel bad, it's OK to put a boundary for yourself if you know that crossing it will be draining and detrimental to you, and/or your mental health.

A lesson from a thing:

Motivated empathy is one of the research articles I'm reading right now, which explains that although empathy is mostly automatic in humans and animals, it's not fully automatic, as we have motivations to engage in it or avoid it.

We want to engage and show empathy if it brings us social points, a "good" feeling, or the feeling of belonging,

We want to avoid if it causes pain if it "costs us too much" (time/money/effort), or it interferes with competition (i.e empathizing with your opponent in a match, doesn't help you win).

One way we can avoid empathy by simply choosing to not enter a situation where empathy is expected to be required (I.e crossing the road when seeing a beggar up ahead, or going close to someone who needs consoling). Since some aspects of empathy are automatic, meaning we can't consciously avoid empathy because it happens BEFORE awareness, avoiding situations is a powerful tool.

After reading it, I understand that merely seeing someone in pain triggers a type of empathy called "experience sharing", meaning that I could literally feel their pain, and "neural resonance", meaning my brain literally mimics the chemistry of their experience as if I was going through it. To avoid pain, I stay away.

Empathy and studying it can tell us a lot about human nature.

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