Empathy. It is known as “the ability to tune into and share another person’s emotion from their perspective.”
According to SMH, this is key to building relationships with others. Because no man is an island! While having all these feelings may make the relationship stronger, recent studies such as Journal of Experimental Social Psychology and Health Psychology have shown that having too much empathy is actually bad for our health.
Huh, how? Don’t get confused yet, we’ll break it down for you!
1. There are three kinds of empathy known as cognitive, emotional and compassionate
a) Cognitive empathy means that you can relate and understand what the other person is thinking or feeling. Like when you watch a movie or read a book!
b) Emotional empathy is when you imagine yourself in that person’s shoes and actually feel what they are feeling. Like when your close friend has lost a loved one and it feels like it’s you who have lost it instead!
c) Compassionate empathy is perhaps the most useful emotion as you care for the person but at a distance. You are also filled with a desire to help the person in need.
2. Researchers discovered that emotional empathy causes the most harm to our health
They conducted a study with 200 college students and provided them with an article about a student who was struggling with life after the mother’s death and had to take care of his younger siblings. Those respondents had their psychological markers measured after that.
Apparently, those who put themselves in the students shoes had a much higher “fight-or-flight” response and were similarly stressed up by the case study. And we know stress is not good! They also discovered that it could lead to pain or burnout.
3. Respondents who experienced emotional empathy had high stress hormones
Lead researcher Anneke Buffone said, “Over time, the chronic activation of the stress hormone cortisol could lead to a variety of serious health issues like cardiovascular problems, a finding that is particularly meaningful for health professionals who are confronted with others’ pain and suffering daily.”
4. It’s not all bad though because they also discovered that compassionate empathy produces a positive response
The researchers found that when the person responded to a person’s suffering with compassion, it had a beneficial, invigorating response similar to completing a satisfactory challenge. This will activate the part of the brain that is associated with motivation and reward, which can make you feel good about yourself.
5. Hence, we should learn how to transfer our emotional empathy to compassionate empathy
Psychologists say that we should learn how to regulate our empathy before it causes any harm to our health. Richard Davidson, a professor of psychology and psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin at Madison says, “Encouraging the focus on the person’s well-being and happiness, instead of their distress, actually shifts our brain’s pathways from experiencing painful empathy to the more rewarding areas of compassion. It’s this process that helps us to detach from their suffering.”
Best of all, this will help us gain more social skills and hone our helpfulness as well. After all, the person who is suffering doesn’t need you to feel their pain. What they actually need is your kindness and help!
That’s why they say it’s always better to help someone in need!
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