Severe ME Day of Understanding and Remembrance: Aug. 8, 2017
Determined to paper the Internet with articles about ME, Jody Smith brings some additional focus to Severe Myalgic Encephalomyelitis Day of Understanding and Remembrance on Aug. 8, 2017 ...
Discuss the article on the Forums.

Empathy Actually Increases in Med School Students (different questionnaires gave different results)

Discussion in 'Other Health News and Research' started by Dolphin, Sep 20, 2017.

  1. Dolphin

    Dolphin Senior Member

    Messages:
    10,671
    Likes:
    28,178
    I thought it was a little interesting that different questionnaires and measures gave different results.
     
  2. Snowdrop

    Snowdrop Rebel without a biscuit

    Messages:
    2,896
    Likes:
    10,089
    This is a topic I've wanted to approach for some time. Here and there on PR in the threads we discuss empathy not for itself but in other contexts (hope that statement is clear)

    What I think (briefly) and I'm not sure I have the wherewithall to follow up ATM-- empathy is not what is needed --- compassion is.

    Empathy can cause people to freeze up as they feel the experience of others too keenly and they can't process or don't want the emotional burden and just want it to go away. It actually causes people to flee the scene so to speak. Or to offer some simple bromide in hopes to makes it stop. The point being that experience of empathy actually causes the empathetic person to feel the distress to the point of their own distress.

    With compassion there can be emotional distance. The compassionate person can still exercise control of their emotional state and know that they themselves are OK and safe and take the time to analyse what they see and consider ways of effectively helping. Compassion is IMO while still connected to our hearts and emotions our intellect is in control and our emotions are informing us higher emotional states like nobleness unselfishness and other things. We are able to understand that we cannot get rid of all the horribleness that exists but we can have compassion for those less fortunate and find ways to try and help practically here and now.

    There are probably much better ways to state what I mean by the above.
     
  3. Hip

    Hip Senior Member

    Messages:
    9,359
    Likes:
    14,700
    You are talking about the difference between empathy and sympathy (compassion comes from sympathy).

    As you indicate, empathy is the ability to get into another person's mind, and see life from that person's perspective. If that other person is suffering, then the empathetic individual will also feel that suffering themselves. So in that respect, empathy can be a burden as much as a blessing.

    Whereas in sympathy, one compassionately responds to the suffering of others, perhaps by offering comforting words or a shoulder to lean on. The sympathetic person will usually feel the emotion of pity when they see another person suffering, but unlike the empath who tunes in to other's minds, the sympathetic individual will not suffer themselves.

    But I don't think we have much choice in what we are: I don't think you can train anyone to become empathetic, it's a natural character trait. Likewise, I don't think you train anyone to become sympathetic; either you feel the emotion of compassion in response to another's suffering, or you don't.



    By the way, here are the two questionnaires of empathy used in the study:
    Jefferson Scale of Physician Empathy (page 101)
    Questionnaire of Cognitive and Affective Empathy (page 88)
     
    Last edited: Sep 25, 2017
    ScottTriGuy and ladycatlover like this.
  4. pamojja

    pamojja Senior Member

    Messages:
    543
    Likes:
    597
    Austria
    To a certain extent. As example when young was quite an idealist, as time went by I learned to not be aware of negative emotions. But that wasn't working really well for me that way. Therefore got really interested what drives me really, beyond ideation. Took not the easiest road and ended up meditating in a Burmese forest monastery for 2 years.

    There I experienced it more intense than imaginable: all the fears, anger, raging fury, passion and lifetime-scripts, which arose due to that at a subconscious level. But then also empathy, first with my own suffering, compassion, and the skillful means to be with all of that in a forwarding way. Later also with others to an extent never thought possible before.

    However decades later, at least for me, that isn't a skill which one either has or not, it's a conscious intent in the moment, or gone again. But the first years after meditating made me much more vulnerable. In that I couldn't do things done regularly before without the twink of an eyelid, where after I almost wetted my pants.

    (edit: typo and clarification)
     
    Last edited: Sep 21, 2017
    ScottTriGuy likes this.
  5. Hip

    Hip Senior Member

    Messages:
    9,359
    Likes:
    14,700
    I think meditation can improve one's existing empathy abilities to an extent; and it certainly can profoundly improve self-empathy (ability to perceive and understand one's own mind). I used to do mindfulness meditation myself, and have experienced these effects.

    But with meditation, it effects tend to be temporary: when you stop meditating, within days, you soon start to revert back to the way you were. Mindfulness meditation can create a more subtle and elevated state of consciousness, but that state soon dissipates once you stop meditating regularly.

    People who meditate usually find that they need to keep meditating on a regular basis, in order to maintain the benefits that meditation provides.



    Myself, I used to be quite good in the empathy department (but brain damage from my viral brain infection dramatically reduced my empathetic skills).

    However, I have always been pretty poor when it comes to sympathy. I don't have good sympathy skills; I wish I had, but I am not naturally any good at sympathy, probably due to some emotional processing deficit.
     
    pamojja likes this.
  6. pamojja

    pamojja Senior Member

    Messages:
    543
    Likes:
    597
    Austria
    Forgot to add, with empathy comes not only the ability to feel the pain, but also the ability to find pleasure in the joy of others (which isn't the same as pride though).

    Guess even the Dalai Lama would agree with you on this one. However, it also depends on how much one want to feel connected (..there are also really good painful reasons not to). And how sincere practiced to that end. If done from rising to laying down each day for years, it may become second nature to always take refuge in the present moment again reflexively. Without having to sit in a particular posture and setting particular times apart.
     
  7. CFS_for_19_years

    CFS_for_19_years Hoarder of biscuits

    Messages:
    2,001
    Likes:
    5,061
    USA
    The Genetics of Empathy
    June 6, 2017 By 23andMe under 23andMe Research

    Link to study:
    Genome-wide meta-analysis of cognitive empathy: heritability, and correlates with sex, neuropsychiatric conditions and cognition
    http://www.nature.com/mp/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/mp2017122a.html
     
    flitza, pattismith and Hip like this.
  8. CFS_for_19_years

    CFS_for_19_years Hoarder of biscuits

    Messages:
    2,001
    Likes:
    5,061
    USA
    My feelings towards patients changed when I became sick. I don't know what the right word to express that would be - more compassionate or more empathetic. I think I could relate to patients' struggles better while sick. I think it's something that would happen to any one of us.

    I was a medical technologist with a high level of patient contact every day.
     
    A.B. and pattismith like this.
  9. Hip

    Hip Senior Member

    Messages:
    9,359
    Likes:
    14,700
    One of the SNPs involved in empathy is rs53576, found on the oxytocin receptor gene (oxytocin being the love and maternal bonding hormone).

    You can look up your rs53576 SNP here on 23andme; if your genotype is G/G, this is associated with higher empathy. Ref: 1
     
    CFS_for_19_years likes this.
  10. CFS_for_19_years

    CFS_for_19_years Hoarder of biscuits

    Messages:
    2,001
    Likes:
    5,061
    USA
    That's very interesting. My genotype is A/G :(.
     
  11. Hip

    Hip Senior Member

    Messages:
    9,359
    Likes:
    14,700
    I should think that SNP is probably just one of many that are linked to empathy. I just found another study that says the SNP rs28373064 (related to the vasopressin receptor) is linked to emotional empathy.

    According to the Wikipedia article, empathy has at least three subtypes: cognitive empathy, emotional empathy, and somatic empathy.
     
    pattismith likes this.
  12. Snowdrop

    Snowdrop Rebel without a biscuit

    Messages:
    2,896
    Likes:
    10,089
    In a continuing discussion of this I don't think we should assume that the concepts/meaning of the words empathy, sympathy and compassion are clear or accurate to the examples they might describe. And in lay terms people either confuse them or use them overlapping meanings.

    I understand CFS for 19 years and her new understanding of the patients POV once sick. This is a change in perspective. It's informed from personal experience and is pragmatic in adapting to reality. It may well be that sympathy plays a part in that new understanding.

    For me IMO compassion doesn't have a down side. But empathy may become too highly emotionally involved to clearly see what needs to be done or sometimes it results in paralyzing fear and an inability to help, or it may even offer something in place of a compassionate and appropriate response--this would be especially true for people who if it were their own situation would just 'push through' or bully themselves to get through a situation. They can't 'step back' and realise that the feelings they feel are theirs for their situation not the situation they see before them which is demanding some compassion.

    ETA for clarity. I think empathy is seen generally as good. I see it as neutral. You feel what others feel -- what happens after that --how you respond as a result can be good or bad or neutral. Compassion just is. You acknowledge another's suffering on their terms. You listen and hear them and accept they are suffering. You don't even necessarily do anything.
     
    Last edited: Sep 22, 2017
  13. Barry53

    Barry53 Senior Member

    Messages:
    2,277
    Likes:
    13,704
    UK
    The worst combination I've encountered in people is those lacking both empathy and integrity. These people tend to be borderline or real psychos, who's only feelings they have any built-in sense of are there own, and whose only interests are there own. Everyone else is fair game for their own weird games.

    But I have also known people who really struggle with empathy, yet have the ethical makeup to want to do right by others, even asking to help them understand. Greatest respect for such people.
     
  14. Hip

    Hip Senior Member

    Messages:
    9,359
    Likes:
    14,700
    I think a downside with anyone who lacks sufficient empathy is the inability to understand circumstances and realities other than their own.

    In my experience, it is friends and relatives that I class as a bit short on empathy who are the most incredulous of my ME/CFS. They can't imagine what it is like; they cannot mentally penetrate into this different reality. And this includes people who are normally quite sympathetic: their sympathy does not extend to ME/CFS, because they cannot understand it; it's far beyond any reality that they can easy grasp. They have not got the sort "X-ray vision" that empathetic people possess, with respect to understanding the minds and circumstances of others.

    However, with the friends and relatives that are strong on empathy I have no trouble in communicating my ME/CFS circumstances to them, and they have never told me "to pull myself together", or that "I just need to develop a positive attitude".

    So those are the shortcomings of people who lack empathy.

    But I do agree with you that those with empathy may become too highly emotionally involved, which can paralyze them, and they end up being unable to help. As someone who used to have quite a bit of empathy (before a brain infection robbed this faculty from me), I can vouch for this: on several occasions I experienced becoming mentally paralyzed by picking up too much on the suffering of others. But that was more when I was younger. As I matured, I found I could better control my own mind under such circumstances.
     
    Last edited: Sep 22, 2017
  15. Galixie

    Galixie

    Messages:
    67
    Likes:
    171
    @Snowdrop (I hope I did this tagging thing right. I'm not so great at using all the bells and whistles of this forum yet.)

    I love the way you describe empathy because it is exactly how I remember experiencing it. I used to be fairly empathic. I could feel physical sensation in my body that corresponded to another person's experience. It was frequently unpleasant and, many times, the only action I could take was to try to get away from the person in order to stop experiencing the negative sensation. There were also times it felt pleasant, so it was not all bad.

    I was briefly on a medication that was bad for me and, weirdly, one of the side effects of taking it was that it turned off that empathic sense. I found that experience to be eye-opening and I liken it to being similar to losing your sense of smell: It wasn't crucial to my everyday functioning, but it was noticeably absent.

    Over time it seems like some of it has come back, but not as strongly. I never knew exactly how it worked. I theorize that I subconsciously pick up on another person's body language and that my brain turns that info into signals for physical sensation in order to bring it to my conscious awareness. But I'm just guessing.
     
    Hip likes this.
  16. Hip

    Hip Senior Member

    Messages:
    9,359
    Likes:
    14,700
    I think that's roughly how empathy works also, but I think it's more than just body language that the empath picks up on: I think empathy works on an unconscious level by picking up on thousands of tiny bits of information: the particular words that someone chooses in their speech, the way they describe things, the tone of their voice and their verbal intonation, tiny changes of facial expression as they speak, their eye movements, the timing of their verbals responses, their hesitations in speech, as well as information about the person's background and past experiences, and their past behavior and past comments; there are so many things that can provide information about that person's mind.

    What I have noticed is that there is a different focus of awareness in empaths and non-empaths: when a non-empath hears a comment made by someone, they will usually take that comment at face value. So for example, if someone says: "I am really annoyed with wife", the non-empath may just register that information as a fact, and go no further.

    But the empath is not interested in just the face value, but focuses in on what that comment may tell them about the mind of the person making the comment. It may tell them for example that this individual is someone who is easy irritated and easy annoyed, especially if that person has made similar comments previously. So the empath always uses all the information at hand to help build up a picture of the mind of the person he or she is observing. Nothing is taken at face value; everything is used to help understand the other person's mind.
     
  17. flitza

    flitza Senior Member

    Messages:
    111
    Likes:
    124
  18. Snowdrop

    Snowdrop Rebel without a biscuit

    Messages:
    2,896
    Likes:
    10,089
    It's late for me here now but I have one observation. Psychopaths are very good at intuiting others emotional states. They may not feel the emotions themselves (but learn to fake it well) but they get very good at reading people--they are better than average at it. That would not be empathy. Right now I'm not sure what word I'd use but it relates to a willingness and ability to manipulate people.

    A compassionate person will respond with compassion (although for any one of us it's not a monolith of always compassionate or not at all)
    An empathetic person has a variety of responses. They may flee because the emotion overwhelms, they may respond with what makes them feel better in the situation to alleviate their emotional state or they might manipulate the situation to their advantage. With empathy there is no certainty that the other person is being heard and or helped.

    Again empathy doesn't presume caring about the other merely a tendency to respond to the others emotional state with reflecting emotions.
    ETA:
    I think empathy tends to be paired with a positive sense without any real investigation as to whether this is the case.
     
    flitza likes this.
  19. flitza

    flitza Senior Member

    Messages:
    111
    Likes:
    124
    I think you stated that very well.
     
  20. Little Bluestem

    Little Bluestem All Good Things Must Come to an End

    Messages:
    4,665
    Likes:
    5,480
    I know I am going off on a bit of a tangent here, but this made me think that a questionnaire can probably be developed to give whatever result you want.
     

See more popular forum discussions.

Share This Page