I can imagine what it’s like to deal with a crying baby for a few minutes, or spend time by myself in a small room, or have a stranger recognize me on the street. But it’s much harder to imagine — impossible, I think — what it would be like to be a single parent, suffer a year of solitary confinement or become a famous movie star.

These failures should motivate a certain humility when it comes to dealing with the lives of others. Instead of assuming that we can know what it is like to be them, we should focus more on listening to what they have to say. This isn’t perfect — people sometimes lie, or are confused, or deluded — but it’s by far the best method of figuring out the needs, desires and histories of people who are different from us.

anonymous asked:

ok thanks! One question is, can you lack empathy with some things/towards certain people, and then be extremely (sometimes overly) empathetic in other cases? Sometimes I don't seem to care if someone is upset (in fact, seeing someone cry makes me very uncomfortable especially if im expected to comfort them). But my sister recently went thru post-partum depression and I swear I feel like I sponged up her depression and anxiety for a whole week. Is that a thing?

Yeah, I definitely think this is a thing. Sometimes I find it hard to empathize with something someone’s telling me about. It’s hard to wrap my head around it. And then other times I have extreme empathy, to the point where I empathize with a piece of bubble wrap, imagining that it doesn’t want to be thrown away, so I want to keep it safe from that. Personally, I find it difficult to “put myself in other people’s shoes,” but I empathize much more readily with animals and even objects.

I actually wrote a blog post about this topic for our Wordpress, which you can find here.


Emotional brains 'physically different' from rational ones -- ScienceDaily

“People who are high on affective empathy are often those who get quite fearful when watching a scary movie, or start crying during a sad scene. Those who have high cognitive empathy are those who are more rational, for example a clinical psychologist counselling a client,” Mr Eres said.

The researchers used voxel-based morphometry (VBM) to examine the extent to which grey matter density in 176 participants predicted their scores on tests that rated their levels for cognitive empathy compared to affective – or emotional – empathy.

The results showed that people with high scores for affective empathy had greater grey matter density in the insula, a region found right in the ‘middle’ of the brain. Those who scored higher for cognitive empathy had greater density in the midcingulate cortex – an area above the corpus callosum, which connects the two hemispheres of the brain.

Rats forsake chocolate to save a drowning companion

 A new study shows that rats will rescue their distressed pals from the drink—even when they’re offered chocolate instead. They’re also more likely to help when they’ve had an unpleasant swimming experience of their own, adding to growing evidence that the rodents feel empathy.

Researchers at the Kwansei Gakuin University in Japan tested the rat’s altruistic behavior by devising an experimental box with two compartments divided by a transparent partition. On one side of the box, a rat was forced to swim in a pool of water, which it strongly disliked. Although not at risk of drowning—the animal could cling to a ledge—it did have to tread water for up to 5 minutes. The only way the rodent could escape its watery predicament was if a second rat—sitting safe and dry on a platform—pushed open a small round door separating the two sides, letting it climb onto dry land.

Within a few days, the high-and-dry rats were regularly aiding their soaking companions by opening the door, the team reports online today in Animal Cognition. They did not open the door when the pool was dry, confirming that the rats were helping in response to others’ distress, rather than because they wanted company, Mason says. Rats that had previously been immersed learned how to save their cagemates much more quickly than those who had never been soaked, suggesting that empathy drove their behavior, she adds. “Not only does the rat recognize distress, but he is even more moved to act because he remembers being in that situation.”

Given a choice between eating chocolate and helping a pal, rats make the noble decision. Sato, N. et al., Animal Cognition (2015)


Souvid Datta: Contemporary Kabul

Artist Statement:

Common contemporary perceptions of Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul, is based on three decades of war coverage. From the Soviet and Mujahideen battles, to Talibarn rule, US invasion and subsequen security struggles the stories and images most internationally pervasive are those coloured in conflict, bloodshed and tribulation. Today, the Kabul that exists is one of many faces. One where bombed out buildings stand aside fresh internet cafés. Where more children and girls are attending school that ever before. Where shops and streets are populated by musicians, artists, athletes and activists who are trying to live connected to 21st century lives in spite of the massive infrastructure problems and the ever-present military attacks. Against the backdrop of Afghanistan’s first and messy democratic transfer of power as well as the Taliban’s recent tide of violence, this series explores contemporary trends in youth culture, arts and daily life. It is an ongoing, unfinished project. 

read more on his work via The Gaurdian.

*personal note: I can not contain my love for the work of this photographer. I’ve taken great pains to sneak 2 photos in every tumblr slot because I could not possibly limit myself to only 10 photos. The care and time he has taken with the people and culture of Afghanistan is palpable, something even more notable due to his identity as a foreigner. MORE OF THIS quality of empathy and work is needed in the world, let alone the photo-journalism community.

When a friend or loved one gets sick — really, seriously sick — it’s hard to know what to say. So some of us say nothing. Which seems better than saying the wrong thing, though people do that too.

Los Angeles graphic designer Emily McDowell’s solution to this dilemma are what she calls Empathy Cards. When someone is seriously ill, she says, the usual “Get Well Soon” won’t do. Because you might not, she says. At least not soon.

McDowell knows this from experience. She’s a 15-year survivor of Hodgkin lymphoma. She was just 24 when she was diagnosed.

Are You Sick, And Sick Of Hearing ‘Everything Happens For A Reason’?

Photo credit: Courtesy of Emily McDowell Studio

“Highly sensitive people are too often perceived as weaklings or damaged goods. To feel intensely is not a symptom of weakness, it is the trademark of the truly alive and compassionate. It is not the empath who is broken, it is society that has become dysfunctional and emotionally disabled. There is no shame in expressing your authentic feelings. Those who are at times described as being a ‘hot mess’ or having 'too many issues’ are the very fabric of what keeps the dream alive for a more caring, humane world. Never be ashamed to let your tears shine a light in this world.”  
 Anthon St. Maarten ~

Animation by : DarkAngel0ne

Rat Empathy

Upworthy carried a story summarizing an experiment demonstrating that rats exhibit empathy. Why do I care about this? Because the graphics showing the experiment on Upworthy made me smile, and smiling is good. Here’s the link in case you want to watch the video embedded in the story.

Some scientists ran an experiment to demonstrate that. Here’s how it worked:

  1. The scientists put a rat in water (which rats hate). Not enough to hurt the rat, but enough to annoy it.
  2. Then they put another rat in a safer, dry area with a door it could open to save the first rat.

When the dry rat heard the damp, miserable rat get upset, she came to the rescue.

Still not satisfied with the result, the scientists ran a more complex test.

What if you bribe the dry rat with food? Will she ignore it to rescue the wet rat in the next chamber?

Scientists presumed it would be easier for the not-in-peril rat to take the obvious selfless route when it was given only one choice. But what if they gave her a delicious bribe (chocolate cereal) and then let her choose between saving her friend and a buffet?

The rats, by a significant margin, still usually saved their friend before getting their delicious bribe. What does that mean?

Rats might care more about each other than things like food, and that prioritization might be encoded in their DNA.

Why should we care about super-thoughtful rats?

It is often argued that humans are inherently selfish — that without guidance, we would all default to killing and stealing and an “every person for themselves” mentality. That we only help others if it helps us. That evolution can’t make us selfless; it’s something we have to force ourselves to do.

But if rats show human-like qualities (they laugh like us, they dream like us, they like to have selfless lovers) like altruism, that means it isn’t a human-learned behavior. It could be encoded in our DNA. It means humans could be empathetic and kind by default.

It also means that rats and humans have more in common than we think.

An adorable rat not spreading the plague and hugging a tiny teddy bear. Much empathy.

Stigmas is Nursing

(Things we may sometimes forget to take into consideration).

1. “ICU nurses are snobby, elite.” Where does this come from? Any Med Surg nurse can probably attest to feeling a little fearful about upgrading a patient to critical care, to the “scary ICU nurses”. Here’s the thing. ICU nurses have gotten a bad rap; they’re intense because the patient’s life is in danger. They may have only two (or three) patients but their work is tenfold; scrutinizing every detail that may be the key to saving a life. The pressure is extraordinary, they are managing multiple invasive lines, countless drips with intricate knowledge of math and safety parameters for each and every drip rate. Additionally, they are expected to be involved in invasive bedside procedures, even though they have other patients who are just as critical next door. On top of that, they’re often required to leave their patients in the care of others (many times with nurses who already have an assignment, making it unsafe for them to juggle four or five critical patients), while they respond to cardiac arrests in the hospital. They’re caring for patients in the most intense moments of their lives, and it’s exhausting even though it’s two people. Every second counts when they’re critical status. ICU nurses move fast and ask a lot of direct questions in report because they require the minuscule details other areas may dismiss. It’s not personal when they’re digging for information. They are focused on the patient. If there is a condescending ICU Nurse, it’s likely they’re an unkind person in any speciality - for every one of those, there’s also just as many kind ICU nurses who inspire the rest of us to be caring and unbeatable at critical care.

2. “Med Surg isn’t a specialty.” Any nurse who has worked about a day in Med Surg will understand it takes a well rounded and brave soul to be in this area, and yes, it’s a specialty. There’s certification in this field that supports this. On any given day, a Med Surg Nurse will have patients who are at critical status; with no beds available in ICU for upgrade, so they are accountable for them, in addition to the sometimes up to 10 (or more), additional patients, many confused, climbing out of bed, intubated, coming and going from MRI, CT, Nuclear Stress Tests, admits coming from ER, Pacu, direct from OR, Endoscopy, other floors - often all at the same time. Med Surg nurses are hard core, and they’re focused on surviving the marathon shifts they need to endure every damn day.

3. “Psych Nurses; They have no skills, they wouldn’t know what to do with a patient in distress, or they’re just slow.” Perhaps there aren’t Triple Lumen Catheters, Swans, invasive bedside procedures, but these nurses have an extraordinary amount of patience for the combative, a knack for decoding a patient’s silence, and an instinctive awareness to liars, manipulators, and especially when a patient is in serious danger of harming themselves long before anyone else has realized. They’ve learned the importance of developing a patient’s trust, significant with women who have been battered and fear opening up to anyone - but may trust a nurse who has learned the right questions to ask, created a safety zone, and found a way to to see past the outside world’s judgment of mental health issues to see the human; while prioritizing their rights to compassion & care. Psych nurses deal with patients in distress all the time, just because it isn’t physical, doesn’t mean it isn’t distress. They’re slow when needed, as they’ve learned to be deliberate in their actions - observation is often one of their greatest tools.

4. “ED nurses never clean patients, and they never complete orders before racing upstairs and dumping their patients.” Read the Acronym again. What’s it mean spelled out? These nurses are responsible for stabilizing patients at the most critical point, and once that’s established or a bed opens up, they move them. Simplicity. If they happen to miss a messy diaper or a colace pill is it worth arguing? It doesn’t mean they aren’t frustrated by the limits of their job, it doesn’t meant they wouldn’t do the full care if they had the time or space. They move fast because as soon as they move that patient out, there’s an ambulance pulling up ready to deposit the next critical patient, and somewhere in between they’re dealing with all the chaos in the lobby/waiting area. It’s understandable that you don’t want to clean a patient you just received, every floor is busy - but consider this; They may miss some small details, but they’re the frontline of care in a hospital and every second counts when it’s a stroke patient, major trauma, or heart attack.

Commonalities; All nurses have passed the same licensing exam. Each and every nurse is accountable for human life, and makes clinical decisions that contribute to quality patient care. All nurses make mistakes, many of which they wish they could take back. Each nurse is continually learning, regardless of age, or level of experience - it’s not a profession that’s mastered. Each of us have taken care of patients in distress - it doesn’t matter the specialty. All nurses experience daily pressures, and all nursing disciplines have unique skills. Each nurse shares this common goal - Caring for their patients to the best of their abilities on any given day. Nursing is the ability to understand what it feel like to walk in another person’s shoes; our patients as well as our coworkers.

Our children live in a culture of endless cries of ‘think of the children’–and attend schools that are crumbling, overcrowded, understaffed, and short on necessary supplies. They hear again and again about 'family values’–but see their parents struggle to pay for health care or childcare, often isolated from family and friends and disconnected from neighbors. They hear talk about caring and sharing–but see around them mainly fear, arguments based on personal attacks, and competition.
—  Maia Szalavitz & Bruce D. Perry, M.D., Ph.D., Born for Love: Why Empathy is Essential–and Endangered
Instead of looking the other way while hatred takes root in young hearts and minds, why not try this: Plant the seeds of empathy. Teach the young to feel the heartbeats of races and cultures other than their own. Replace any possible fear of the unknown, with knowledge of the knowable. Teach them the ways in which we humans are more alike than we are different. Teach them that the most important common denominator is the human heart. Start with a book.
When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares.
if I could turn back time to when the skies were trapped in your eyes and fireworks exploded within your lips, I’d smoke ten packs of cigarettes to get back to that time or maybe I’d sell my soul to the devil to see you one last time.
—  ( via condomq )