author Fritz Breithaupt. “Sometimes we commit atrocities not out of a failure of empathy but rather as a direct consequence of successful, even overly successful, empathy,” he writes in his forthcoming book The Dark Sides of Empathy.
Breithaupt, who directs the Experimental Humanities Lab at Indiana University, argues that empathy is a morally ambiguous capacity, one that can lead us astray if we don’t understand its many sides.
People assume that empathy is good because it is good for the recipient of empathy — I’m actually skeptical about this.
How is empathy good for the empathizer?
Vampiristic empathy is a form of empathy where people want to manipulate the people they empathize with so that they can, through them, experience the world in such a way that they really enjoy it.
An extreme case of this is helicopter parenting. Helicopter parents are constantly trying to steer their kids in the directions they think are the right directions. Of course they want the best for their children.
In a sense, extreme helicopter parents are robbing their kids of a selfhood so that they can basically project their own self into these kids.
empathy can actually make us more polarized instead of bringing us together.
Humans are very quick to take sides. And when you take one side, you take the perspective of that side. You can see the painful parts of that perspective and empathize with them, and that empathy can fuel seeing the other side as darker and darker or more dubious.
Are there other downsides to empathy?
[Empathizers] may overextend themselves. If you are a medical doctor who sees a lot of suffering and pain every day, it can very quickly become too much. Something like a third of medical doctors suffer from “empathy burnout” that is so severe that it affects their functioning as doctors and their personal life. They become the victim of feeling empathy. My note: and some therapists can suffer of “hollow” empathy – an empathy not as a human feeling but as a tool to extend their ability/control in the room.
Also, “MInnesota Nice” can acquire a rather different meaning seen through the lens of this research
My core argument here is that in many cases of altruistic help or humanitarian aid, people actually don’t really empathize as much with the person in need. They identify more with the helper, the hero, the person who intervenes even if it’s an imaginary helper.
If you want recognition and if that doesn’t come, it can turn into resentment.
we can learn to use empathy in a somewhat controlled way. We can learn when to block it, when to not allow empathy to be manipulated and when to fully turn it on.
Yes, we are born with empathy, but it needs constant practice [to know] when to use it and when not to use it. So the dark sides are so important to know because they teach us that in some cases you shouldn’t empathize.
It’s difficult to have a teenager’s mind. The brain develops rapidly during the adolescent years, which partially explains why teens experience anger, sadness and frustration so intensely.
A 2014 survey published by the American Psychological Association found that teens report feeling even more stressed than adults, and that this affects them in unhealthy ways.
Sheryl Gonzalez Ziegler, a psychologist in Denver, Colo., explains, “When teens are overwhelmed, parents may try to connect with their kids’ feelings by drawing on their own childhood experiences.
In a 2016 longitudinal study of 497 Dutch teens between the ages of 13 and 18, researchers found that cognitive empathy skills help teens regulate their emotions, improve their listening skills and strengthen their ability to tolerate conflict. They also found that these skills can help kids work through disagreements with their parents more constructively.
Research on teen stress by David Yeager, a psychologist at the University of Texas at Austin, shows that cognitive empathy skills can also help adolescents to realize that people and situations can change, which allows them to face social challenges more easily.
At the Royal Trinity Hospice in London, a dying woman and her husband revisited Venice, where they had gotten engaged — the simulation was part of a larger study about VR’s effect on physical and psychological symptoms at the end of life. Another woman walked the beaches of the Maldives. A third returned to Jerusalem, the city where she grew up.
Virtual reality may also encourage people to plan for the end of life, says Marilyn Gugliucci, director of geriatric education and research at the College of Osteopathic Medicine.
In his book, “Experience on Demand,” Jeremy Bailenson, the founding director of Stanford University’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab, writes, “No medium, of course can fully capture the subjective experience of another person, but by richly evoking a real-seeming, first-person experience, virtual reality does seem to promise to offer new, empathy-enhancing qualities.” Bailenson contrasts experiencing virtual reality with reading news accounts and watching documentaries. Those latter activities, he writes, require “a lot of imaginative work,” whereas virtual reality can “convey the feeling” of, say, a refugee camp’s environment, and the “smallness of the living quarters, the size of the camp.”
Caldwell—who used Google Expeditions to deliver a virtual reality experience set in the Holocaust—says that when his students first put on the goggles, they viewed them as a novelty. But within a minute or two, the students became quiet, absorbed in what they were seeing; they realized the “reality of the horror of what was in front of them.” Questions ensued.
Ron Berger, the Chief Academic Officer of EL Education, points to another factor schools should consider. He thinks virtual reality can be a powerful way to introduce kids to situations that require empathy or adopting different perspectives. However, he thinks no one tool or experience will bring results unless it is “nested in a broader framework of a vision and goals and relationships.”
Berger says virtual reality experiences have to be accompanied by work beforehand and follow-up afterwards. Kids, he says, need to be reflective and think critically.
immersion experiences like virtual reality should be “embedded in positive” adult and peer relationships. He adds that ideally, there’s also a resulting action where kids do something productive with the information they’ve learned, to help their own growth and to help others. He mentions an example where students interviewed local immigrants and refugees, then wrote the stories they heard. They published the stories in a book, and the profits went to legal fees for local refugees.
saving virtual reality for “very special experiences,” keeping it “relatively short” and not getting students dizzy or disoriented. A report Bailenson co-authored for Common Sense Media highlights the research that has—and has not—explored the effects of virtual reality on children. It states that the “potentially negative outcomes of VR include impacts on children’s sensory systems and vision, aggression, and unhealthy amounts of escapism and distraction from the physical world.”
The Brain Science Is In: Students’ Emotional Needs Matter
What the neuro-, cognitive, and behavioral research says about social-emotional learning
• Malleability: Genes are not destiny. Our developing brains are largely shaped by our environments and relationships—a process that continues into adulthood.
• Context: Family, relationships, and lived experiences shape the physiological structure of our brains over time. Healthy amounts of challenge and adversity promote growth, but toxic stress takes a toll on the connections between the hemispheres of our brain.
• Continuum: While we’ve become familiar with the exponential development of the brain for young children, it continues throughout life. The explosion of brain growth into adolescence and early adulthood, in particular, requires putting serious work into much more intentional approaches to supporting that development than is common today.
How Empathy Is Important For Parents And Teens When Things Get Stressful
Juli Fraga Published on
The brain develops rapidly during the adolescent years, which partially explains why teens experience anger, sadness and frustration so intensely.
A 2014 survey published by the American Psychological Association found that teens report feeling even more stressed than adults, and that this affects them in unhealthy ways. Approximately 30 percent of the 1,018 teens surveyed reported feeling sad, overwhelmed or depressed, and 25 percent said that they had skipped meals because of their anxiety.
Sheryl Gonzalez Ziegler, a psychologist in Denver, Colo., explains, “When teens are overwhelmed, parents may try to connect with their kids’ feelings by drawing on their own childhood experiences. They may say things like, “When I was fourteen, I had a job, and I still did my homework and made time for my friends. I know that you can do this, too.'”
They mean well when they try to connect with their teens in this comparative way, but often it prompts a communication breakdown.
When I was your age, I had difficulty with my friends. I felt confused, and my heart was broken, too.”
She says that these disclosures remind kids that even if technology is different, human emotions are the same. Parents can bond with their kids by focusing on these similarities.
It’s particularly important to teach adolescents how to develop a specific type of empathy called cognitive empathy
If empathy helps us sympathize with how another person is feeling, cognitive empathy also allows us to try to understand someone else’s perspective and how they perceive the world, even when our feelings differ.
Because teenagers are so emotionally driven, they may be prone to react in exaggerated ways. Hence, a conflict with a teacher, a clash with a friend or an unanswered text can feel like the end of the world. By strengthening their cognitive empathy, teens can develop an emotional pause button, which reminds them that even when feelings take over, stressful circumstances are temporary.
EdSurge’s CEO, Betsy Corcoran, argued that 2017 was a year when educators and schools were trying to take control of their technology choices “We have said from the time we started writing the newsletters that not every piece of technology will work for every student, or for every school or every classroom,” she said. “It’s all about asking the right questions to figure out if there is a piece of technology that will support learning goals. What we’re starting to really see across schools, districts and teachers, people really owning those questions. They’re saying, ‘What do I want to do with my classroom? With my kids? And what are the technologies that will support me?’”
Another discussion participant asked whether colleges and universities are starting to accept cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, or experimenting with the blockchain technology that drives those systems. Johnson said most of the hype around unversities’ blockchain experiments has centered on storing and managing credentials.
Jessica Lahey explains the rhetoric gap in an Atlantic article
80 percent of the youths surveyed reported that their parents ‘are more concerned about achievement or happiness than caring for others.’ Approximately the same percentage reported that their teachers prioritize student achievement over caring.
Empathy Is Tough to Teach, But Is One Of the Most Important Life Lessons
Dr. Brené Brown has become famous for her speaking and writing about vulnerability, worthiness, shame and the other important emotions running underneath daily life all the time. One theme she returns to over and over is the importance of cultivating empathy, a very different reaction than sympathy.
Children have opportunities to learn empathy from their parents, but also from their teachers and peers.