It’s dark side

There’s a BBC video news in the psychology section entitled “The surprising downsides of empathy”  21st march 2022. 

‘Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of others by imagining oneself in their place.

But researcher have found that if you are too in tune with other people’s emotions too much of the time, it can lead to exhaustion, apathy, and even aggression and cruelty.’

Well I never…

This is what neurodivergents go through with everyone!!!

So yes cruelty for us – some are more empathetic than others of course but it is still exhausting and incredibly aggravating.

Here’s the thing – generally people do not believe us for this starts during childhood and when a child says he is exhausted we tend to not believe it.

Not only that but where do our own feelings get to come into play? Because when you are learning to live life in the world, I can assure you it gets very complicated 

The video also talks about ‘vicarious brain activity’ which means that when a person feels joy or pain a certain region of their brain is in use, and the empathetic person has the same regions of the brain in use too.

They then talk of how empathy is used to manipulate groups of people against another group of people, we are talking politics here pure and simple. Used in genocide, war, colonialism…and of course modern day racism in social media… Meaning empathy is more of a problem than a solution.

Some psychologists thinks empathy is a very healthy response in that we activate and share similar brain networks – mirroring if you will.

But the down side is personal distress or empathic distress which is totally a negative point for people who work in the medical field, this is why it is important if not primordial to learn how to dissociate from that in these professions from the cleaners to the surgeons. For empathy fatigue can be incapacitating.

This can lead to burnout or desensitised

So we can turn this into compassion – turning it into love which can not burn out this is a learned response. We can teach the brain to use different networks.

Empathetic response is about me but the compassion is about them and giving love.


Is it possible to foster greater compassion in people ?

Compassion uses totally different networks than empathy and it can be ‘taught’ using certain practices to foster this care, love and affiliate network.

So although this is tough for neurodivergent children to master it really is up to the parent to find out what type of mental gymnastics their child can possibly do to change networks from the anger, pain & stress network to the affiliation, care & love network.

I just wish all this had been around for me and my little ones back in the day – hey they are only 26 the eldest so thank your lucky stars that there are answers and we have tools too.

Enquire within.