Are you brave enough to really get in touch with our own fragilities. We've all heard how we need to be more empathetic with others, to truly understand what it is like to walk a mile in their shoes. But what is it and is it actually any use?
But can it ‘see' if empathy does any good?
This was examined in a 2006 study in Coan et al. with a similar procedure between husbands and wives rather than friends. The question in this study was to establish if holding their spouse's hand made a difference in their brains of the partner who was about to receive an electric shock?
And it did make a difference. When a participant held their spouse's hand, the threat response was significantly less active. And the stronger the marital relationship, the more pronounced the difference.
When you see someone you love suffering, you know how gut-wrenching it feels – that's your threat response being activated together with the frustration of being unable to stop it for them. And if you have ever suffered, you know how comforting it is to have someone who cares about you with you.
So, yes. Empathy does good.
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