We’re Hard-Wired for Empathy

EMPATHYWhen you compare human beings with other animals, one of the things that defines us is the great extent to which we cooperate with each other. We work together, we communicate and trade, and we take care of each other. It’s almost like we are hard-wired for cooperation. Well, as a matter of fact, we are.

Researchers have found a special type of neuron in our brains (and in many other primates) called Mirror Neurons. These neurons fire both when we take an action AND when we observe that same action taken by another. I was at a fair once watching my son suspended from bungee cables, bouncing 30 feet high on a trampoline. Every time he came down for another jump, I found my own legs bending and pushing off as if I were bouncing too, though I was just observing. This is also why when you witness someone get hurt, you can almost feel it – not the physical pain of it, but the sense of it, the emotional reaction to it. The same is true when witness acts of love or beauty. You’ll notice these moments regularly when you know to look for them.

We literally feel each other’s pain. We literally feel each other’s joy. If we allow ourselves. If we remember that we are all one. We can’t help but feel each other. We’re hard-wired for it.

Written by Mark Sullivan

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