"The self is dear, therefore let him who desires his own advantage not harm another." ~ Buddha
Biology of Empathy
The human brain has an altruistic nerve, sometimes called the mirror neurons. When active, they make you feel what someone else is feeling. The pain that a mother feels when her children are sick. The sadness that brings us together in mourning and shared grief. The understanding between you and your pets.
Psychology of Empathy
Mirror neurons are – in a way – voluntarily controlled. You can shut them down by focusing on your self. Which is great; because empathy takes a toll on our minds, and carrying the world’s burden of grief could short fuse any kind of wiring.
On the other hand, people who are severely self-centered are as sad as the highly empathetic. How often have we heard of people complaining about loneliness? Shutting down the mirror neurons alienates us from our surrounding. And this is the thing with lonely people; they “think” that they’re the only ones miserable.
My question is, how do we balance between empathy and stretching too thin? How did mother Teresa manage her colossal empathy and still not lose her mind in serving the dejected? How does the Timekeeper manage listening to the weight of the world everyday without succumbing in tired defeat? How do we manage between the hope in a better world, and the realization that nothing really changes?
Unless they know something that we don’t, the highly altruistic must have secret buckets. Something like Dumbledore’s Pensieve: A place to gather the most troubling thoughts and nightmares. The Timekeeper and Mother Teresa have/had God to hold on to. Their faith in a Supreme Being is as real and sustaining as the ground they stand on.
Since we’re not so magical as the residents of Hogwarts, we have to settle with the ordinary. I vomit air after massaging others; passing on sadness and sickness back to the ground. Sue teaches yoga; sometimes to remember that not everyone is as well-grounded as her feet and hands. My brother weight-lifts; tricking his mind into believing his thoughts can never be as heavy as the steel weights on his back and in his hands.
How do you do it, Reader?