Compassionate Integrity Training Final CIT training manual 11-30 - Page 100

Compa ssionate Integrit y Tr a ining A S e cu l a r Ethic s A ppr oac h to C ulti vat ing Pe rs on al, S o ci al and E n vir on me n tal F lo u r i shing in fact allows them to harm others without feeling Empathy also does not scale appropriately. As noted in the pain themselves. Normally, if we inflict pain on another Foundational Concepts chapter, research has shown that person (such as unintentionally), we are disturbed to a we experience the greatest empathy when only a single degree by seeing their suffering because of the affective individual is in danger, in need, or suffering. Oddly, if we resonance we naturally share with others. increase this to two people in need, our empathic response goes down rather than up. If we increase it to hundreds, thousands, or millions, we have an even weaker empathic Empathy Can Be Irrational response. 78 This decrease in empathy makes no sense, Although empathy can be clearly very helpful to us, it because if the need is greater, our empathic response has come under fire recently because of how irrational should also be greater. These limitations on our empathy and prone to bias it can be. For one thing, our empathy are why we must use practices to help us further our is greatest for those who are like us and who are empathy to widen the playing field. members of our in-group. As we have seen in the section on impartiality, our empathy tapers off when it comes to strangers and those in our out-group. Studies with Empathic Distress and Empathic Concern oxytocin, a bonding hormone, show that increased Both of these problems of empathy can be countered to levels of oxytocin are associated with greater affection some extent by cultivating impartiality and a sense of and empathy for one’s in-group and a denigration of common humanity, which is why that skill precedes 77 one’s out-group. If empathy is restricted to those we this one. The more we can gain a recognition of our like and feel close to, it would not appear to be a very fundamental equality, the less our empathy will be sound basis for ethical development. limited to our in-group. Furthermore, the more we recognize that suffering is universal and expand our view to include all of humanity, the more we will recognize that problems are not limited to individuals, but extend out to large numbers of people and must be addressed on that scale as well. Another important tool for countering the irrational aspects of empathy is to distinguish between empathic distress and empathic concern. Empathic distress occurs when one feels overwhelmed by the suffering of another. This occurs because it is naturally distressing for us to see others in pain, especially those we resonate with, such as vulnerable individuals like children and animals, or close loved ones. For example, we may think of a problem that seems particularly distressing, such as the Ce n t e r for Compa s sion , I nteg r i t y and S e cu l ar E t hics | L ife Uni ve rsi t y | M ar ie t ta, G e or g i a - 94 -