It is our ability to put ourselves in another person’s shoes that reduces our risk of becoming anxious and bullying other people. Those are the findings of neuroscientists, educators and psychologists. Empathy is the key to human and social interaction and morality. Society and individuals need to introduce the change.
Infancy, which is where it all begins, is critical for the development of empathy. Although children by nature are resilient and have known to thrive despite abuse and neglect, there are studies that show that children who experience early trauma in childhood are at a much greater risk of becoming aggressive that can lead to bullying other children and being victimised by other bullies.
Because nearly 90% of brain growth takes place in the first five years of life, children subjected to neglect or abuse within the first five years will fail to make the right attachments. Unfortunately, any form of deficit that occurs in childhood may impact later behaviour.
Research undertaken by Martin Hoffman, a professor of psychology at New York University and a pioneer of empathy research says, “You can enhance empathy by the way you treat children, or you can kill it by providing a harsh punitive environment.”
Having suffered from neglect myself through my own physical problems, I know how that can impact emotional health. I was lucky that because of my own physical problems and issues, I became aware from an early age what empathy was. I believe that through some of our struggles, we will not only begin to recognise empathy, but we will also have the ability to understand how empathy works, but must be open to its teachings.
Unfortunately, without empathy we will have very little to base our relationships on. Whilst I am lucky to have it, it’s not easy for those who don’t, but empathy is something that we can all learn, even if it’s not there to start with. It stands to reason that the more empathy we have, the more we will be empathetic towards others.
It’s important that we don’t neglect ourselves in the process. Being an empath can be draining but it’s always rewarding when other people begin to thrive because of it.