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Quantum Health | Deconstructing Empathy
And Emotional Intelligence |
Activating The Brain For Compassion
With Neuroplasticity

By Marina Rose, QDNA®

Neuroplasticity | Empathy | Emotional Intelligence |

October 01, 2017

"Humans aren't as good as we should be in our capacity to empathize with the feelings and thoughts of others—and not merely fellow humans-- but also the capacity to empathize with animals and all living things on Earth. So maybe part of our formal education should be training in empathy. Imagine how different the world would be if, in fact, there were 'reading, writing, arithmetic, empathy’”

“We are part of this universe; we are in this universe, but perhaps more important than both of those facts, is that the universe is in us.”          

                                                           -- Neil deGrasse Tyson, American Astrophysicist, Author, and Science Communicator


All of us have heard the old proverbs “kindness is its own reward” and “it’s better to give than to receive”. Developing a practice of generosity of spirit toward others has long been regarded as a natural pathway toward enriching our lives and advancing our spiritual growth and self-development.

According to the latest neuroscience, it turns out that it’s also great for our emotional and physical health as well.

When someone in need receives kindness, empathy, compassion or other types of material generosity and support, they naturally benefit and feel better from the feelings of gratitude that result. However new studies show that the giver benefits as well, as these acts of kindness simultaneously create an upward spiral of well-being that not only positively affect us emotionally--by decreasing our self-focus which naturally calms many of our negative internal ruminations--but kindness, altruism and giving also directly affect us on a neurobiological level, triggering areas in the brain that are responsible for feelings of gratification and that produce a wide variety of “happiness hormones”, including dopamine and other “feel good” endorphins. This not only reduces stress, anxiety and fights depression, but it also creates a wide range of multiple positive physical health benefits as well.

What’s more, not only do we benefit emotionally and physically by practicing acts of kindness, but studies show that the practice also leads to our ability to show greater overall empathy and compassion as well. In fact, kindness is contagious science confirms--it’s not just a bumper sticker. And the most recent neuroscience reports are that human beings appear to be evolutionarily hard wired for it.

This evolutionary biological design to support kindness and generosity is thought to have been key to our survival and well-being as a species-- we needed to cooperate with and support others in order to survive. From hunting and gathering food, to protection as a group from predators, we evolved to be altruistic because as a species, the group as a whole benefited and thrived because of it.

Yet if kindness, empathy and compassion are part of the hard-wiring of the brain, we’d be forgiven for thinking otherwise. As a society, we’ve become cynical. We think all emotion is negative, and most compassion is weak. If we listen to the cultural messages of today we’d likely be inclined to think just the opposite.

However, science says otherwise. In fact, it tells us that we evolved to be kind and compassionate, and just as it was in the past, the future of our survival today still depends on it. What’s required, they say, is for us to use this knowledge of our evolutionary past to take the next step in our conscious evolutionary development in the future, and to nurture greater appreciation of our basic human need for bonding and connection.

The development of greater empathy and Emotional Intelligence is key. They are the fundamental cornerstones of our interpersonal awareness, and one of the most critical components of our greater human social experience. Together, they provide a powerful path to cultivate a life filled with the highest compassion, vitality, health, and happiness. When combined with mindfulness, meditation and the most cutting-edge techniques in Neuroplasticity, they help us to activate and enhance our compassion to develop a profound heart-centered awareness--or Empathic Consciousness--a powerful force for both personal and global social transformation.

Positive Emotional Evolution | The Compassionate Mind

Darwin may have made his lasting mark on the way we interpret human evolution, but the latest evolutionary scientists now say forget “survival of the fittest”—it’s kindness that counts.

Today, Psychologists and Neuroscientists alike are turning the model of evolution by competition and struggle on its head, as new advancements in brain mapping, gene sequencing and other high technologies have for the first time enabled us to discover and map the physiological basis for kindness in the human brain.

In his new book, Born to Be Good: The Science of a Meaningful Life, Dr. Dacher Keltner PhD, Professor at the Berkeley Social Interaction Laboratory provides an in-depth study of human positive emotion such as kindness, generosity, empathy and compassion, and outlines their surprising link to our human evolution. He takes us on a fascinating journey of scientific discovery that now reveals how we evolved with these qualities deeply wired at the core of human nature, shaping our everyday behavior and the way we relate. He calls it the “compassion instinct”, and presents compelling new scientific findings that demonstrate how profoundly it affects our brains, bodies, genes and the most fundamental ways that we socially interact. He provides a map for how we can uncover the innate power of human emotion to connect people with each other and to live our lives better—individually and as a whole.

“A new science of virtue and morality is suggesting that our capacities for virtue and cooperation and our moral sense are old in evolutionary terms, and found in emotions that I write about in Born To Be Good.” Says Keltner.

But first we must fully understand just what these emotions are, and how we can develop them for our most benefit.

Keltner suggests that’s best done by looking at them as an evolving process of emotional engagement, beginning with understanding apathy—a lack of caring, to empathy and compassion, the deepest forms of positive emotional connection.

Empathy is, at its simplest, awareness of the feelings and emotions of other people. It goes far beyond sympathy, which might be considered ‘feeling for’ someone. Empathy, instead, is ‘feeling with’ someone, through the use of intuition and imagination. It is a key element of Emotional Intelligence, the ability to understand and manage our emotions as well as those of others, because empathy is how we as individuals understand what others are experiencing--as if we were feeling or experiencing it ourselves. It gives us the ability to step into someone else’s shoes and walk their mile-- and most importantly--to convey that understanding to the other person. Empathy when fully developed then leads to compassion, which is best described as not only the ability to feel what others are feeling and experiencing—but to take action on these feelings as well.

This process of positive emotional evolution can be seen as the transition from:

Apathy: A complete emotional dis-engagement and lack of caring. It’s not a positive or negative emotion, but rather a lack of emotion. There are casual forms of apathy and lack of caring, for a great number of reasons that we, as a society, can often have for disengaging from the problems of others. Sometimes there are cultural and social differences that put distance between ourselves and others that lead to apathy. Research shows that at times when we are feeling busy, stressed, tired or otherwise under pressure from events in our own lives, there is also a marked increase in apathy. Once pressure, fear and stress are present in our lives, all of the neurobiological systems that empathy and compassion depend on become imbalanced and stop functioning. This type of apathy is distinctly different than those instances where a complete lack of sympathy, empathy or compassion is rooted in more serious social and psychological imbalances—some of which can lead to a more serious antisocial lack of concern for others, or at its most extreme, disturbing social and psychiatric disorders.

Sympathy: A base level emotional connection and “feeling for” someone or some situation. Sympathy, although well intentioned, at its core typically generates negative feelings, such as “feeling bad” that something has happened or happened to someone. We might “feel sorry” for them or feel sadness. We might even feel pity along with feeling bad or sorrowful, and although making a sympathetic emotional connection can provide a sense of caring, none of the above feelings are at all positive for the giver. Psychologists call it "the cost of caring" and it’s one of the unfortunate drawbacks of sympathizing with others in distress. In fact, just like science shows that kindness is contagious, it also shows that stress and sadness are contagious as well. A recent study evaluating the effects of social media in spreading “contagious” stress and sadness amongst friends is a good example of this. Over time, feeling continued sympathy without a more evolved emotional connection can leave us emotionally vulnerable and less helpful to others. Sympathy must evolve to empathy before it can serve us and others positively.

Empathy: A deep emotional connection of “feeling with” someone or some situation. We feel and understand their pain—but without losing sight of whose feelings belong to whom. This deep connection allows us to truly relate to others and offer sincere emotional and material support. This genuine caring generates very positive feelings of gratitude for others, and positive feelings of satisfaction for ourselves. However, like with sympathy, over time these deep feelings and connections can take an emotional toll as well, leaving us feeling drained, as caring and giving can often be difficult and quite stressful. Without good personal boundaries, our good intentions for others can begin to overshadow our own personal needs, causing us to neglect our own emotional and physical self-care. Studies show that this is particularly true for many medical professionals, psychologists, social workers, lawyers, and other professional care-givers, many whom begin to suffer from mental and physical health problems associated with the strain of empathetic giving as an occupation they do full-time. However, there is a risk here for all of us. Some call it Empathic Distress Fatigue, and to avoid it we have to understand our own limits in order to be able to offer support to others and not become overwhelmed. To truly be the most positive for both the giver and receiver, empathy must evolve to compassion in order to remain a positive emotional and physical beneficial force for all.

Compassion: The deepest emotional connection of “feeling with” someone –and taking positive action based on that connection. Compassion is often described as empathy without the negative emotions. It’s the ability to offer deep empathy without absorbing the distress or becoming overwhelmed, because we have learned to observe our emotions, rather than to react to them. When our positive emotional evolution allows us to practice compassion, we are able to “listen to” the guidance from our Emotional Intelligence to modulate and maintain our emotions in balance, as well as to guide our actions in helping to balance the emotions of others. Compassion is like empathy and wisdom combined. We see the big picture and the connected humanity in us all. Compassion allows us to tap into our natural neurobiological evolutionary design and to act from the most powerful heart-centered place of caring, so that we desire to help others for the sake of the greater good, understanding on a deep level that what is good for the group is good for us all. Science shows us that through our deepest acts of compassion, we in turn receive enormous positive emotional and physical benefits, and fulfill our deepest levels of personal satisfaction as well. Compassion is a necessary and key component of Emotional Intelligence, the next step to further optimize and evolve our emotional connections with others.

And what’s more, as we learn to work through this process of positive emotional evolution in our connection with others, we also develop a kinder more compassionate approach to ourselves. It becomes easier to practice self-kindness versus self-judgement, and to fill our hearts with feelings of love and understanding when we fail, feel inadequate or suffer in other ways, rather than being harsh, critical, or even denying our pain. It is through our self-compassion that we learn to embrace our emotions and to work with them to guide us and develop our Emotional Intelligence to its fullest. It takes us one step further in our Emotional Evolution and to evolving our Compassionate Mind.

Emotional Intelligence | Neuroplasticity & Neurobiological Design

As advances in genetics and neuroscience allow researchers to continue to uncover the evolutionary connection of human positive emotions such as empathy and compassion, they are also beginning to unravel the many other complex levels of human neurobiological design, such as intuition, instinct and the many forms of Intuitive and Emotional Intelligence, with scientists pushing further into researching the biology of how it all works. Not surprising, given the speed and accuracy of intuition and instinct for instance, an ever-increasing body of research now suggests that there is an ancient biological component to these little understood human qualities, a form of highly advanced evolutionary intelligence, perhaps a product of millions of years of evolutionary neurobiological design.

Whereas Intuitive Intelligence is defined as a form of highly accurate evolutionary human intelligence that provides the ability to instantly understand something--without the need for conscious analytical reasoning, Emotional Intelligence is most often defined as a developed skill that involves practiced mindfulness and emotional awareness, and becomes fully evolved when it is optimized through compassion and kindness. It provides the ability to harness and objectively manage emotions of our own, as well as the ability to diffuse, moderate or empathically influence the emotions of others. It brings powerful awareness to feelings and emotions, transforming stress into clarity and meaning, which allows us to then use our emotions to informatively guide our decisions and actions from a higher place of understanding and compassion, rather than becoming merely “lost in our feelings” or “over reacting” to highly emotional encounters with others.

Advance research in the field of Neuroplasticity, the ground-breaking neuroscience that demonstrates our brains ability to change through focused attention, shows that when we begin to practice mindfulness, meditation and other advanced Neuroplasticity techniques, we learn to work with our emotions, rather than react to them. These techniques combine to enhance our Emotional Intelligence and to create a highly evolved form of emotional feedback from ourselves and others, allowing us to accurately interpret and even predict the feelings, intent, meaning, purpose and other inner clues that our emotions provide—and to better interpret those that are projected in our social interactions as well, allowing us to compassionately respond from a heart-centered place to express acceptance, kindness and compassion to others around us.

In a recent study, published in the neuroscience journal Cerebral Cortex, research shows that we can better cope with the negative emotions of others by strengthening our own compassion skills.

While meditation in the East has for millennia been first and foremost considered a lifelong spiritual practice as a way to strengthen compassion and lead to a path of Enlightenment, in the West, modern science now demonstrates that regular meditation can indeed enlighten the mind in a number of previously unexpected ways

Dr. Olga Klimecki PhD, is a researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences in Germany and is the lead author of the study, which lead participants to a one-day loving-kindness meditation class, utilizing techniques and philosophies from Eastern meditation traditions. Participants, all of whom were novices, practiced meditations that extended feelings of warmth and care toward themselves, a close person, a neutral person, a person in difficulty, and complete strangers, as a way of developing their compassion skills.

In addition, participants were shown videos of people in distress (such as crying after their home was flooded), both before and after the training, with researchers measuring their emotional responses through a survey, and through brain activity recorded using an fMRI, a device that tracks real-time blood-flow in the brain, enabling the scientists to see what brain areas were active in response to viewing the videos. The results of the study showed that participants experienced significantly more positive emotion after completing the compassion meditation training when watching the distressing videos. These positive and compassionate emotions were seen directly in the before and after change in brain activation pattern of the fMRI. Before the training, participants showed activity in an “empathic” network of the brain associated with pain perception and unpleasantness. After the training, activity shifted to a “compassionate” network of the brain that has been associated with love and affiliation.

“Through compassion training, we can increase our resilience and approach to stressful situations with more positive affect,” says Klimecki.

Without a doubt, science shows that the connection between meditation and increased compassion is clear—and we can use this type of practice to our benefit.

In countless recent scientific studies on meditators--novices and lifelong meditators such as Buddhists monks alike-- Neuroscientists have shown that there is now clear and documented evidence that those who practice mindfulness, meditation and other advanced Neuroplasticity techniques benefit both physically and psychologically, with a whole host of positive results, including living more compassionate lives and improving their overall well-being.

Dr. Norman Doidge M.D. is a renowned Neuroscientist and best-selling author of The Brain That Changes Itself.

Research conducted by Doidge and other Neuroscientists outlined in his best-selling book, demonstrates that stilling the mind through daily meditation and mindfulness practice boosts Neuroplasticity of the brain tremendously, leading to actual physical changes as well—including rebuilding the brain's physical gray matter.

Just a mere few weeks of meditation can have big effects. Studies have shown that in just a few weeks’ time the brain's prefrontal cortex thickens, an area associated with awareness, with concentration and decision-making improving dramatically.

Among highly experienced meditators, many seemingly incredible feats of mind have also been documented. One study found that long term meditation practice creates changes in the brain’s neural networks that can breakdown and remove the psychological barriers of separation between the self and others, allowing the meditator to experience a sense of total harmony between themselves and the world around them, leading to higher states of consciousness, activated through Neuroplasticity and our remarkable human neurobiological design.

Positive Empathic Consciousness | A Compassionate World

Evolution shows us that our human survival depends on kindness, empathy and compassion, and that we’re wired for it in our DNA. As they say, “goodness is there”--right down to cellular level.

It’s important to remember this, as often we look around and we see a world where selfishness, greed, and competitiveness seem to lie at the core of so much of our human behavior.

However, no matter how much this seems to be the model of our society most apparent today, new scientific understanding of our “compassion instinct” radically challenges this long held negative view of human nature. We now know that kindness, empathy and compassion are deeply rooted in our complex neurobiological design, as are other forms of Intuitive and Emotional Intelligence.

Groundbreaking research in Neuroscience tells us that we all have “mirror neurons”, a type of brain cell that “mirrors” what we perceive from others. This recent discovery is key to understanding the physiological and psychological underpinnings of social and interpersonal awareness in the human brain—and for the first time, it scientifically demonstrates that we are literally wired to connect to others on a compassionate level.

Kindness and empathy are fundamental components of our human experience, that when nurtured--not only through self-awareness, but also by adopting principles of mindfulness, meditation and Neuroplasticity training—we are able to activate a physical and psychological alchemy in the brain to enhance compassion and develop a profound Empathic Consciousness, a powerful force for both personal and social transformation.

From this heart-centered place of being, we are not only more loving to others, but also more loving to ourselves.

By connecting with this deeper “inner knowing”, we transform our lives and begin to transform our world by removing all barriers and walls that disconnect us from others.

We begin to recognize that as we look at our collective history as a civilization, it becomes clear that a lack of empathy and compassion for one another is arguably the sole reason for much of the chaos, violence, wars, suffering and destruction that continues to blight our planet even today, and that is why, now more than ever, as we face so many social and environmental crises in our time, the evolution of human consciousness through compassion is now critically essential.

And the more we understand and learn the lessons of human survival from the past, the easier it is to reconsider our negative assumptions about human nature that guide our decisions about our future. And the greater chance we have at not only surviving—but at building a blueprint for a more loving and compassionate world as well.

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Marina Rose is the founder and developer of QDNA®, Quantum DNA Acceleration®, a revolutionary new technique for quantum growth in life and business. QDNA® uses the latest cutting edge science in Neuroplasticity and DNA Reprogramming to develop plans of action that activate solutions for you and your business needs. It compounds Quantum Field principles, Positive Psychology, and Epigenetics, in a powerful new technique to assist you to achieve desired results. Accelerate your life and business now.

This article was written and appears as part of the QDNA® Quantum Health Series.

Image Via: QDNA®/Photo © KarelJosephNoppeBrooks/123rf.com

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Marina Rose is an alternative health pioneer who employs cutting edge techniques that sit squarely at the intersection of the most leading edge scientific research and the ancient arts of traditional mind-body-energy medicine. She is the founder and developer of QDNA®, Quantum DNA Acceleration®, a revolutionary new technique for quantum growth in life and business. She offers seminars, programs, lectures, and private sessions in QDNA® that accelerate personal and professional transformation.

Marina has been an alternative healing arts and wellness facilitator for the past twenty-one years and holds certifications in more than twenty-four healing modalities. She is a highly respected facilitator, educator and lecturer in the field, with private practice based in Venice, California. Marina is the author of numerous articles on health and wellness, and is the author of The Magnificent Human Experience: Explorations In Consciousness and The Human Body, a weekly blog dedicated to far ranging topics that bridge the worlds science, health and spirituality.

Marina Rose has clients in 60 countries and all over the United States. She is based in Los Angeles, CA and lectures and practices QDNA® in locations worldwide.

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Marina strongly believes that there is nothing that cannot be healed or transformed when the mind, body and emotions are in balance. From over two decades of professional experience, Marina has developed a broad range of instructional programs, seminars and a complete line of organic products to support health and healthy living.

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