In this study, the effects of one day empathy and compassion trainings among a group of 25 volunteers were compared. A similar size control group received only memory training. The empathy training focused on using guided reflections to enhance the ability to empathize with the suffering of others. The compassion training sought to enhance compassion using guided reflections focusing on lovingkindness. In response to videos depicting human suffering, empathy training, but not memory training, increased negative affect. In contrast, subsequent compassion training could reverse the increase in negative affect and augment positive affect. The two trainings resulted in activation of different pathways in the brain. The authors concluded that compassion strengthens positive affect, while not ignoring the presence of suffering or changing the negative reality, and that training in compassion has the potential to offset empathic distress and increase resilience.
Klimecki O, et al. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 2014;9:873–879.
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