DiscoverTrauma RewiredThe Neurology of Empathy
The Neurology of Empathy

The Neurology of Empathy

Update: 2024-06-03
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This episode of Trauma Rewired delves into the neurology of empathy, specifically addressing the concept of "empaths." The hosts, Jennifer Wallace and Elizabeth Kristoff, discuss how empathy is a natural human quality, but for some individuals, it can become overwhelming and lead to nervous system dysregulation. They introduce Matt Bush, a co-lead educator of the Neurosomatic Intelligence Training, to provide insights into the brain regions involved in empathy, particularly the anterior insular cortex. The conversation highlights the potential for sensory mismatch, a subclinical condition where the brain struggles to integrate sensory information, to contribute to heightened empathy. The hosts emphasize the importance of self-regulation and boundary setting, suggesting that addressing sensory mismatch and promoting nervous system safety can help individuals with high empathy develop a stronger sense of self and manage their sensitivity. They also discuss the potential for compassion fatigue in empathic individuals, particularly those in helping professions, and the importance of self-care and emotional regulation. The episode concludes with a call to action for listeners to join the RewireTrial.com platform for two free weeks of nervous system training.

Outlines

00:00:00
Introduction

This Chapter introduces the topic of empathy and its connection to relationships, setting the stage for a discussion on empaths and narcissists.

00:00:13
Neurology of Empathy

This Chapter delves into the neurology of empathy, explaining the role of the anterior insular cortex in reading social cues and understanding emotions. It explores the concept of "empaths" as individuals with heightened empathy, potentially due to an insular deficit or sensory mismatch.

00:00:58
Empathy and Nervous System Dysregulation

This Chapter examines the link between empathy and nervous system dysregulation, highlighting how excessive empathy can lead to a state of needing others for emotional regulation. It discusses the potential for empathy to become overwhelming and the importance of setting boundaries.

00:12:56
Interoception and Empathy

This Chapter explores the role of interoception, the perception of internal bodily sensations, in empathy. It explains how deficits in interoception can lead to a misinterpretation of signals and an overreaction to the emotions of others, contributing to empathic tendencies.

00:19:49
Sensory Mismatch and Empathy

This Chapter discusses sensory mismatch, a subclinical condition where the brain struggles to integrate sensory information, and its potential connection to heightened empathy. It suggests that when the brain is preoccupied with sensory processing, it may have limited resources for emotional processing, leading individuals to seek emotional information externally.

00:33:48
Addressing Empathy and Sensory Mismatch

This Chapter focuses on strategies for addressing empathy and sensory mismatch. It emphasizes the importance of starting with the back of the brain, promoting sensory integration and nervous system safety, before addressing empathy directly. The hosts highlight the role of NSI tools in supporting this process.

Keywords

Empath
An individual who experiences empathy more intensely than the average person, often feeling overwhelmed by the emotions of others. This term is often used to describe individuals who are highly sensitive to the emotional states of others and may experience a blurring of boundaries between their own emotions and those of others.

Sensory Mismatch
A subclinical condition where the brain struggles to integrate sensory information from different senses, such as vision, auditory, vestibular, interoception, tactile, smell, and taste. This can lead to a feeling of being overwhelmed by sensory input and difficulty processing emotions.

Interoception
The perception of internal bodily sensations, such as hunger, thirst, fatigue, body temperature, and pain. Deficits in interoception can lead to a misinterpretation of internal signals and an overreaction to external stimuli, potentially contributing to empathic tendencies.

Anterior Insular Cortex
A region of the brain involved in self-awareness, emotional processing, and reading social cues. It plays a crucial role in empathy, allowing individuals to understand the emotional states of others.

Neurosomatic Intelligence Training
A training program that focuses on understanding the connection between the nervous system and the body, and how this connection impacts our experiences and behaviors. It emphasizes the importance of self-regulation and nervous system safety.

Compassion Fatigue
A state of emotional and physical exhaustion that can occur in individuals who work in helping professions, such as therapists, coaches, and healers. It is often associated with prolonged exposure to the suffering of others and a lack of adequate self-care.

CPTSD
Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, a type of trauma that results from prolonged exposure to chronic or repeated trauma, often in childhood. It can lead to a range of symptoms, including emotional dysregulation, difficulty with boundaries, and a heightened sense of threat.

RewireTrial.com
A platform that offers online nervous system training, providing tools and resources for individuals to learn about their nervous system, develop self-regulation skills, and create greater capacity for healing and well-being.

Trauma Rewired
A podcast that explores the impact of trauma on the nervous system and provides insights into healing and recovery. It features interviews with experts in the field of trauma and nervous system regulation.

Q&A

  • What is the neurological basis of empathy, and how does it relate to the concept of "empaths"?

    Empathy is primarily associated with the anterior insular cortex, which helps us read social cues and understand the emotional states of others. "Empaths" are individuals who experience empathy more intensely, potentially due to an insular deficit or sensory mismatch, leading to a heightened sensitivity to the emotions of others.

  • How can sensory mismatch contribute to heightened empathy?

    Sensory mismatch, a subclinical condition where the brain struggles to integrate sensory information, can lead to a focus on sensory processing, leaving limited resources for emotional processing. This can result in individuals seeking emotional information externally, leading to a heightened sense of empathy.

  • What are some strategies for addressing empathy and sensory mismatch?

    Addressing empathy and sensory mismatch often involves starting with the back of the brain, promoting sensory integration and nervous system safety. This can be achieved through practices like mindfulness, grounding techniques, and sensory regulation exercises. NSI tools can be helpful in supporting this process.

  • What is compassion fatigue, and how does it relate to empathy?

    Compassion fatigue is a state of emotional and physical exhaustion that can occur in individuals who work in helping professions, often due to prolonged exposure to the suffering of others. Empathic individuals, particularly those in helping roles, are more susceptible to compassion fatigue due to their heightened sensitivity to the emotions of others.

  • How can individuals with high empathy develop a stronger sense of self and manage their sensitivity?

    Developing a stronger sense of self and managing sensitivity often involves addressing underlying issues like sensory mismatch and promoting nervous system safety. This can be achieved through practices like self-regulation, boundary setting, and cultivating a deeper understanding of one's own emotions and needs.

  • What is the role of self-regulation in managing empathy?

    Self-regulation is crucial for managing empathy, as it allows individuals to create a sense of internal safety and control over their emotional responses. By developing self-regulation skills, individuals can better manage the overwhelming influx of emotions from others and maintain a sense of balance.

  • What are some potential benefits of addressing empathy and sensory mismatch?

    Addressing empathy and sensory mismatch can lead to a greater sense of self-awareness, improved emotional regulation, stronger boundaries, and a more balanced and fulfilling life. It can also help individuals avoid compassion fatigue and maintain their well-being.

  • What resources are available for individuals seeking to learn more about their nervous system and develop self-regulation skills?

    Resources like the RewireTrial.com platform offer online nervous system training, providing tools and resources for individuals to learn about their nervous system, develop self-regulation skills, and create greater capacity for healing and well-being.

  • What is the overall message of this episode of Trauma Rewired?

    The episode emphasizes the importance of understanding the neurology of empathy and the potential for it to become overwhelming. It highlights the role of sensory mismatch and nervous system dysregulation in contributing to heightened empathy and encourages listeners to prioritize self-regulation, boundary setting, and nervous system safety to manage their sensitivity and maintain a strong sense of self.

Show Notes

Believe it or not, empaths and narcissists have foundational similarities. Not only does the brain chemistry look the same, but empaths and narcissists both struggle with nervous system regulation and look to others to help them regulate their emotions. But whereas the narcissist avoids the emotions of others, empaths are deeply affected and have a physiological experience to the emotions of others on a subconscious level. This can lead to emotional fatigue, chronic stress, poor sense of self and more.

So what’s the difference between having empathy and being an empath, and how can you change subconscious behavior? In this episode, Elisabeth, Jennifer and Matt cover the signs of being an empath, the causes of elevated empathy, such as deficits in the interoceptive system, and how it impacts our overall health.

If you identify as an empath, tune in to learn about the power of nervous system regulation for changing harmful empath behavior!

Topics discussed in this episode:

 

  • What it means to be an empath
  • Empathy from a neurosomatic perspective
  • Causes of high empathy
  • Why being an empath isn’t always a good thing
  • How deficits in the interoceptive system lead to empath behavior
  • The correlation between sensory mismatch and empathy
  • How to retain your empathic gifts and also prioritize yourself
  • Nervous system regulation as a tool for change

Join us for the next Neuro-Somatic Intelligence worshop! Get more information at

www.neurosomaticintelligence.com

 

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https://www.rewiretrial.com

 

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https://calendly.com/traumarewired/nsi-discovery-call-with-jennifer

 

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This episode was produced by Podcast Boutique https://www.podcastboutique.com

 

Disclaimer:

Trauma Rewired podcast  is intended to educate and inform but does not constitute medical, psychological or other professional advice or services. Always consult a qualified medical professional about your specific circumstances before making any decisions based on what you hear. 

We share our experiences, explore trauma, physical reactions, mental health and disease. If you become distressed by our content, please stop listening and seek professional support when needed. Do not continue to listen if the conversations are having a negative impact on your health and well-being. 

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We do our best to stay current in research, but older episodes are always available.  We don’t warrant or guarantee that this podcast contains complete, accurate or up-to-date information. It’s very important to talk to a medical professional about your individual needs, as we aren’t responsible for any actions you take based on the information you hear in this podcast.

We  invite guests onto the podcast. Please note that we don’t verify the accuracy of their statements. Our organization does not endorse third-party content and the views of our guests do not necessarily represent the views of our organization.

We talk about general neuro-science and nervous system health, but you are unique. These are conversations for a wide audience. They are general recommendations and you are always advised to seek personal care for your unique outputs, trauma and needs. 

We are not doctors or licensed medical professionals. We are certified neuro-somatic practitioners and nervous system health/embodiment coaches. We are not your doctor or medical professional and do not know you and your unique nervous system. This podcast is not a replacement for working with a professional.

The BrainBased.com site and Rewiretrail.com is a membership site for general nervous system health, somatic processing and stress processing. It is not a substitute for medical care or the appropriate solution for anyone in mental health crisis. 

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The Neurology of Empathy

The Neurology of Empathy

Elisabeth Kristof & Jennifer Wallace