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  1. Sep 2018
    1. While the study didn’t examine why empathy may be declining, the authors draw on prior research to speculate that culprits could include the corresponding rise in narcissism among young people, the growing prevalence of personal technology and media use in everyday life, shrinking family size (dealing with siblings may teach empathy), and stronger pressures on young people to succeed academically and professionally.
    1. reading may be linked to empathy. In a study published earlier this year psychologist Raymond A. Mar of York University in Toronto and others demonstrated that the number of stories preschoolers read predicts their ability to understand the emotions of others. Mar has also shown that adults who read less fiction report themselves to be less empathic.
  2. Aug 2018
    1. The researchers anticipated that four aspects of mindfulness would predict higher self-esteem: Labeling internal experiences with words, which might prevent people from getting consumed by self-critical thoughts and emotions; Bringing a non-judgmental attitude toward thoughts and emotions, which could help individuals have a neutral, accepting attitude toward the self; Sustaining attention on the present moment, which could help people avoid becoming caught up in self-critical thoughts that relate to events from the past or future; Letting thoughts and emotions enter and leave awareness without reacting to them.
    1. Think about it this way: How much better might it feel to take a breath after making a mistake, rather than berating ourselves?“All you have to do is think of going to a friend,” Dr. Neff said. “If you said, ‘I’m feeling fat and lazy and I’m not succeeding at my job,’ and your friend said, ‘Yeah, you’re a loser. Just give up now. You’re disgusting,’ how motivating would that be?”This is the linchpin of being kinder to ourselves: Practice what it feels like to treat yourself as you might treat a friend. In order to trade in self-abuse for self-compassion, it has to be a regular habit.AdvertisementSo the next time you’re on the verge of falling into a shame spiral, think of how you’d pull your friend back from falling in, and turn that effort inward. If it feels funny the first time, give it second, third and fourth tries.And if you forget on the fifth, remember: Four tries is a lot better than zero.
    2. But it’s step three, according to Dr. Brewer, that is most important if you want to make the shift sustainable in the long term: Make a deliberate, conscious effort to recognize the difference between how you feel when caught up in self-criticism, and how you feel when you can let go of it.“That’s where you start to hack the reward-based learning system,” Dr. Brewer said.
    3. The second step to self-compassion is to meet your criticism with kindness. If your inner critic says, “You’re lazy and worthless,” respond with a reminder: “You’re doing your best” or “We all make mistakes.”
    4. 3 steps to self-compassionFirst: Make the choice that you’ll at least try a new approach to thinking about yourself. Commit to treating yourself more kindly — call it letting go of self-judgment, going easier on yourself, practicing self-compassion or whatever resonates most. To strengthen the muscle, Dr. Brewer suggests “any type of practice that helps us stay in the moment and notice what it feels like to get caught up. See how painful that is compared to being kind to ourselves.”
    5. core to self-compassion is to avoid getting caught up in our mistakes and obsessing about them until we degrade ourselves, and rather strive to let go of them so we can move onto the next productive action from a place of acceptance and clarity
  3. Jun 2018
    1. But it’s the second part of that definition that has proven the most helpful for me: ‘recognising that one’s own experience is part of the common human experience’. It’s the idea of taking a zoomed-out look at yourself, and realising that you are more similar to others than you are different, even (maybe especially) considering how ridiculous you often are. As Neff herself said in an interview with The Atlantic in 2016: ‘[W]hen we fail, it’s not “poor me,” it’s “well, everyone fails.” Everyone struggles. This is what it means to be human.’In fact, it’s this part of the definition of self-compassion that makes me question whether it should be called self-compassion at all. Neff’s concept isn’t really about adoring yourself, or not entirely, anyway; this piece of it isn’t actually about you. Rather, it’s about the importance of recalling that you are but one small part of an interconnected whole.
  4. Mar 2017
  5. Dec 2016
    1. However, most studies of mindfulness pertain to a certain aspect of Buddhist meditation practice, namely, attending to mental content, such as current feelings, or sensorial experiencing, such as the breath, in a non-judgmental, curious manner (for discussions of mindfulness see Bishop et al., 2004; Grossman, 2008 & in press-a; Kabat-Zinn, 2003; Melbourne Academic Mindfulness Interest Group, 2006). In the Buddhist tradition, there are other very prominent practices that involve other attentional objects and emotional modes of attending to those objects that have been much less discussed, namely loving-kindness and compassion meditation. These practices have only recently been investigated by contemporary psychology researchers.Loving-kindness meditation (LKM) aims to develop an affective state of unconditional kindness to all people. Compassion mediation (CM) involves techniques to cultivate compassion, or deep, genuine sympathy for those stricken by misfortune, together with an earnest wish to ease this suffering (Grossman & Van Dam, in press; Hopkins, 2001). Both forms of meditation (LKM and CM) are centrally related to, and include the practice of, mindfulness, as noted by many scholars and practitioners from varying traditions, including Theravadin, Japanese, and Chinese Zen (e.g., Bodhi, 2005; Kuan, 2008; Sanharakshita, 2004; Shen-Yen, 2001; Suzuki, 2011).
  6. Nov 2015
    1. Somewhat surprisingly, self-compassionate people actually take more responsibility for their actions. In one study, self-compassionate people who got neutral feedback about their speaking skills were more likely to attribute it to their personality (instead of, say, a mean observer) than people with high self-esteem. Mistakes and criticism don’t threaten them as much as they do for people who have to perform well all the time.
    2. Self-esteem and self-compassion might seem like opposites, but they actually go hand in hand. Self-compassionate people tend to have higher self-esteem, and both correlate with less anxiety and depression and more happiness, optimism, and positive emotion. But the differences between the two are telling. As Neff explains it, the pursuit of self-esteem is the desire to be special or above average – and since half of us aren’t, we tend to get inflated egos and look down on other people. We may refuse to see our weaknesses and be at risk for narcissism, self-absorption, self-righteous anger, prejudice, or discrimination.
    3. Perhaps the most challenging objection to self-compassion is the idea that we need an admonishing voice in our heads to spur us toward success. And we do – just not the self-critical voice that we’re all so used to hearing. Self-criticism scares us into believing that failure is unacceptable, and self-critical people tend to be more depressed, less confident, and afraid of failure. In contrast, a self-compassionate voice would motivate us with the desire for health and well-being – and we’d be more likely to listen.
  7. Oct 2015
    1. Sirois suggests that interventions that focus on increasing self-compassion may be particularly beneficial for reducing the stress associated with procrastination because self-compassion allows a person to recognize the downsides of procrastination without entangling themselves in negative emotions, negative ruminations, and a negative relationship to themselves. People maintain an inner sense of well-being that allows them to risk failure and take action. 
    2. Often because we fear failing at the task and dread all the negative self-evaluations that might result from that failure.

      This popular explanation, and more importantly, Wikipedia, seem to suggest otherwise - though a nod is given to this hypothesis in the wiki article.

    1. self-compassion tends to promote health related behaviors such assticking to one’s diet or reducing smoking, or seeking medical treatment when it'snecessary and even exercising.
    2. People who were mindful were likely to behappy, but people who were mindful and self-compassionate were more likely tobe happier.
    3. Self-compassion is alsoassociated with positive psychological strengths such as happiness, optimism, curiosityand exploration, personal initiative, and emotional intelligence.
    4. "self-compassion (unlike self-esteem) helps buffer against anxiety" when confronted with threats to one's self-image; it also found that increases in self-compassion are associated with increased feelings of social connectedness and decreased depression, among other indicators of psychological well-being.

      I wonder if the ability to laugh at oneself is subsumed by self-compassion; at least, they seem related.

    5. all the traps that people can fall into when they try to get and keep a sense of high self-esteem: narcissism, self-absorption, self-righteous anger, prejudice, discrimination, and so on. I realized that self-compassion was the perfect alternative to the relentless pursuit of self-esteem. Why? Because it offers the same protection against harsh self-criticism as self-esteem, but without the need to see ourselves as perfect or as better than others. In other words, self-compassion provides the same benefits as high self-esteem without its drawbacks.
    6. In fact, a striking finding of the study was that people with high self-esteem were much more narcissistic than those with low self-esteem. In contrast, self-compassion was completely unassociated with narcissism, meaning that people who are high in self-compassion are no more likely to be narcissistic than people low in self-compassion.
    7. People with high levels of self-esteem, however, tended to get upset when they received neutral feedback (what, I’m just average?). They were also more likely to deny that the neutral feedback was due to their own personality (surely it’s because the person who watched the tape was an idiot!). This suggests that self-compassionate people are better able to accept who they are regardless of the degree of praise they receive from others. Self-esteem, on the other hand, only thrives when the reviews are good and may lead to evasive and counterproductive tactics when there’s a possibility of facing unpleasant truths about oneself.
    8. Those with both high and low self-esteem were equally likely to have thoughts like, “I’m such a loser” or “I wish I could die.” Once again, high self-esteem tends to come up empty-handed when the chips are down.
    9. Participants’ self-compassion levels, but not their self-esteem levels, predicted how much anxiety they felt.
    10. self-compassion steps in precisely where self-esteem lets us down—whenever we fail or feel inadequate. Sure, you skeptics may be saying to yourself, but what does the research show? The bottom line is that according to the science, self-compassion does in fact appear to offer the same advantages as high self-esteem, with no discernable downsides. The first thing to know is that self-compassion and self-esteem do tend to go together. If you’re self-compassionate, you’ll tend to have higher self-esteem than if you’re endlessly self-critical. And like high self-esteem, self-compassion is associated with significantly less anxiety and depression, as well as more happiness, optimism, and positive emotions. However, self-compassion offers clear advantages over self-esteem when things go wrong, or when our egos are threatened.
    11. self-compassion entails three core components. First, it requires self-kindness, that we be gentle and understanding with ourselves rather than harshly critical and judgmental. Second, it requires recognition of our common humanity, feeling connected with others in the experience of life rather than feeling isolated and alienated by our suffering. Third, it requires mindfulness—that we hold our experience in balanced awareness, rather than ignoring our pain or exaggerating it. We must achieve and combine these three essential elements in order to be truly self-compassionate.
    12. I slowly came to realize that self-criticism—despite being socially sanctioned—was not at all helpful, and in fact only made things worse. I wasn’t making myself a better person by beating myself up all the time. Instead, I was causing myself to feel inadequate and insecure, then taking out my frustration on the people closest to me. More than that, I wasn’t owning up to many things because I was so afraid of the self-hate that would follow if I admitted the truth.
    13. when we acceptourselves fully, and we embrace who we are, flaws and all, then it actually does allowus to see ourselves clearly (because it’s safe tosee ourselves clearly), and because we care about ourselves and don’t want to suffer,we’re going to try as much as possible to makechanges that, you know, are going to make us healthier and happier, but we also knowthat if we don’t succeed, it’s still OK.
    14. if you really have self-compassion, remember, you are more ableto see yourself clearly. It is safer to see yourself clearly and therefore it’s a loteasier for you to take responsibility because it’sokay to have messed up, to have made a mistake.

      This is to emphasize the difference with making excuses for oneself, and it is a fairly interesting distinction.

    15. Self-compassionisn’t poor me, self-compassion is: it’s hard for all of us. The human experienceis hard for me, for you, this is the way life is. It’s not ego-centric, quite the opposite,it’s a much more connected way of relating toyourself. And also this is why the mindfulness is so important. When we’re mindful of oursuffering, we see it as it is, we don’t ignore it, but we also don’t over-exaggerateit.
    16. “this is really hard. This is difficult. I need a little care and compassion toget me through this.” Then we really aren’tat our best, at our most psychologically stable, when we gotowards trying to fix that problem. So it’s actually something you have to remind yourselfto do before going straight into fixing problems.Just acknowledge and validate how difficult thesituation is.
  8. Sep 2015
    1. Working with captive primates, de Waal and Johanowicz created a mixed-sex social group of juvenile macaques, combining rhesus and stump tails together. Remarkably, instead of the rhesus macaques bullying the stump tails, over the course of a few months the rhesus males adopted the stump tails’ social style, eventually even matching the stump tails’ high rates of reconciliatory behavior. It so happens, moreover, that stump tails and rhesus macaques use different gestures when reconciling. The rhesus macaques in the study did not start using the stump tails’ reconciliatory gestures, but rather increased the incidence of their own species-typical gestures. In other words, they were not merely imitating the stump tails’ behavior; they were incorporating the concept of frequent reconciliation into their own social practices. Finally, when the newly warm-and-fuzzy rhesus macaques were returned to a larger, all-rhesus group, their new behavioral style persisted.

      An amazing way of looking at this is persistence of social qualities, regardless of the biological vector involved. On the other hand, such social qualities do not appear to be viral by any means: "This is nothing short of extraordinary. But it brings up one further question: When those rhesus macaques were transferred back into the all-rhesus world, did they spread their insights and behaviors to the others? Alas, they did not—at least not within the relatively short time they were studied. For that, we need to move on to a final case."

    2. Kummer conducted a simple experiment, trapping an adult female savanna baboon and releasing her into a hamadryas troop and trapping an adult female hamadryas and releasing her into a savanna troop. The females who were dropped in among a different species initially carried out their species-typical behavior, a major faux pas in the new neighborhood. But gradually, they absorbed the new rules. How long did this learning take? About an hour. In other words, millennia of genetic differences separating the two species, a lifetime of experience with a crucial social rule for each female—and a miniscule amount of time to reverse course completely.
    1. Heroism is about one thing: It’s about a concern for other people in need, a concernto develop, to defending a moral cause knowing there is a personal cause or risk. That’s the key.And you do it without expectation of reward. So altruism is heroism light. Compassion is avirtue that may lead to heroism, but we don’t know. Nobody’s established said link.
    1. Among those who reported helping others, present-focused attention predicted increased positive emotions—such as compassion, elevation, and joy—but did not predict negative emotions. By contrast, non-judgmental acceptance predicted decreased negative emotions—such as distress, disgust, and guilt—but did not predict positive emotions.
    2. In ongoing work with Barbara Fredrickson, I am exploring how levels of mindfulness predict helping behavior as well as the emotions associated with helping. Mindfulness has two important sub-components: the ability to attend to the present moment and the ability to accept experiences without judging them. I found that both aspects of mindfulness predicted helping behavior.
    3. Train your brain for compassion over the long term. Mind-training techniques may be better suited to increase people’s ability (rather than motivation) to experience compassion. There are many meditation traditions that encourage people to cultivate compassion toward self, family, friends, enemies, and strangers. Compassion cultivation techniques have been shown to increase positive emotions and social support, reduce negative distress at human suffering, and reduce people’s fears of feeling compassion for others. Such training programs may prevent the collapse of compassion, by letting people overcome fears of fatigue and accept their own compassion.
    4. Streamline helping opportunities to make them seem less costly. After the tragic earthquake and tsunami in Japan, the Red Cross encouraged people to donate $10 by simply texting the term “REDCROSS” to a pre-specified number from their smartphones. By making pro-social behavior as simple and quick as the press of a button, Red Cross was able to increase compassion and helping for many people. These efficient helping opportunities could be embedded into various social media sites—such as Facebook—to provide low-effort conduits for compassion and helping.

      This is really more general; so often, doing "the right thing" is prohibitively costly.

    5. Increase the sense that helping will make a difference. Especially in situations where lots of people are suffering, we justify turning off compassion by saying that helping would just be a “drop in the bucket.” If helping organizations highlighted the impact of future donations, it could lead people to feel more compassion and act more pro-socially.
    6. I also assessed individual differences in how well the participants could control their emotions, which turned out to be decisive. The compassion of unskilled emotion regulators did not collapse between one and eight victims. By contrast, skilled emotion regulators restricted their compassion as the number of refugees increased.
    7. People expect that helping eight victims costs more than helping one, so imposing a donation request created an incentive to turn off compassion. The rest of the participants were not told they would have to help; by removing the financial incentive to turn off compassion, I hoped to reverse compassion collapse. And that’s exactly what I found. When people expected to help, they showed more compassion for one victim than for eight victims. But this reversed when people did not expect to have to help. By showing that the amount of compassion is dependent upon expected costs, the experiment revealed that we don’t face some natural limit to our compassion.

      I view this need of "mandatory help" or "expected help" as a potential source of stress.

    8. For these reasons, people may actively and strategically turn off their compassion. According to our theory, compassion collapse is not due to a limitation on how much compassion we can feel. Instead, it’s the end result of people actively controlling their emotions.
    9. But when you measure people’s emotional experiences in real time—rather than their predictions—a very different pattern emerges. Rather than feeling more compassion when more people are suffering, people ironically feel less—a phenomenon my colleague Keith Payne and I call “the collapse of compassion.”
    1. warm, sensitive parenting for three year olds predicts greater focused concentration in the children one year later—which in turn predicts greater sympathy at ages six and seven. Vagal tone in the kids at three years also predicts sympathy three and four years later. As was the case for parenting style, the Vagal tone effect was largely related to the children’s concentration skills as four years olds.  Together, these data suggest that warm, sensitive, authoritative parenting may support skills like managing emotions and focusing attention, and that children with higher Vagal tone are more likely to have these skills, which in turn paves the way for sympathy for other peoples’ suffering.
    2. Dacher spoke about the Vagus nerve and its role in social connection and, in turn, happiness. In the essay below, Emiliana summarizes very recent research showing that Vagal tone, an index of the general strength of influence that a person's Vagus nerve has on their heart, predicts the emergence of sympathetic behavior over development--and further, that in college students, experiencing compassion actually engages the Vagus nerve. 
    3. inducingcompassion makes people say that they feel more similar to others, and in particular,vulnerableothers, whereas inducing pride makes people feel different from vulnerable others.
    4. people who are feeling compassion engage their vagus system.
    5. In the case of compassion, when you’re able to manage your own distressor not relate to your empathic experience as personal distress but rather a caregivingurge, this isa benefit to your health and wellbeing, and your sense of happiness.
    6. being distressed by suffering is not the most happy-inducing way to respondtoother people’s suffering. Rather, the better approach is to feel, to allow your caregivingurge tocome online and drive your behaviors.
    7. Compassion: Literally means “to suffer together.” Among emotion researchers, it is defined as the feeling that arises when you witness another’s suffering and feel motivated to help relieve that suffering.
    8. In the Oliners’ study of Germans who helped rescue Jews during the Nazi Holocaust, one of the strongest predictors of this inspiring behavior was the individual’s memory of growing up in a family that prioritized compassion and altruism.
    9. Nancy Eisenberg, Richard Fabes, and Martin Hoffman have found that parents who use induction and reasoning raise children who are better adjusted and more likely to help their peers. This style of parenting seems to nurture the basic tools of compassion: an appreciation of others’ suffering and a desire to remedy that suffering.
    10. First, children securely attached to their parents, compared to insecurely attached children, tend to be sympathetic to their peers as early as age three and a half, according to the research of Everett Waters, Judith Wippman, and Alan Sroufe. In contrast, researchers Mary Main and Carol George found that abusive parents who resort to physical violence have less empathetic children.
    11. Taken together, our strands of evidence suggest the following. Compassion is deeply rooted in human nature; it has a biological basis in the brain and body. Humans can communicate compassion through facial gesture and touch, and these displays of compassion can serve vital social functions, strongly suggesting an evolutionary basis of compassion. And when experienced, compassion overwhelms selfish concerns and motivates altruistic behavior.
    12. Remarkably, people in these experiments reliably identified compassion, as well as love and the other ten emotions, from the touches to their forearm. This strongly suggests that compassion is an evolved part of human nature—something we’re universally capable of expressing and understanding.
    13. a distinct signal of compassion would soothe others in distress, allow people to identify the good-natured individuals with whom they’d want long-term relationships, and help forge bonds between strangers and friends. Research by Nancy Eisenberg, perhaps the world’s expert on the development of compassion in children, has found that there is a particular facial expression of compassion, characterized by oblique eyebrows and a concerned gaze. When someone shows this expression, they are then more likely to help others.
    14. breastfeeding and massages elevate oxytocin levels in the blood (as does eating chocolate). In some recent studies I’ve conducted, we have found that when people perform behaviors associated with compassionate love—warm smiles, friendly hand gestures, affirmative forward leans—their bodies produce more oxytocin. This suggests compassion may be self-perpetuating: Being compassionate causes a chemical reaction in the body that motivates us to be even more compassionate.
    15. helping others brings the same pleasure we get from the gratification of personal desire.
    16. What is the ANS profile of compassion? As it turns out, when young children and adults feel compassion for others, this emotion is reflected in very real physiological changes: Their heart rate goes down from baseline levels, which prepares them not to fight or flee, but to approach and soothe.
    17. Even compassion, the concern we feel for another being’s welfare, has been treated with downright derision. Kant saw it as a weak and misguided sentiment: “Such benevolence is called soft-heartedness and should not occur at all among human beings,” he said of compassion. Many question whether true compassion exists at all—or whether it is inherently motivated by self-interest.
    18. a simpletraining exercise where you practice loving kindness, where you’re just thinking compassionatethoughts towards others and towards yourself over time, actually pretty dramatically increasesyour own personal happiness, suggesting that the Dalai Lama was on to something when hesaidthat compassion is the pathway to happiness.
    19. Darwin made the case that sympathy, or compassion, is our strongest instinct. And I’ll quote,because “sympathy will have been increased through natural selection for those communitieswhich included the greatest number of the most sympathetic members would flourish thebest and raise the greatest number of offspring.”
    1. differentiate something called empathic concern from something called empathicdistress and what it turns out is that empathic concern is associated with all kindsof benefits people who experience empathic concern are more likely to help, they’rebetter at regulating their own emotions they’re more stable and socially functionalin life whereas people who experience empathic distress have other issues andstruggles that we can flesh out in later weeks. The interesting thing about thisbody of work is that it anticipates are next week of material which will be aboutcompassion and compassion is really what elevates empathy from the potential forempathic distress

      Terms:

      • empathic concern
      • empathic distress

      I had a bit of trouble parsing the last bit but I think she is saying compassion is a higher form of empathy which has "walled off" empathic distress.

    2. many scientists often identify two types of empathy: "affective empathy," which refers to the sensations and feelings we have in response to others’ expressions, and "cognitive empathy," which refers to our ability to label and understand other people's emotions--and even take their perspective on things.

      Terms:

      • affective empathy
      • cognitive empathy
  9. Apr 2015
    1. “Honestly,” said Wiener, “it is perplexing to me why people are so insistent that local communities should not have control. The behavior we see on (our) street is a very localized issue. We should be able to address it.

      Our local communities passed sit-lie, Scott. Not only that, but on the very same ballot was a measure that would increase foot patrols.

      We can't, from one side of our mouths, say that we should have local control, and then from the other side that police don't get discretion in how they address use of public space but instead must enforce a law like sit-lie.

      Our local community got it wrong. If we can get it right at the state level, then fine.

      I don't care at which level it happens, I care that our laws encode compassion.