Empathy, Understanding and Attunement
Review pages 43 and 44 of the Neuroplastic Transformation workbook. The circuits responsible for our sense of empathy, understanding and attunement are described. It is our mirror neurons in the insula connecting with the neurons in the orbital frontal cortex that process this input. This circuit allows us to make connections with other people. People with persistent pain often become withdrawn. Their suffering demoralizes and terrorizes them. Their entire sense of self becomes determined by their pain experience. Relating to others becomes more difficult. It is hard enough to understand why this pain does not go away. Trying to explain it to others is frustrating and fraught with reminders of the suffering. Struggling to complete the necessities of living doesn’t leave a lot of time for the richness of life. Mirror neurons turn inward and reflect a person’s own loss, sorrow, resentment and loneliness.
It is just as important to counter-stimulate this experience as it is the pain itself. The mirror neurons are designed to reflect to us what others are going through. Life is enriched by relating to other people and trying to understand what they are experiencing. We are drawn out of ourselves and extend beyond our own limitations. Reaching out to help others stimulates the insula to perform its other functions of reducing the emotional impact of pain, quieting fear, encouraging self-soothing and restoring pleasure.