THE HUMAN BRAIN IS AN EMOTIONAL MAGNET
The human brain has unique emotional power I call Magnetic Empathy. Magnetic Empathy is the force that drives a man to rush onto thin ice to save his stranded, frightened dog. He can feel the dog’s fear. It’s why even reading about the man’s bravery and visualizing him taking his first steps onto the ice, imagining that you hear it crack slightly, is enough to make you feel something in your gut, at this very moment. Maybe you’re moved by the man’s selflessness. Maybe you’re worried he could end up trading his life for that of his cherished friend. Maybe you’re remembering your own beloved animal who passed away. Maybe you’re thinking you’d do the very same thing for the dog sleeping at your feet right now.
Our brains are literally wired for Magnetic Empathy. What are called mirror neurons have been identified in primate brains and (although studying single nerve cells in human brains isn’t possible) these mirror neurons seem to be present in human brains, too.
Mirror neurons have been shown to fire off identical impulses in primate brains whether the monkeys themselves perform certain behaviors or watch other monkeys performing them.
Put another way, monkeys can be magnetized by the activities of other monkeys. Their brains literally resonate electrically with one another, like parallel circuits. They’re not really entirely separate creatures. They’re networked.
So are we. In humans, emotional mirror neurons seem to exist in certain regions of the brain including parts of the cerebral cortex, the outer layer of the brain that is integral to consciousness. These mirror neurons get activated not only when people experience sadness or happiness or disappointment or anger, but also when they watch another person experiencing those emotions.
Think about that: Nerve cells in parts of the human brain respond to the unfolding, emotional life stories of others, as though the emotional stories were parts of their own lives.
That means humans can be magnetized by the emotions of other humans.
A research team led by Christian Keysers at the Social Brain Lab showed that people who see themselves as more empathetic have stronger activity in emotional mirror neurons than those who don’t view themselves that way. For instance, when people who rated themselves as more empathetic viewed other people experiencing pleasure or disgust, due to pleasant or unpleasant tastes, parts of their brains known as the anterior insula and the frontal operculum showed especially high activity.
Magnetic Empathy is a metaphysical miracle. It means none of us is truly alone.
Magnetic Empathy is the reason good people stand between bullies and their intended victims. Because they can imagine how it would feel to be targeted.
Magnetic Empathy is the force that leads you to forgive someone who has harmed you, but then breaks down into tears and apologizes. Because you feel that person’s remorse.
Magnetic Empathy is the force that explains why you get choked up in a movie theatre, when a made-up character, in a made-up story, smiles and wishes her adorable, anxious child good luck on the first day of school, watches him disappear inside the front door, then drives off toward work, alone, with a tear running down her cheek.
When you hug someone who’s worried and feel how tightly that person holds onto you, you’re literally experiencing Magnetic Empathy. It’s pulling you closer. It’s bonding you.
When someone you care about triumphs over her anxiety and brings down the house with her performance on stage, and you’re pulled out of your seat and onto your feet, smiling and pumping your fist in the air, that’s Magnetic Empathy, too.
TAPPING INTO MAGNETIC EMPATHY
Here’s something you should know: You can tap into the magical energy of Magnetic Empathy through emotional mirror neurons, any time you choose. You can activate a kind of nuclear
interpersonal fusion and become enormously compelling. There’s only one requirement: You have to connect with your own pain and uncertainty and be willing to share some of it. And you have to commit to helping other people share some of their pain and uncertainty, too.
You have to become a beacon of Magnetic Empathy.
The acronym for Magnetic Empathy is M.E. The key to deploying Magnetic Empathy is sharing yourself—your real self, especially the tough stuff.
See, your pain is like an antenna broadcasting your authenticity. And, deep down, people want
what is authentic, truthful and original. They want it more than all the glistening fakes they could ever find. They need it in order to feel grounded and connected to what is real in the world and in themselves.
I chose that word—grounded—on purpose, too. Charged particles in the universe seek ground, which is defined as a direct electrical connection to the earth. They flow to it—like iron particles drawn to a magnet. By connecting with your internal pain, you become grounded in truth and love, and others will be irresistibly drawn to you.
Reciting your achievements won’t cause this kind of energy to flow to you. An expensive watch on your wrist won’t cause this kind of energy to flow to you. Being eloquent won’t do it. Being clever won’t do it. Only being honest to the core will do it.
Dr. Keith Ablow
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