If you want even more success, travel, growth, and happiness than you are already enjoying, I can suggest from experience that you deepen your understanding of why empathy works physiologically and how to harness this cool natural tool to live a better life.
In past newsletters, I have shared stories about contagious yawning – the phenomenon that, when we see others yawn, or even read about yawning, causes most neurotypical people to have a tickle of a desire to yawn, as well. This communal yawning is particularly present in younger people who yawn along those individuals they feel some social closeness with. Taking this a step further, contagious yawning also passes inter – species barriers, as domesticated dogs and chimpanzees have been known to catch yawns from one another and even from humans.
It delights me to no end that the “mirror neuron network” – the brain cells that become active when an organism is watching an expression or behavior that they themselves can perform – that plays a part in this is also responsible for the contagious nature of laughter. But watch out! These mirror neurons are also activated by compassion for negative feelings such as fear and sorrow. When we watch a great actor or an individual in our lives display these emotions, our minds mirror their faces, then our faces mirror their faces, and suddenly, we cry in the theater or laugh out loud at the gym because we feel some of what they feel.
Imagine being in the natural world as a preindustrial hunter – gatherer with your tribe. A few members of your tribe yawn late at night, setting off a yawn – fest that lets everyone know it is time for the community to go to sleep – long before the invention of clocks. The next day while hunting, everyone is filled with anxiety and anticipation: will we be able to take down the mammoth, or will the big cats get us first?!? The ability to mirror the emotions on the faces of the older and more experienced hunters can put us in the right mindset for how to work together. We mirror the emotions of our leaders and pass those feelings through the community. When we are in a dangerous situation, tensions can run too high, and a rock falling can set off an enormous fight – or – flight response. Some have speculated that one benefit of laughter is to release that tension within a group and let everyone know that we are safe.
Laughing together, celebrating together: these are amazing tools to bring people together and release tension and fear. Empathy is about feeling what others feel and about others feeling what you feel. Empathy brings us together and makes us more powerful at communicating our needs, working as a team, and sharing common goals. Empathy allows us to simulate others’ affective and cognitive mental states internally. We literally feel what they feel. As humans, we tend to use the self as a reference point to perceive the world and gain information about others’ mental states. When we can simulate others’ emotional states, we experience very special cases of direct empathy.
It’s well – known that the pathways in the brain are malleable. Intense training can cause structural changes in the brain regions that are necessary to produce a desired, trained behavior. Scientists coined the term neuroplasticity to describe the way that the human brain changes in response to our experiential learning. If you want to know what others are thinking and feeling, you can develop greater empathy by training your brain to be better at receiving those messages. Let me know if you want to learn about improving the functionality of your right supramarginal gyrus a portion of the brain crucial in controlling empathy and perceiving others’ emotions, to have greater empathy and a better understanding of those around you. It all starts with learning tools to help with your emotion recognition, perspective – taking, and affective responsiveness.
If, instead, you wish to change the behavior of others, there is no greater truth than the Gandhi quote, “Be the change you want to see in the world.”
For now, just know that any success that I might enjoy now or in the future can be attributed to four things:
Optimism, enthusiasm, empathy, and perseverance.
Keep optimistic, my friends. Things will get better. Tomorrow, the sun will rise, and it will be a new day, ready for you to have a fresh start!
“Yet, taught by time, my heart has learned to glow for other’s good, and melt at other’s woe.”
MUM & Reviews
I’ve been writing a monthly column for MUM Magazine that goes out to all of the members of the Society of American Magicians. Just sent in my article for August! Have you been reading the column so far? Sign up here
I’ve also been enjoying performing in historic theaters all over the United States!
Please let me know if there is a theater in your area that I should reach out to. Here is a recent review:
“What an amazing show! We sold out the house and had to add chairs! The staff and I are still marveling at Paul Draper’s show and sharing our favorite moments. Young and old, our audience was amazed by him. So many positive comments after the show! We are already planning on having him back next season.”
Executive Artistic Director
St. Croix Festival Theatre
St. Croix Falls, WI
If you missed any of my MASTER MIND series on LIES, PERSUASION, and MEMORY skills that played around the country on ABC, all of the links are now posted and available! Each quick segment is two to four minutes long, and they are all available here:
How to Catch a Liar:
Catching a Lie in Real Time:
The Power of Persuasion: 3 Ways to Get What You Want:
3 Fun Ways to Improve Your Memory and Sharpen Your Mind:
Memory Tricks: The PEG Memory System: