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Empathetic? Get ready to fight!

By on November 17, 2014
Picture courtesy of photostock and

Like all hypnotists we consider ourselves pretty empathetic. But empathy has a dark-side.

Researchers from the University of New York have shown that empathy can lead to aggression.

In one experiment the researchers asked subjects to think of a time when a loved one was emotionally distressed by someone else. The subject felt empathy toward their loved one and showed aggression toward the person who had hurt them. These results are not surprising.

More surprising results came from a second experiment. Subjects were told they could intervene in an on-line competition between two strangers by making one of the participants in the competition drink hot sauce. The hot sauce was both painful to consume, and by implication would reduce their performance in the competition. One of these strangers (they were told) was stressed by money worries.

Not only did the subjects feel empathy for the person in financial distress, but as a result they made the other competitor drink more hot sauce. Presumably this was to ‘help’ the person in distress by allowing them to win the competition. But this came at the cost of hurting a total stranger who had nothing to do with the first competitors’s problems!

Application to Hypnosis

Our emotions do not exist in isolation. One emotion feeds on another. In this case aggression feeds off emotions that seems totally unrelated, compassion and empathy.

In NLP we call these meta emotions, an emotion someone feels about another emotion.

Whenever a hypnosis client comes to see us to clear a negative emotion it is always a good idea to check how they feel about that negative emotion, i.e. the meta emotions they are feeling. It may be necessary to clear these negative meta emotions before working on the presenting issue of the first emotion.

For example if someone is feeling angry, and they feel guilty about their anger, then the guilt is going to make it much more difficult for them to confront and change their anger. By first clearing the guilt, the anger is ‘uncovered’ and becomes easier to work with.

Here is an article describing the research.

The answer, according to a study by researchers from State University of New York at Buffalo, is because of a neurological link between empathy and aggression. The study, published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, while attempting to assess the role of neurohormones in connecting empathy and aggression, also checks if assessed or elicited empathy would make a person aggressive on behalf of the vulnerable other. Connection Between Empathy And Aggression Empathic feelings toward others motivate us to do good. Read more…

The CafeHypno Editorial Team, Sarah Carson, Jess marion, Shawn Carson

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