Empathy and Gratitude – How?

Yesterday was a beautiful day, full of sunshine, so I went to the ocean. The sunset was lovely, families were on the beach, and all seemed well. When I returned home, I flipped on the TV and watched the terrible news about the freezing crisis in Texas, the power outages, the burst water pipes, and I felt awful watching those suffering families.

I wonder how can I feel two emotions, gratitude and empathy, in a matter of moments? Is it ok to feel blessed by the weather near my home while feeling horror watching the weather just a few States away? The suffering of the children in Texas is difficult to watch against the joy of the children on the beaches in California.

Najma Khorrami, in Psychology Today, described how empathy and gratitude are linked to each other through an explanation of neuroscience.

Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.

Oxford Dictionary

Khorrami describes various studies of our brains, i.e., the region known as the the medial prefrontal cortex (MPFC). In particular, there is a clear role in the positive emotions of “joy, pride, motivation and wonder” during gratitude, and associated emotions of “pride, joy, happiness, motivation, and wonder” during observations of emotional empathy, resulting in the conclusion that there is “clearly an overlap between the MPFC’s activation role in both empathy and gratitude”.

Further, Khorrami went on to note that “loneliness” may also be connected to empathy.

Life satisfaction, empathy, compassion, feeling less lonely and more connected to others, gratitude-and more positive emotions-may all be linked.

Najma Khorrami

So I learned that our brains are wired to accommodate multiple feelings at the same time.

The dissonance I feel today when feeling grateful for the beauty of the weather in Southern California, is ok against the sadness I feel for the ugliness of the weather in Texas this week. I’m blessed today.

This is #gratitudeultra. See the post on February 28, 2021 for definitions of categories of gratitude.

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