Center for Building a Culture of Empathy

   Home    Conference   Magazine   Empathy Tent   Services    Newsletter   Facebook    Youtube   Contact   Search

Join the International Conference on: How Might We Build a Culture of Empathy and Compassion?


Empathic Design
Empathy Circles

  Restorative Empathy Circles
Empathy Tent
Training
Conference
Magazine

Expert Interviews
Obama on Empathy

References

    Books
    Conferences
    Definitions
    Experts
(100+)
    History
    Organizations
    Quotations
    Empathy Tests

 

Culture of Empathy Builder:  Thea Blair

Thea Blair and Edwin Rutsch: Got Empathy? The Foundations of Empathy

Thea Blair is a Waldorf teacher, and a Pediatric Massage Therapist. She operated a successful, Waldorf-inspired pre-school out of her home for fourteen years. Observing the amazing results of touch, either playful or comforting, in resolving children's emotional stress led her to seek a massage training. She now works as a parent and teacher coach, and a touch educator.

 

Thea brings Peer Massage to schools as a consultant. She is available for talks and workshops about touch, parenting, and childhood development.

Thea wrote a research paper on empathy: "The Role of Motor Development in the Development of Empathy" and holds "The Foundations of Empathy" presentations on empathy as well. She writes: "The ability to empathize develops with contributions from various biologically and environmentally based factors. These factors include genetics, child temperament, parenting factors such as warmth, parent-child synchrony, and other qualities of the parent child relationship, and physical imitation such as facial mimicry and motor imitation, using areas of the brain such as the mirror neuron system and the limbic system. In this paper I will explore how motor development supports the development of empathic awareness."   In this dialogue we discussed her empathy research and insights.

Sub Conference: Education

 

 
 

Links

 
 
 

(Video Transcriptions: If you would like to take empathic action and create a transcription of this video, check the volunteers page.  The transcriptions will make it easier for other viewers to quickly see the content of this video.)

 

The Foundations of Empathy

"I offer an evening presentation or a full blown workshop on this topic. Last October I gave this presentation to the faculty of the Haleakala Waldorf School. They enjoyed it so much they asked me back in February to give the same presentation to the parents of their students as well as a workshop at their teacherís conference. "


The Foundations of Empathy a presentation

1) the distinction (as I see it) between empathy, sympathy, and antipathy

a) reflexive/reactive v. free
b) sympathy = codependence, antipathy = counterdependence
c) mirror neurons

2) sensorimotor development as a precursor to mature empathy

a) first form of self-awareness
b) senses of bodily awareness: touch, life, movement, balance
c) body mapping
d) PAM (perception action model)
e) autonomic nervous system: relaxation and connectedness v. fight/flight and competition/aggression

3) developmental stages of empathy

a) reflexive, emotional contagion
b) environmental influences
c) mature empathy - or not

Our ability to respond with a mature or freely chosen empathy depends on our ability to access our frontal lobes. This is the seat of the human qualities of reasoning and creative thinking.

 

"Got Empathy

"While definitions of empathy vary considerably, the need for mutual understanding between human beings has never been higher. The ability to take the perspective of another and to use this information to act compassionately is a high point in human development. Are we born with this capacity or is it something learned? The simple answer: both. Following the classic storyline of the heroís journey, we are given a gift, we lose it, and we engage in the adventure of getting it back. It is a principle in Waldorf education that we donít simply identify an issue and hammer away on it; we paint the broadest picture possible and work with the factors that support and develop the issue. "

 

 

Research Paper: The role of motor development in the development of empathy - August 20, 2013

"Our complex social world requires that we perceive the facial expressions, body postures, gestures, and speech of others accurately and quickly in order to generate an appropriate response. Recent findings in cognitive neuroscience have revealed that the motor cortex, long confined to the role of mere action programming and execution, does in fact play a crucial role in complex cognitive abilities such as the understanding of the intentions and goals of speech and actions of others. It is called the "motor cognition hypothesis" and it postulates that motor cognition provides both human and nonhuman primates with a direct understanding of actions that match their own action skill set (Gallese, et al 2009).

 

Motor development also aids in the concept of self awareness. This leads to the apprehension that others are intentional agents like the self and ultimately to the direct perception of the self of another. These discoveries open a new perspective on the origins of social understanding. They emphasize the crucial role played by the motor system in providing the building blocks upon which more sophisticated social cognitive abilities can be built (Gallese, et al 2009). The ability to empathize develops with contributions from various biologically and environmentally based factors.

 

These factors include genetics, child temperament, parenting factors such as warmth, parent-child synchrony, and other qualities of the parentchild relationship, and physical imitation such as facial mimicry and motor imitation, using areas of the brain such as the mirror neuron system and the limbic system (McDonald & Messinger 2009). In this paper I will explore how motor development supports the development of empathic awareness. "