Account Luis Moya Albiol, Professor of Psychobiology at the University of Valencia, who as a child enjoyed doing theater and liked to put himself in the place of the characters to get closer to his way of feeling, thinking and acting. Without even knowing the term, today the Doctor of Psychology was working on empathy, a capacity to which in adulthood he has dedicated years of study and three books, the last of them Educate in empathy, the antidote against bullying (Editorial Platform).
Empathy, however, did not come directly, but through the study of violent behavior. It was then, he says, studying the violent brain, when he realized the close relationship between violence and empathy. “The brain areas that regulate empathy overlap in part with those of violence, so that the activation of those brain circuits towards one direction, for example, towards empathy, could act biologically as an inhibitor of the other, that is, the violence, ”he says.
Violence and empathy, therefore, would be related but incompatible concepts, so that the more empathetic someone is, the less chance there will be of using violence as a way of resolving conflicts: “It is, then, the other side of a same currency, because the best strategy to reduce violence is to foster empathy. ”
The equation, then, would be clear: educating girls and boys in empathy (at home and in the classroom) would help make the world a better and less violent place. Starting with the same school. Not surprisingly, the expert in psychology and neuroscience points out empathy as a key tool to fight against bullying and regrets that the programs developed to date to prevent and eradicate bullying they have focused more on the identification of this type of harassment from the first signs, the diagnosis and the resolution channels.
“The most important work goes through the prevention of bullying and in that aspect education in empathy is a key piece. Giving children and adolescents tools to face it is essential, but providing them with empathic skills is essential, because they can always put themselves in the place where they suffer and will act to stop it, ”he reflects.
Educate in empathy from the zero minute
We are all born with a genetic and variable predisposition to be empathic. However, as Luis Moya Albiol recalls, the experiences, learning, family environment and education “will greatly influence the development of empathy.” In that sense, the first life experiences are already “crucial” for the development of empathy, so for the expert it is “fundamental” to foster an empathic environment for children from the first moment: “because of the biological predisposition have empathy, the lack of this on the part of caregivers in the first moments of life can greatly diminish their development ”.
In the educational field, on the other hand, that education in empathy “has to take place from the infantile school”, moment in which the first teasing or verbal aggressions towards other children can appear, but it indicates that it is necessary to be “especially attentive” in puberty and during the period that precedes it, since that is when the risk increases exponentially.
In that sense, the author of Educate in empathy, considers “necessary” to include empathy as a subject in the curriculum of the little ones, as is already the case in countries such as Denmark, “but also to train teachers and even mothers and fathers”, so that empathy education occurs “Transversely in all the subjects they study and in all areas of their life”.
Unfortunately and until now, Moya Albiol explains, empathy has not been taken into account in educational policies. The reliable test for the expert is the teacher selection process. “What is taken into account to select them? Well, basically his qualifications to access studies in teaching, and then his performance in a contest-opposition to access the public education system. But at no time is your emotional intelligence or empathy evaluated, something fundamental from my point of view, because I consider it the most important profession and the one that contributes significantly to creating the basis of society, ”he argues.
The expert, however, does not forget the parents, guardians and / or guardians of minors, who in his opinion “have the same responsibility in education in empathy” as in any other aspect of the education of their children. In this regard, the need for mothers and fathers to be attentive to overprotection, allow the development of their own autonomy, and enhance the self-esteem, spirituality and creativity of their sons and daughters.
Also, in that sense, he invites fathers and mothers to reflect on the great concern we show for tangible knowledge (that children learn English, Mandarin Chinese and robotics); and, on the contrary, the little we have for emotional education and values, for that empathy of which the psychologist speaks.
“I do not want to say that knowing robotics or Chinese is not important, but, in my opinion, it is not the fundamental thing, because knowing how to manage our emotions and interact in a healthy way with others will help us form stable emotional bonds with our family, friends and Work colleagues. It will also lead us to make decisions based on what we really want according to how we feel, and not on what is demanded or expected of us. And, I would even tell you that an education in empathy will facilitate the learning of our daughters and our sons, since they will focus on cooperation in the face of competition, so that everyone wins and helps each other, ”he explains.
Be empathetic to be happy
According to Luis Moya Albiol, empathy brings many advantages in all areas of our lives. One of those advantages is happiness. To more empathetic boys and girls, happier boys and girls. No wonder, therefore, that Denmark has been leading the ranking of happiest countries in the world for years.
“The most empathic people are more interested in the well-being of others, which is reflected in small details in the day to day that go from active listening to the compression of emotional states. They are therefore more loved and respected people, who are unconsciously sought and many of them, accompanied by other characteristics, have great leadership capacity. We talk, thanks to empathy, about respectful, mentally flexible and supportive people, so that others feel accepted as they are. They, in turn, trust the rest and have a great capacity to cooperate, so they reconcile their personal and work life better. For all these reasons, they are happier people, since they usually find signs of affection and receptivity in all areas of their lives, ”says the expert.
The author of Educate in empathy He points out that, in addition, all these benefits listed could have others that, indirectly, would have an impact on health, since he remembers that social support “is a protector for depression and anxiety, as well as for the prevention of the development of alterations related to stress processes, such as immunological, gastrointestinal, muscular, dermatological, etc. ”. The greater ability to reconcile, mental flexibility and respect for others, meanwhile, would also contribute, according to Moya Albiol, “to a positive predisposition that can strengthen the general state of health.” Empathy, finally, would also influence our mental strength, what is known as resilience, “as it would help both to better face the traumas lived throughout our lives, and to learn from them and use them as part of our personal growth”.
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