Week 2: Kindness & Compassion for a Loved One

 A Fearless Heart

Chapter 6 pp 113.  Getting Unstuck: Escaping the Prison of Excessive Self-involvementd-ng-h-u-CCjgYjUudxE-unsplash


Newspaper  and Popular Press

Dacher Keltner.  The Compassionate Instinct  https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/the_compassionate_instinct/

Adam Hoffman.  When empathy hurts, compassion can heal  https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/when_empathy_hurts_compassion_can_heal

Matthieu Ricard.  Empathy Fatigue  https://www.matthieuricard.org/en/blog/posts/empathy-fatigue-1



Mattieu Ricard on Compassion (10 mins)  www.youtube.com/watch?v=yB2fcZpxBlE

Mattieu Ricard.  Empathy Explained (3 mins)  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=khjPsVG-6QA

Emiliana Simon-Thomas: on Compassion in the brain (20 mins)  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ie4htPTeOvA

Julian Baggini.  Is there a real you – TedTalk (12 mins)  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q80MfH7xPPE&feature=youtu.be

Brene Brown on the power of vulnerability (20 mins  https://www.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_on_vulnerability

Felix Warneken on the natural helping behavior of toddlers – TedEx (18 mins)  Need help? Ask a 2-year old.



McGonigal K. (2016) The Upside of Stress.  Penguin Random House

Gilbert. P (2009) The Compassionate Mind.  Constable

Doty D. (2017) Into the Magic Shop.  Penguin Random House


Research Papers

Functional Neural Plasticity and Associated Changes in Positive Affect After Compassion Training

Olga M. Klimecki, Susanne Leiberg, Claus Lamm and Tania Singer (2012).  Cerebral Cortex



Differential patterns of functional brain plasticity after compassion and empathy training.

Olga M. Klimecki, Susanne Leiberg, Matthieu Ricard, and Tania Singer (2013).  Cerebral Cortex

“Although empathy is crucial for successful social interactions, excessive sharing of others􀀁 negative emotions may be maladaptive and constitute a source of burnout. To investigate functional neural plasticity underlying the augmentation of empathy and to test the counteracting potential of compassion, one group of participants was first trained in empathic resonance and subsequently in compassion. In response to videos depicting human suffering, empathy training, but not memory training (control group), increased negative affect and brain activations in anterior insula and anterior midcingulate cortex brain regions previously associated with empathy for pain. In contrast, subsequent compassion training could reverse the increase in negative effect and, in contrast, augment self-reports of positive affect. In addition, compassion training increased activations in a non-overlapping brain  network spanning ventral striatum, pregenual anterior cingulate cortex and medial orbitofrontal cortex. We conclude that training compassion may reflect a new coping strategy to overcome empathic distress and strengthen resilience.”


Visual Attention to Suffering After Compassion Training Is Associated with Decreased Amygdala Responses

Helen Y. Weng, Regina C. Lapate, Diane E. Stodola,  Gregory M. Rogers, and Richard J. Davidson (2018).  Frontiers in Psychology

‘In summary, the current findings, whilst preliminary due to the low sample size, suggest that engaging in compassion as an emotion regulation strategy towards suffering resulted in increases in visual attention to regions of images depicting suffering compared to non-suffering. Thus, engaging in compassion may be a useful strategy in situations where attention needs to turn toward suffering, such as when a doctor aids a patient. While our results suggest that compassion training may not be needed to produce this visual change, individual differences in greater visual preference for suffering due to compassion meditation training may help decrease aversive neural responses to suffering, even as visual attention to suffering increases. This may help individuals stay calm in the face of suffering and more readily able to engage in prosocial action. ‘