I just found this interesting interview with Dr. Jeffrey Mogil from a 2015 NPR TED Radio Hour
Let me cut to the meat:
- Stress makes people less empathic.
- People are more empathic with friends (less stress) than with strangers (more stress).
- People are more empathic with strangers after they have played a game together for 15 minutes.
Details of the interview:
Dr. Mogil first reports that people experience more physiological stress when left in a room with a stranger than with a friend. He then discusses three experiments; first having a subject put their hand in freezing water on their own, second accompanied by a stranger and third accompanied by a friend. After each, the subject was asked to rate how much pain they felt. The subjects reported the same pain whether they were with a friend or on their own. They reported the most pain when accompanied by a friend, the hypothesis being that under these circumstances they felt part of the friend’s pain in addition to their own.
Dr. Mogil goes on to say that the same empathy occurs after strangers have played a cooperative video game, “Rock Band”, together for 15 minutes; that playing this game together reduces the stress between two people to the same extend as being good friends.
The following is my own commentary on this experiment:
Personally, I suspect the fact that the video game was based around music increased the extent to which the two people were able to come into sync. Their physiology would have harmonized with the musical rhythms providing extra resonance within the short time period.
As empaths know that we often experience the emotions of strangers. It is why many of us have difficulty with crowds or shopping at Walmart. We also know that it is common place for us to feel the connection to friends and work colleagues. This provides the scientific basis that supports the fact that we are more likely to experience the emotions of people close to us (people with whom we resonate) than with strangers.
Other factors affecting how we pick up energy from other people include the following:
- Receiving: Our sensitivity as receivers will factor into how much energy we pick up.
- Sending: Some people transmit their energy more strongly than others, and the depth of the emotions that they are experiencing will also turn up the volume that they are sending out. Arguably, the more the transmitter is in denial about their own emotions, the more we as empaths have to process their emotions for them.
- Awareness: The unaware person may be just as sensitive as the aware person. The latter will understand why they have mood swings; the former will not.
- Bloodline: Blood relatives will affect us regardless of where in the world we are and whether we are thinking about them or not.
- Emotional Connection: Friends and acquaintances will impact us primarily based on the strength of the emotional connection we have to them, largely without regard to physical proximity.
- Physical Proximity: Neighbors and strangers will influence us based on physical proximity. This is true for the people living in our neighborhood and the strangers we brush up against in the shopping mall.