Is Empathy Genetic?
In a recent study of 46000 people scientists have been able to trace empathy to genetics for the first time. Additionally, this same study found that women were more empathetic than men. This genetic factor was shown to be a 10% variation in the genes. Since this is a relatively low variation, scientists involved with the study made it clear that it was equally important to understand the non genetic factors in empathy.
Obviously empathy is an important benchmark. The American Psychologist, Gustav Gilbert looked into empathy when he was stationed in Nuremberg to interview the prisoners in the fist war crimes trial. He concluded that the single factor which related to all of the defendants was a lack of empathy. He defined this as the definition of evil. Of course now we look at psychopathy and see a lack of empathy being consistent in people with issues like sociopathy.
Empathy is something which I believe is innate in all of us and it is essential that we enhance it where we can, simply to be decent human beings. However, therapists, perhaps more than most, need to be able to harness their empathic skills in order to assist their clients to reach their resolutions. Empathy is not always an easy thing to experience, but it is one of the things which makes us who we are as people.